Illinois Childhood Sexual Abuse Cases Receive Greater Attention

Recently, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Catholic Diocese of Joliet has turned over personnel files to one of the survivors of sexual abuse that occurred under its watch. These files demonstrate that clergy sexual abuse for this diocese had previously been underreported. Although the shuffling of pedophile priests around the world is now a well-known phenomenon, these personnel files show that the errors at the Diocese of Joliet go back six decades and affect more than one hundred victims.

One of the victims, for example, was sexually abused during his first confession. The bishop later apologized and offered him more than six times than he earned annually as an electrician, but the victim demanded that the diocese do more than pay money. He asked them to turn over their secret archives on pedophile priests so that the public could review them. The diocese fought this demand for a year before turning over personnel files for 16 out of 34 priests against whom significant complaints of sexual abuse were made.

There were more than 7,000 records that showed how the diocese protected abusive priests, in the process misleading parishioners and leaving children subject to further abuse. Church officials have stated that about 4% of priests in the United States committed sexual abuse against a child between 1950-2002. The rate at the Diocese of Joliet was more than twice this national rate.

Childhood sexual abuse by someone that was trusted can cause both short-term and lifelong harms. These injuries include depression, anxiety, insomnia, eating disorders, dissociative disorders, withdrawal, risky teenage behaviors, and difficulties with intimacy that last into adulthood. Victims are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and are more likely to attempt suiside.

Research shows that early abuse can even affect physical brain development. According to Martin Teicher of the department of psychiatry at Harvard University, the volumes of three important areas of the part of the brain called the hippocampus were reduced by up to 6.5% in people who were abused as children. The hippocampus is responsible for memory.

The current statute of limitations for a childhood sexual abuse case to be brought in civil court has been when the survivor reaches age 38, or 20 years after the survivor discovers or should have discovered the abuse and injury. Recognizing the difficulty children have in reporting childhood sexual abuse, Senate Bill 1399, which removes the 20-year civil statute of limitations, has just passed the Senate Committee in Illinois. This will make it easier for sexual abuse survivors to sue those that molested them as children.

Note: Abels & Annes, P.C. was not involved in the litigation against the Catholic Diocese of Joliet that was mentioned above. However, lawyers at our office work on sex abuse cases on an ongoing basis. We currently have several lawsuits pending against the Chicago Archdiocese, and several new sex abuse claims where a school teacher abused students. We have also prosecuted sexual abuse cases against nursing homes, hospitals and schoolbus companies.

If you or a loved one was subject to sexual abuse by someone with whom you had a relationship of trust, such as a clergyman, school teacher, coach, day care worker, psychiatrist, psychologist or family member, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your harm or loss. Give the hardworking attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. a call at (312) 924-7575 to discuss your rights. Our caring Chicago personal injury lawyers are available 24 hours per day, seven days of the week to help you file your case. For a free consultation with a capable advocate, please contact Abels & Annes, P.C. through the law firm’s website.

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