In our pursuit of justice and advocacy for victims and their families, TentMakers is dedicated to providing the necessary resources and support to aid in their healing from clergy sexual abuse. While information alone may sometimes fall short, we aim to bridge those gaps by offering personal listening, a wide range of resources, and opportunities for testimonies. As a family that has personally experienced the trauma of clergy sexual abuse, we understand the immense challenges individuals face when navigating this journey alone. We firmly believe that every victim should have a victim advocate who can provide a trusted source of support throughout their complex healing process. TentMakers strives to serve as a comprehensive resource for victims and advocates, offering information, guidance, and resources that facilitate healing and the pursuit of justice.
Sadly, communities often inadvertently exacerbate the trauma experienced by clergy abuse victims through their actions or lack thereof. Whether through public support of the abuser or avoiding the victims, these behaviors can further harm those already suffering. TentMakers seeks to raise awareness about the profound trauma inflicted by clergy sexual abuse and educate the community on the most compassionate and practical approaches to support victims and their families, ensuring they are not re-traumatized.
Our outreach efforts include promoting awareness of clergy sex abuse, advocating for proper reporting methods, and maintaining an updated list of resources on the TentMakers website. We also provide digital and printed materials that equip victims and their families with the necessary tools to navigate the complex processes of reporting and healing in cases of clergy sexual abuse.
Families and communities must understand and address the unique needs of survivors of clergy sexual abuse. This understanding includes law enforcement, counselors, social workers, district attorneys, community-based stakeholders, service providers, legislators, mental health providers, Catholic clergy members, and pastors of other churches who may not understand the Catholic faith. To create a supportive environment, the community must rally behind victims and their families as they navigate the criminal justice and civil legal systems, address their spiritual needs, and access counseling to heal from the profound trauma of clergy sexual abuse. TentMakers actively promotes community support, collaboration, and understanding among these diverse entities, ensuring a comprehensive approach to justice and healing for all those affected.
REPORTING ABUSE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT: SEEKING JUSTICE AND SUPPORT
The decision to report your abuse to law enforcement is personal, driven by your circumstances and feelings. Many survivors have found that reporting their abuse and seeking justice helped them recover and empowered them to regain control over their lives. By understanding how to report and becoming familiar with the process, you can reduce uncertainties and feel more prepared to make a report to law enforcement.
HOW TO REPORT ABUSE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT
To report your abuse, you should contact your local law enforcement agency. Most agencies have officers specially trained to communicate effectively with survivors of abuse. You can contact them by phone or visit the agency in person. It’s important to note that the interview process may involve asking personal questions, as detectives must gather relevant information. It is common for survivors to find the criminal justice system complex and intimidating, especially if they are unfamiliar with it. To provide support during this process, consider having an advocate or support person accompany you.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN CONTACTING LAW ENFORCEMENT
When you contact law enforcement, the officer will ask for basic information about the incident and create a report. Resources are available to ensure your safety and well-being if you are in immediate danger or at risk of further abuse. The investigating officer will aim to gather as many details as possible about the incident(s), including your thoughts, feelings, fears, and any communication or resistance during the assault. It’s crucial to remember that silence during the assault does not imply consent.
Officers may also inquire about any elements of premeditation or grooming behavior displayed by the perpetrator. Additionally, they might ask about behaviors consistent with threats, use of force, and any traumatic reactions you experienced during or after the incident. They may also take note of any changes in your behavior, such as weight, routine, work performance, or personality, which could be related to the trauma you endured.
WHAT IF THE INCIDENT OCCURRED A LONG TIME AGO?
There is generally no time limitation for reporting a crime to the police, although specific states may have varying statutes of limitation for criminal prosecution. It is advisable to report the crime to law enforcement regardless of the time that has passed since the incident, as they can determine if it falls within the statute of limitations. In some cases, survivors of child molestation in Louisiana have a three-year window to pursue allegations in civil court, irrespective of when the incident occurred. The three-year window will end on August 1, 2024. Survivors older than 28, who haven’t settled a civil case before, can pursue a claim in civil court regardless of how long ago the assault took place.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT
Law enforcement’s objective is to establish probable cause for making an arrest. In addition to interviewing the victim, an investigation typically involves evidence collection, suspect identification, suspect interviews, and potentially obtaining a confession. Following the investigation, law enforcement will file charges, potentially obtain a warrant, or refer the case to the district attorney’s office. Ultimately, the decision to formally file criminal charges rests with the state authorities.
As of August 1, 2021, Act 322 of the 2021 Regular Session allows survivors of child molestation a three-year window to pursue allegations in civil court – regardless of how long ago the misconduct occurred.
WILL HIRING AN ATTORNEY HELP ME WITH JUSTICE AND HEALING?
Many people do find justice and healing in filing a civil lawsuit. When criminal proceedings fail to provide the answers a survivor seeks, another avenue is to pursue a civil case against the abuser. It is possible to find justice in a civil lawsuit.
The Lamothe Law Firm in New Orleans, Louisiana, represents sexual abuse cases in Louisiana. According to their website, “Louisiana and federal criminal laws are there to protect us, but because only a small percentage of perpetrators are sent to jail, justice in the criminal courts is rarely achieved. Fortunately, victims of sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse can seek compensation from their assailants through lawsuits in civil court.”
“Regardless of whether the perpetrator has been criminally charged, the victim can file a civil lawsuit to recover damages for the physical, emotional, and psychological harms they have suffered. Sometimes, a plaintiff can also bring a civil sexual abuse lawsuit against an organization such as an employer, a religious organization, or a prison or correctional facility, the organization may be held responsible for the abuse when the organization’s negligence allowed the abuse to occur or when the organization turned a blind eye to the abuse.”
HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT ME?
Through our family’s experience, we recommend any survivor of sexual abuse or sexual trauma seek a trauma-informed and trained attorney specialized in Sexual Abuse and Sexual Trauma. You may also want to consider an attorney who does not live in the Diocese where the abuse occurred.
Kristi Schubert with Lamothe Law Firm, “There are many specialized laws that only apply in sexual abuse cases. Attorneys who don’t regularly pursue these types of cases won’t always know about those types of laws. It is especially important for the plaintiff’s lawyer to know about the evidence rules that provide special protections to survivors of sexual abuse to protect their privacy and dignity. It is also important because in the general public and even among lawyers, there is an enormous amount of misinformation about how survivors of sexual violence will be affected. An attorney who is not trauma-informed may re-traumatize the survivor and may misunderstand key parts of the case because they simply don’t have the background knowledge to understand how sexual abuse is processed in the mind.”
Louisiana Victim Registration
From the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections:
“As an individual affected by the criminal acts of another person, you have a right to participate in the justice system. If the individual who committed the crime has been sentenced to state custody and you want information about his or her status or the Department’s policies and programs or your rights and responsibilities, you may contact the Crime Victims Services Bureau.
Complete this form (HERE) if you wish to be notified when the person who committed a crime against you makes a successful court appeal, is placed in a transitional work program or released from physical custody, escapes, or is scheduled for a Board of Pardons or Committee on Parole hearing.”
Also provided by the LDPSC is this Guidebook which can be a great resource for those seeking justice for sexual abuse.