Sexual Assault Charge Is Latest Black Eye for Religious Organizations

March 23, 2018

A pastor with connections to Seventh Day Adventist churches in Upland and Orange Counties has been charged by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office with sexually assaulting an underage girl according to news reports. Law enforcement agencies apparently believe there could be other victims who have yet to come forward and are asking the public to call them with any information they might have about the pastor and other possible victims.

Sexual abuse by leaders of religious organizations is not a new story

The New York Times featured a story a couple of years ago by one of its reporters who had written extensively on sexual abuse in religious organizations. The reporter tried to find the answer to the reason stories about abuse by priests in the Catholic Church were still coming out decades after the acts of abuse had occurred. The story concluded that one reason for the continuing story was the profound physical and psychological impact the abuse had on its victims causing many of them to be unable to talk about what happened to them.

As the Times pointed out, it isn’t only the Catholic Church where sexual abuse and sexual assaults are occurring. Other religious organizations covering most denominations are not without sin when it comes to criminal behaviors by their leaders directed at young, usually underage, girls and boys.

California recognized it had to help victims of sexual abuse

Recognizing the need to make it possible for victims of sexual abuse to be compensated even though the statute of limitations, the time within which a lawsuit must be filed, had expired, California enacted a law that effectively ignored the expiration of the statute of limitations. For 12 months, beginning in December 2003, the law allowed victims of sexual abuse to sue religious organizations, hospitals, schools and other institutions for damages for permitting individuals working for them to sexually assault children regardless of when the abuse occurred. At least 800 lawsuits were filed before the law’s window of opportunity closed.

Recourse for victims of sexual abuse against religious organizations

The California statute of limitations for lawsuits seeking damages for childhood sexual abuse is now eight years from the date the victim reaches the age of majority. The law contains a discovery clause allowing claims to be filed within three years from the date the victim discovers or should have discovered a link between childhood sexual abuse and psychological injuries or illness experienced after reaching the age of majority.

Even with the benefit of the discovery rule, the victim of sexual abuse should not delay contacting an attorney about filing a claim for compensation. The right to sue is lost once the victim reaches 26 years of age.

Contact us

The dedicated attorneys at The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP, have been aggressively pursuing claims on behalf of the victims of childhood sexual assault and sexual abuse for more than 25 years. Our innovative strategies and knowledge of the law allow us to obtain maximum compensation for our clients. Contact us today by calling (949) 502-8600 or use the form on our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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