The Law Center

What PA Victims of Clergy Abuse Need to Know about their Rights

In August 2018, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a report detailing 70 years of childhood sexual abuse and the coverups in the Scranton, Allentown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Erie, and Greensburg dioceses. The report accused more than 300 clergy members of abuse and said there were at least 1,000 victims.

The grand jury’s report was based on diocese records but there are said to be many more survivors than the report was able to identify.  Child sexual abuse is among the most heinous crimes a person can commit. It leaves victims with lifelong physical and psychological injuries.

In Pennsylvania, survivors of child sex abuse may bring criminal charges until they turn 50, but for civil actions, only until a survivor turns 30. Many survivors of clergy sex abuse in Pennsylvania were molested decades ago and the statute of limitations prevents them from suing.  The Pennsylvania legislature is considering a new law allowing survivors a two-year window to file civil actions for expired claims.

Claims that are time-barred may still pursue compensation from the Catholic Church through independent compensation funds established by six Pennsylvania dioceses.   All victims of clergy sex abuse in the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Erie, Greensburg, and Allentown dioceses are eligible for compensation as long as they’ve never previously settled a claim with the Catholic Church.  At this time, there is no limit on the amount each Pennsylvania victim can receive and the church has not capped the fund’s aggregate total. Every victim will have their claim evaluated by the claim administrators and they’ll award compensation as they deem appropriate.

The following into consideration when awarding compensation:

  • Extent of harm
  • Victims’ age
  • Degree of the abuse
  • Verifiable documentation of medical, counseling or prescription expenses
  • Claims overall credibility

What are the Lasting Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse?  Childhood sexual abuse often leaves survivors with long-lasting physical and psychological injuries, especially depression.   Other symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Relationship and intimacy issues
  • Somatic disorders

Childhood sexual abuse has also been found to cause permanent physical symptoms and increased likelihood of having health problems in general, and more specifically with:

  • Gastrointestinal health
  • Gynecologic or reproductive health
  • Pain
  • Cardiopulmonary symptoms
  • Obesity

If you are a survivor and have had to deal with one or more of these symptoms, we can help.   For a free case evaluation related to your legal issue, click the “Request Consultation” button and fill out the form.