West Virginia Clergy Abuse Attorneys Assist Victims
Charleston firm takes on predators who exploit their religious authority
Sexual abuse by clergy members and others who hold positions of authority in religious organizations is particularly abhorrent. Some of these predators even exploit their role to silence their victims. At The Giatras Law Firm, PLLC in Charleston, we are West Virginia clergy abuse attorneys who aim to recover compensation for people who have been attacked by the religious figures they rely on for spiritual guidance. Our firm has extensive experience handling these claims and delivers strong advocacy against individual defendants as well as the institutions that covered up for them.
What is clergy abuse?
West Virginia law includes ministers, priests, rabbis and representatives of other religions as clergy. Many clergy members are registered with the state as individuals who are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies. However, the attacker need not be registered with the state to trigger a claim of clergy sex abuse. Deacons, youth ministers, authorities in unorganized religions and others may also use their positions to take advantage of young people.
Are clergy mandated reporters in West Virginia?
Members of the clergy, along with religious healers and Christian Science practitioners, are mandatory child abuse reporters under West Virginia law. This means that if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, they must report what they know within 24 hours to the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources. The failure of a minister, priest or rabbi to notify the authorities when they think a child is being mistreated can give rise to a legal claim even if that particular clergy member was not the abuser.
Types of clergy abuse
Religious authorities often have an emotional hold over young people that could be exploited, making children more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse. A pastor, youth minister, priest or rabbi might ask a child for help with a one-on-one project or attack when a youth seeks counsel for a personal problem. Retreats, conferences and other trips away from a potential victim’s home also pose a threat.
Do clergy who commit abuse go to jail?
In some cases, a clergy member who engages in unlawful sexual contact with a member of their flock will be prosecuted. There is no longer a statute of limitations in state law for sexual assault or first-degree sexual abuse cases. However, obtaining a criminal conviction is more difficult than winning damages in a civil claim. Prosecutors sometimes choose not to bring cases involving conduct from years ago because of limited resources and the work required to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. You should immediately report sexual abuse committed by a religious figure to the police, but also initiate a civil claim to pursue compensation from the attacker and those who enabled them. Our attorneys can answer your questions about the process and more FAQs about sexual abuse litigation.
Can you file a lawsuit against clergy who committed abuse?
Someone who was sexually abused by a clergy member has the right to seek legal compensation from their attacker and those whose negligence or willful misconduct contributed to the abuse. The first thing you should do is discuss your situation with a qualified WV sex abuse attorney. We can talk about the statute of limitations, potential damages, claims against churches and other religious organizations that failed to provide proper supervision and if any of the likely defendants in your case are the subject of class action lawsuit.
Contact a West Virginia lawyer for a free consultation about a clergy sex abuse claim
The Giatras Law Firm, PLLC litigates clergy sex abuse cases on behalf of victims throughout West Virginia. If you or your child was attacked in a religious setting, please call 888-819-1281 or contact us online for a free initial consultation. Our office is in Charleston.