Sexual abuse and molestation in the clergy have been a continuing issue in the United States for decades. No religious body is immune to sexual abuse scandals, including the Catholic Church. Numerous incidents surrounding clergy sexual abuse have occurred in California, as well as churches around the world, with the Church having to pay large settlements for such cases.
Despite evidence of sexual abuse inside the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for over 70 years, most high-profile instances happened from 1970 to the early 1990s. Almost 1,000 people have lodged sexual abuse allegations against the California Catholic Church since 2002. Most cases of sexual abuse remained unreported for long periods of time, but this is gradually changing with victims speaking out and priests being held accountable for their sexual misconduct. A statute of limitation for reporting abuse has been extended in some states, including California, where victims can report instances of childhood sexual assault until age 40. Previously, the law only allowed victims to report such cases until age 26.
One such case is a California priest, Father John Dawson. Below is an overview of his assignment, accusations, and charges against him.
Fr. Dawson was ordained as a priest in 1967 and worked in several churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. According to media sources, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles received an anonymous claim of Fr. Dawson’s child sexual assault in 1987. In 1992, an adult male alleged that Fr. Dawson assaulted him when he was 12 years old in 1976. Another adult male stated in 1993 that Fr. Dawson abused him when he was 14 years old. He also claimed that he thought his brother was abused. There were a minimum of three additional victims.
The Catholic Church worked hard to bury these incidents by hiding priests who were accused of sexual abuse in an attempt to keep such matters away from the media, public, and law enforcement. As a result, Fr. Dawson was put on sick leave in 1994 due to sexual misconduct allegations. Rather than exposing the molestation to the police, the Archdiocese sent Fr. Dawson to the Saint Luke Institute and the Servants of the Paraclete, which are both known for rehabilitating priests accused of sexually abusing children.
Two years later, Fr. Dawson was put on dormant leave, with no qualifications or authorization to serve as a priest. Fr. Dawson is implicated of sexually abusing at least ten minors, some as young as eight years old, between 1972 and 1982, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
In at least one civil case, a claimed victim of child sexual abuse cited Fr. Dawson. He was fired in 2005, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles added Fr. Dawson to a blacklist of priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors in a series of stern actions against sexual misconduct.
According to media reports, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles disclosed personnel records of clergypersons implicated with child sexual abuse, including Fr. Dawson, in 2012. His last known location was Albuquerque, New Mexico. His current whereabouts are unknown, and it is unclear whether he has access to children.
In 2019, the California Child Victims Act was passed to offer survivors of child sexual assault a second chance to file a claim against their abusers. This “look back window” is open until December 31, 2022, and will extend the maximum age to file a report from 26 to 40.
Herman Law is a California-based law practice representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other members of the clergy. Do not hesitate to call us right away if you need a lawyer to help with your sexual assault case against a clergyman in California.