Being abused by a clergy member is something you wouldn’t think happens that often. Clergy members have the image of pure people who only want what’s best for others. However, over the years, multiple stories from victims revealed that the reality is crueler than people are aware of. Not only are there various people abused by religious figures, but in most cases, many of the victims are children.
There are things you can do about abuse by clergy. If you’re a victim, you can take steps to make the culprit pay and ensure you heal from the trauma. California made changes to its childhood sexual assault legislature, making sure victims can succeed in seeking justice. Besides, it’s easier to find a San Francisco clergy abuse lawyer as more and more people sought this career path.
Are you a victim of abuse by clergy? Here is what you should do next.
1. Report the Abuse
The first thing on the list is to report the abuse to the attorney general of your state. Each state has a hotline for people abused by clergy, with trained professionals ready to listen to your story and advise you on what to do next.
In California, you can report clergy abuse online by filling out a complaint. However, if you want to offer more information regarding your case, you should email ClergyAbuse@doj.ca.gov. If you live in a different state, make sure to file a complaint with the hotline for your particular area.
If you’re currently in danger or know someone who is in immediate danger, you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to call 9-1-1 and talk to law enforcement.
2. Hire a Clergy Abuse Lawyer
Navigating the process of a clergy abuse case can be difficult, especially if the abuse is recent and you are dealing with the resulting trauma. Coming forward with your story is already a courageous thing to do, so moving forward, you should consider a legal expert to increase your chances of success in this case.
A clergy abuse lawyer will tell you about the statute of limitations for such cases. They will also inform you what you should and shouldn’t do next.
The good news is that there are many organizations out there with legal experts ready to accompany you through your case. Your attorney can come with you to the police station, and court dates, and also recommend the very next steps and provide counseling.
You can either go with this step first or do it as you file your complaint.
3. File a Report with the Police
Filing a report with the police is also a necessary step, and you can do it without going through the previous two steps. The police report should be filed in the city where the incident took place.
You’ll be asked to write a statement that includes the date of the offense, the events that unfolded, as well as any potential evidence you may have. Detailing the offense can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it’s a necessary step that helps the authorities understand what happened so that you can seek justice.
Next, they will give you some paperwork with hotline numbers, and your rights will be explained. These documents will also be given to a detective, who may request another interview with you for additional information.
4. Report to the Diocese
Once your detectives build their case, they will confront the responsible religious figure, then get back to you. Following this action, you can report the abuse to the diocese, as there is a special hotline for it.
5. Get an Order of Protection
This step is optional, but in some cases, it may be necessary, especially if the abuser has threatened you in the past or if you fear they will try to harass you after being confronted by the authorities. You can either go for a CNCO or an Order of Protection.
6. Get Mental Health Counseling
Abuse by clergy can be an extremely traumatizing experience, especially when it affects young children. Therefore, seeking mental health support will be necessary to heal the mental damage and discover ways to cope. You can begin your mental health recovery journey after you go through the previous steps, but it’s usually best to begin as soon as possible.
Reporting abuse by clergy can be very difficult, especially when you think you cannot get the help you need. However, some special hotlines and attorneys will direct you to the right places to make sure you report the offender and get justice.