Stories of predatory clergy members have been all over the news for years. More victims seem to come forward each day, identifying clergy who have abused children.
Recently, a story came out about a clergy member who pled guilty in the 1980s to the sexual abuse of a young boy in Kentucky. He was moved by the Catholic Church to a monastery – a monastery right next door to a Catholic School. The public was not warned about this man’s past, but when it did come out, he was moved again.
What is alarming: even though some predatory and abusive clergy are listed on the website of the Chicago Archdiocese, some are left off. In fact, only diocesan clergy and those who directly report to them are included.
This is concerning, because it means that the Catholic Church still puts children at risk each day.
If you or your family have been harmed by a member of the clergy, what recourse do you have? There are criminal prosecutions that can come into play, but it’s important to understand that civil cases can also be pursued. Here’s what you need to know.
Criminal Charges for Sexual Abuse
In Illinois, sexual abuse and aggravated sexual abuse are criminal. They are defined in several ways to communicate that sexual conduct with anyone under the age of legal consent is not tolerated.
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault
This is defined under the law as someone over the age of 17 committing a sexual act with someone under the age of 13. It is a Class 2 felony.
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse
This is defined as acts of sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a child between the ages of 13 and 16 by a person at least five years older. It is a Class 2 felony.
Criminal Sexual Abuse
This is defined as a person participating in sexual conduct or sexual penetration with a child between ages 13 and 16 if they are at least five years older. It is a Class A misdemeanor.
Under Illinois law, a person who wants to pursue criminal prosecution of abuse has 20 years after their 18th birthday to come forward and do so. However, the statute of limitations at the time the crime took place applies to the case.
So, even if it’s currently 20 years after the 18th birthday of the victim, if a case occurred before the statute of limitations lengthened, it may not apply.
If the statute of limitations has run out on the criminal case for sexual abuse, the civil case has very different rules.
In Illinois, the delayed discovery rule applies to civil cases. It allows the victim to bring a civil case against the abuser 10 years after they discover the abuse. Now, victims can address the abuse they suffered through the civil justice system regardless of the status of a criminal case.
Many dioceses around the country have “Independent Compensation Programs” that allow survivors of abuse to submit a claim directly and avoid court. It’s in your best interest to speak with an attorney to guide you toward the best course of action regarding your case.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by Avvo (2013 and 2018), SuperLawyers (2015-2020), The National Trial Lawyers, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.