Colorado and the Denver Metro area are not immune from the shocking numbers of sexual assaults committed by religious leaders. Despite our reliance on clergy to guide us in our faiths, priests, friars, pastors, nuns, and employees of religious organizations too often take advantage of congregants’ trust and sexually abuse the women, men, and children who follow them.
Violation of the clergy-parishioner relationship by sexual misconduct can be devastating. Allegations about sexual misconduct of children by trusted clergy members regularly top the news, but adolescents and teens are not the only casualties. Research demonstrates people with mental health issues look to their clergy first, seeking their help before or instead of consulting doctors or healthcare professionals.
The effects can be devastating. Survivors of Colorado clergy sexual abuse suffer mental, emotional, and physical scars that can last lifetimes. In some tragic cases, the weight and shame have driven some to suicide.
The Lamothe Law Firm has helped numerous survivors of clergy sexual misconduct bring their abusers to justice. If you’re a survivor of a Denver clergy sexual assault, we can help you, too.
Defining Clergy Sexual Abuse
When clergy members use their special pastoral relationships to manipulate, exploit, injure, or sexually abuse congregants, that violation constitutes clergy sexual misconduct. It can be verbal, emotional, or physical, such as:
- Sexual assault and abuse.
- Sexual harassment.
- Pressure for sexual intercourse or involvement.
- Sexualized verbal comments or visual depictions.
- Unwanted touches and advances.
The clergy member’s influence or control over the congregant makes it more difficult to refuse. And consent is never a defense to clergy sexual misconduct.
Clergy sexual abuse is common across all denominations, religions, and faith groups in the country, including:
- Calvary Chapel
- Christian Scientist
- Church of Christ
- Muslim Religious Communities
- Reformed and Orthodox Judaism
- Roman Catholic
- Seventh Day Adventist
Prevalence of Clergy Sexual Assault in Denver, Colorado, and the U.S.
An investigation by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office revealed that 43 Catholic priests in the state sexually abused at least 166 children from 1951 to 2019. In more than half of those cases, Colorado’s three dioceses knew the priests were abusers before the children were assaulted. Twenty-two abusive priests were in the Archdiocese of Denver, including Harold Robert White, who molested 63 children before he was removed from the priesthood. Within two months after the AG released its report, another 46 people sexually assaulted by Catholic clergy stepped forward with substantiated childhood abuse claims.
Beginning in 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops required all dioceses to take steps to protect children from sexual abuse. In response, the Denver Archdiocese updated its preexisting Code of Conduct to establish the Office of Child and Youth Protection, run by a Director and Protection Specialist. The Colorado AG concluded that the Archdiocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator position was not properly utilized, the Conduct Response Team process was flawed, and the Archdiocese’s investigative process was deficient.
Colorado Clergy Sexual Misconduct Lawyers
Statistics of clergy sexual misconduct outside the Catholic Church are no less disturbing. An exhaustive study from Baylor University found that in the average U.S. congregation of 400 members, a leader in that faith community will sexually abuse 32. Another report from Not In Our Church suggests a higher chance a faith leader will sexually assault a congregant than the congregation will be involved in a mass shooting. Other alarming statistics:
- A study of 6,000 United Methodist parishioners revealed that half of all women members and one-third of the men witness or suffer some degree of sexual harassment or misconduct by a pastor.
- Over 15 percent of Christian pastors have engaged in sexual behavior they consider inappropriate.
- Almost 15 percent of pastors have sexual contact with someone other than their spouses while in the clergy.
- Experts assert that the number of women sexually abused by clergy is more than the number of clergy-abused children.
- Clergy sexual abuse occurs three times more often in African-American congregations.
- Over 30 percent of Christian pastors have admitted to being addicted to Internet pornography.
New Colorado Laws Expand Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors’ Opportunities to Seek Justice and Compensation
In April 2021, Colorado enacted new legislation to ensure survivors of clergy sexual misconduct have their day in court.
Previously, the statute of limitations for civil sexual assault claims was six years from the date of the alleged act. If the alleged assault occurred when the survivor was a child, the survivor had six years from their 18th birthday to file suit against the abuser.
For recent or future instances of sexual misconduct, the new law removes the statute of limitations for any civil claim of sexual abuse on or after January 1, 2022. Also, survivors of a sexual assault between January 1, 2016, and January 1, 2022, now have an indefinite amount of time to file a civil claim against their abuser, so long as the statute of limitations has not already expired.
For those subjected to sexual abuse before 2022 but where the statute of limitations has expired, the law creates a three-year lookback window during which survivors in Colorado can file a civil suit for sexual assault dating back to 1960.
Contact Our Colorado Clergy Sexual Misconduct Lawyers
The Lamothe Law Firm aggressively advocates for survivors of clergy sexual abuse. We obtain justice for clients who trust us to fight on their behalf.
Many survivors think criminal prosecution is the only way to hold their assailants accountable. They may not know they may seek damages in a civil lawsuit. Although no amount of money can compensate them for the pain, suffering, and lasting trauma they’ve endured, monetary damages can bring a sense of closure that allows them to get on with their lives.
Beginning with the initial consultation and throughout your case, we will:
- Never call you a “victim” of sexual assault. You are a “survivor!”
- Show you the compassion, sensitivity, and empathy you deserve.
- Regularly communicate with you about all aspects of your lawsuit.
- Answer all your questions and give honest responses.
- Promptly respond to your calls, emails, questions, and requests.
- Always be professional, respectful, courteous, and compassionate.
- Put in the effort to deliver the best possible outcome.
If you or someone you care about has been sexually abused or assaulted by a pastor, priest, rabbi, or another faith-based leader, please contact us today to schedule a confidential meeting.