In 96 percent of child sexual abuse cases in the United States, survivors are abused by someone they know and trust.
Often, these are relatives, friends of family, neighbors and other close figures of authority. But adopting roles that provide regular contact with children, too, is a calculating move for predators. Coaches, teachers, priests and youth workers are able to earn the trust of both parents and children, the latter being least likely to be able to protect themselves.
Cases involving clergy, while abundant, are among sexual abuse events most severely underreported and hidden. Lack of reporting makes the true extent of the problem difficult to determine, but there are many reasons why people choose not to seek justice, including shock and denial, fear of judgment, misplaced loyalty and manipulation or intimidation by the abuser.
In cases where survivors do come forward, the civil and criminal justice system has understandably come down hard on the church. In an effort to prevent further sexual abuse lawsuits, the Manhattan-based Archdiocese of New York has established an independent compensation program. The program aims to give survivors of sexual abuse by clergy members the opportunity for financial settlement – and long-awaited accountability – from the church.
The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program
Starting in 2017, the NY Archdiocese’s new Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) is accepting applications for this compensation, which is funded by a privately acquired long-term loan of $100 Million. The first 145 cases already moved through the process earlier this year in Phase 1 of the program.
The idea is to settle claims that may be decades old. These may not be accepted by the courts as a current New York statute stipulates that survivors come forward by age 23. The state has thus far put limited energy into eliminating this deadline, which unjustly fails to take into account how delicate the healing process is and allows countless abusive priests to go free.
Survivors are also able to choose whether to make their claims private or public, and the Archdiocese is unable to appeal the IRCP’s decisions. On one hand, this grants survivors more discretion. On the other, by accepting compensation from the IRCP, he or she waives the right to litigate against the New York Archdiocese.
The program is targeted toward qualified candidates among New York’s 2.6 million church members. Given the NY Archdiocese’s influence as the second-largest in the nation, after Los Angeles, the IRCP may result in other archdioceses creating similar programs across the country.
Who Is Eligible?
Childhood sexual abuse survivors (or close relatives of deceased childhood sexual abuse victims) are eligible for IRCP compensation. The offender must have been a priest or deacon of the following counties:
- Staten Island
- The Bronx
- Westchester counties
Victims who allege sexual abuse of a minor by a member of a religious order or clergy of another diocese will not be able to participate in IRCP, but they may have legal rights to pursue compensation from other dioceses or organizations.
Phase 2 of the program is now open to applicants, with a November 1 deadline. The program urges more survivors to come forward.
Why Seek Legal Advice?
IRCP management notes that many who have come forward up till now are not primarily interested in the money – although it may range from thousands to millions of dollars. Instead, they are looking for tangible evidence of the Church’s effort to seek reconciliation, rather than further efforts to cover up sexual abuse.
However, while the IRCP is an option, it’s important to understand that it may not be the best for all abuse survivors. It’s important to speak to an attorney before pursuing a claim through the IRCP or filing a sexual abuse lawsuit. Legal help and sexual abuse lawsuits can ensure the best remedy for each survivor on a case-by-case basis. If you have been hurt by the Catholic Church, utilizing legal counsel to understand your legal rights and all options available to you is crucial.
Individuals have a limited amount of time to submit their claim papers. The New York sexual abuse lawyers with Simmons Hanly Conroy can help you navigate the financial compensation that may be available to you. Call today to speak with an attorney. There is no obligation and all communications are protected by confidentiality.