What We Know About Maryland Clergy Abuse
The sacred trust placed in religious leaders is profound, and the consequences can be devastating when that trust is betrayed. Clergy abuse victims often grapple with emotional, physical, and spiritual trauma that lasts a lifetime. At ASK LLP, we are deeply committed to representing victims of clergy abuse in Maryland, helping them find a path to justice, healing, and restitution.
Understanding the Depth of Clergy Abuse in Maryland
Maryland, like many other states, has unfortunately not been immune to the dark shadows of clergy abuse. Over the years, hundreds of victims have come forward, shedding light on the egregious acts committed by people in positions of religious authority.
A report by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office has identified 158 priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore who have been accused of sexually and physically abusing more than 600 victims over the past 80 years. However, the report also stated that there are “almost certainly hundreds more” victims who have not come forward or whose cases have not been documented.
The report, titled “Clergy Abuse in Maryland,” was completed in November 2022 after a nearly four-year investigation that began in 2019. The report is not yet public, as it requires court permission to be released, but a summary of its findings was filed in Baltimore Circuit Court on November 17, 2022.
The report revealed that the Archdiocese of Baltimore failed to report many allegations or remove abusers from their positions and instead covered up the abuse and protected the perpetrators. The report also found that some parishes had multiple abusers over the years and that “no parish was safe” from the risk of clergy abuse.
Why ASK LLP is the Right Choice for Clergy Abuse Cases in Maryland
With over three decades of legal advocacy, ASK LLP stands out. Our team understands the unique challenges and nuances associated with clergy abuse cases, ensuring each victim receives the utmost care and representation.
Track Record of Compassion and Success
We have a track record of approaching each case with compassion, understanding, and sensitivity. Our success is measured not just in monetary terms but in the genuine difference we make in our clients’ lives.
Every victim’s story is deeply personal, and we treat it with the reverence and individuality it deserves. Our approach is holistic, offering not just legal guidance but emotional support throughout the journey.
Affordable and Accessible Representation
We believe every victim deserves the best legal representation, regardless of their financial situation. Our fee structures are designed with flexibility, ensuring accessibility for all.
Steps for Clergy Abuse Victims in Maryland
The experience of clergy abuse leaves many victims grappling with a mix of emotions and uncertainties. Taking structured steps can offer a semblance of control and direction in such trying times. Here’s a detailed explanation of the immediate actions victims of clergy abuse should take.
1. Immediate Safety and Support
If there’s an ongoing threat, distance yourself from the abusive environment, even if it means relocating temporarily or seeking a protective environment. After ensuring physical safety, emotional and psychological support comes next. Turning to trusted friends, family members, or support groups can provide comfort. Additionally, professional counseling or therapy can offer structured guidance to begin the healing process.
2. Document Your Experience
As hard as it might seem, creating a tangible record of the abuse can be helpful in future legal actions or for personal closure. Find a private, secure space to write down every memory related to the abuse:
- Detail specific incidents, including dates, times, and locations.
- Note down any witnesses or people who might have been aware or might have observed unusual behavior.
- Record your feelings, reactions, and any steps you might have taken post-incident, such as confiding in someone.
- If there were any physical signs or injuries from the abuse, document those and, if possible, take photographs.
Keeping this record updated and secure can serve as a powerful tool if and when you decide to pursue legal action.
3. Seek Legal Counsel
Coming to terms with clergy abuse is a personal journey, but when it comes to seeking justice, professional guidance is valuable. A specialized legal team, like ASK LLP, can explain the legal avenues available to you.
When confronting the repercussions of clergy abuse, victims and their families often find themselves with a lot of questions, seeking clarity and direction. Here, we address some of the most commonly asked queries to provide guidance during this challenging time:
How Do I Know If I Have a Valid Clergy Abuse Case?
To have a valid clergy abuse case in Maryland, you need to meet the following criteria:
- You were sexually abused by a member of the clergy (such as a priest, nun, deacon, or brother) in the Archdiocese of Baltimore or another Catholic institution in Maryland.
- You can provide evidence of the abuse, such as medical records, therapy records, witness statements, or church documents.
- You can identify the abuser by name or description and the date and location of the abuse.
- You can show that the abuse caused you physical, emotional, or financial harm, such as pain, suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, or reduced quality of life.
Is There a Time Limit to File a Clergy Abuse Lawsuit in Maryland?
Maryland has eliminated the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors. This means you can sue your abuser and the responsible diocese no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Expect?
Here is a general overview of the damages you may be able to recover:
- General damages: These are damages that compensate you for the intangible losses that result from the abuse, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium. General damages are difficult to quantify, but they are based on the severity and duration of the abuse, the impact on your physical and mental health, and the degree of negligence or misconduct by the church authorities.
- Special damages: These are damages that reimburse you for the tangible losses that result from the abuse, such as medical expenses, therapy costs, lost wages, and reduced earning capacity. Special damages are easier to calculate, as they are based on the actual bills and receipts that you have incurred or will incur in the future.
- Punitive damages: These are damages that punish the church authorities for their egregious behavior and deter them from committing similar acts in the future. Punitive damages are not awarded in every case but only when there is clear and convincing evidence of malice, fraud, or gross negligence by the church authorities.
Can I Remain Anonymous When Reporting Clergy Abuse?
You can remain anonymous when reporting clergy abuse in Maryland, depending on the method and the agency that you choose to report to. Here are some options that you may consider:
- Report to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office: The Attorney General’s Office has been conducting an investigation into clergy abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore since 2018. The Office states that it will protect your identity and confidentiality to the extent possible under the law.
- Report to the local Department of Social Services: If you suspect that a child or a vulnerable adult is being abused or neglected by a member of the clergy, you should report it to the local Department of Social Services or to a local law enforcement agency. Reports may be made anonymously. However, you should provide as much information as possible to help the investigation and the protection of the victim.
Please note that these options are not mutually exclusive. You can report to more than one agency if you wish. However, you should also be aware that some agencies may share information with others as part of their legal obligations or protocols.
ASK LLP: Standing Strong with Maryland’s Clergy Abuse Victims
Confronting and seeking justice for clergy abuse is a monumental task, filled with emotional and legal hurdles. But you don’t have to face it alone. The dedicated team at ASK LLP is here to stand beside you, offering legal representation and compassionate support. If you or a loved one has been a victim of clergy abuse in Maryland, reach out to us. Together, we’ll journey toward justice, healing, and a brighter future.