When you go to church, temple, or any other religious organization for philosophical or spiritual guidance, you want to trust the people in charge of these places. They may also offer enrichment for children in the forms of bible study or small group study programs to help children understand the value of religion. This leaves a lot of time where you or your child may be alone with priests or other members of the religious organization you’re a part of. This can be great for getting advice from community leaders or getting hands-on help with understanding religious concepts.
While most members of these institutions want nothing more than to help build a community of like-minded people, others use their positions of power to take advantage of children and other vulnerable individuals. There is a prevalent pattern of sexual abuse, particularly child abuse, perpetrated by leadership and priests at Catholic churches.
If you or a loved one has been sexually abused by a member of the Catholic church or another religious leader, consider hiring a sexual assault lawyer from Pennsylvanian law firm McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt to handle your sexual assault case.
The Effects of Sexual Abuse and Assault
Being sexually assaulted is one of the most horrifying experiences anyone can go through. Assault experiences can stick with a person for the entirety of their lives. They can lead to life-long phycological trauma, PTSD, severe phobia, and other disturbances. These can be increasingly severe depending on the abuse—even more so in children, especially if they have limited access to a licensed psychologist or therapist.
Not to mention, having a sexual experience at too young an age can affect that person’s ability to have children in the future. It can also infect them with diseases and create other health conditions.
How Does Sexual Assault Happen in a Religious Institution?
When you’re a part of organized religion with an institution that ranks members, that means that there are people in the organization with more perceived power than you. While their position may be described as being in service of the organization and its members, some people will use this authority to take advantage of individuals rather than help them.
Grooming and Abuse of Power
If someone in leadership of any organization, including religious organizations, uses their power to isolate and assault a person or child for their sexual gratification, this is an abuse of power. Very few of these individuals with be forthright in their abuse, however.
To avoid being caught by other members of the organization, an abuser may wait weeks, months, or even years before actually assaulting a person. This can be through intimidation or coercive processes that convince an individual to do things they wouldn’t normally do with adults—a process called grooming when used on children.
It’s Not About Stranger Danger
While we’re often taught to be wary of strangers when we’re children, strangers statistically are less a threat than we are led to believe. You should certainly take precautions when dealing with strangers, but more likely than not a person or child is not likely to be assaulted by someone they don’t know.
Sexual assault may be perpetrated in the most unexpected places and committed by the people you’re supposed to trust the most, like religious leaders.
Encourage Open Communication
If you have a child, be sure to encourage them to always be honest with you about their experiences. Don’t threaten or punish them when they admit to being involved in an experience that upsets you. This can close off important communication doors and when something truly catastrophic happens to them, like an incident of sexual assault, they won’t feel comfortable telling you about it.
This can lead them to feel more isolated and make them vulnerable to continued assaults.
Getting Justice for Your Experience with Sexual Assault and Abuse
If you know a child is being sexually abused by a priest, or another religious figure, you can do something about it. Oftentimes, these horrible incidents go unreported, even when other members of the community know that a specific person is preying on children. By taking a stand and speaking up about the sexual abuse of children, you can stop others from becoming victims.
If you, your child, or a loved one has been sexually assaulted at your religious institution consider hiring an attorney to get the compensation you deserve for the pain and suffering endured at the hands of that individual. By taking action, you can also save others from being assaulted.
If you’re near or in the Pennsylvania area, consider McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt law firm when hiring a sexual assault lawyer. Find a location near you, fill out a contact form with your information, or call us at 1-800-590-4116.