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Can we hold religious institutions accountable for clergy abuse?

On Behalf of | May 3, 2024 | Childhood Sex Abuse |

The betrayal of trust by a clergy member who commits abuse is a horrific and traumatizing experience. Survivors not only face the damage from the abuse itself but also struggle with the lingering thought of whether they will ever get justice or not.

Many religious institutions have internal procedures for handling abuse allegations. However, some argue that these systems prioritize protecting the church’s reputation rather than supporting the survivors.

Taking legal action

Although some survivors may lose hope in getting justice, the legal system offers a path to accountability. Survivors of sexual abuse may file civil lawsuits against religious institutions for negligence in hiring, supervising or retaining clergy who can be a danger to the community.

Is change possible?

Anyone aware of potential abuse inside a religious institution should speak up to help stop the cycle of abuse and silence. Some states have mandatory reporting laws that require clergy members to report suspected abuse to authorities. In New Jersey, if an individual has reasonable cause to believe that a child is being abused, they must report it to the authorities. New Jersey also does not have a statute of limitations for reporting an incident of sexual abuse, which gives survivors more time to come forward.

Positive thinking ahead

Holding religious institutions accountable is about creating a safe environment for all members, not an attack on faith. Holding organizations responsible for the abuse that happens inside is possible if there is increased transparency within institutions, stronger legal measures and a shift in priorities toward survivor safety.