Patrick J. O'Hara
Protestant Churches Guilty of Hiding Sexual Abuse
The Catholic Church has a reputation for its poor handling of sexual abuse by clergy over the past several decades. Movies, books and numerous articles have been written about priests molesting young children and the Catholic Church’s efforts to hide the abuse. Many lawsuits have been filed over the years against Catholic Dioceses for their failure to warn victims and knowingly putting congregants in harms way. However, sadly, Protestant churches are also guilty of moving suspected child abusers to other churches and not warning members about potential predators in their midst.
Sexual Abuse in Protestant Churches
In the last twelve years, over 375 leaders and volunteers of Southern Baptist churches have been charged with sexual misconduct. Over 200 of them were convicted or plead guilty. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) refuses to take meaningful steps to end abuse in churches, claiming that each church has individual autonomy. Churches that retain pastors accused of sexual misconduct and even registered sex offenders have been allowed to remain in the Southern Baptist Convention. However, several churches that employ gay pastors or female pastors have been excluded from the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC gives the impression that it cares more about preventing female pastors from leading churches than sexual predators.
In some circumstances, victims are pressured by pastors to not report the sexual abuse to the police. Sometimes, church leaders tell the victim that the abuse is their own fault because of sin. The Bob Jones University controversy is an example of this phenomenon. An independent investigation found that over one hundred sexual assault victims at the campus where told not to report the crime to the police because it would damage the university, church and their own families. Often, these victims were shamed by counselors at the university instead of properly counseled for their trauma.
May I Sue for Past Sexual Abuse?
It is the church’s responsibility to adequately supervise its pastors, staff members and volunteers. If the church fails to properly supervise, a victim may have a negligent supervision claim against the church along with a claim against the perpetrator. The O’Hara Law Firm represents victims who have been sexually abused no matter what faith of the religious institution. This includes religious institutions such as the following:
- Catholic Church
- Protestant churches
- Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Mormon churches
- Non-denominational churches
In Texas, a child that has been sexually assaulted must file a claim for sexual assault before he or she turns thirty-three years old. An adult has a deadline of five years to bring a sexual assault claim against the perpetrator. However, the deadline to bring a claim against an employer or third party may be much shorter.
The O’Hara Law Firm represents sexual abuse victims on a contingency fee basis. If you want to speak to an attorney that handles sexual assault claims, call us at 832-956-1138. We do not collect a fee unless we are able to win you compensation for your injuries. Sexual abuse victims often experience mental and psychological anguish long after the initial abuse.