Maryland Clergy Abuse Lawyer
Clergy who sexually abuse children cause immeasurable harm that is significantly worsened when the church protects the abuser. A Maryland clergy abuse lawyer helps survivors of clergy sexual abuse hold the institution accountable for facilitating the abuse.
Clergy abuse in Maryland has been concealed and enabled by churches for centuries, leaving thousands of women and children with lifelong psychological and physical harm. Reporting sexual abuse is an act of courage, but accounts by Maryland clergy abuse victims have repeatedly been dismissed by institutions they trusted.
This longstanding pattern of protecting abusers without supporting victims has enabled the abuse to continue, and for many survivors, this betrayal has been as damaging as the abuse itself. Fortunately, the state legislature and the Maryland Attorney General have taken a stand to believe survivors and expose the wrongdoing.
Thanks to a new law, sexual abuse survivors previously denied the opportunity to hold churches accountable may now have their day in court.
If a clergy member has victimized you or your loved one, a compassionate Maryland sexual abuse attorney at Herman Law can help you expose this egregious abuse of power and pursue significant financial compensation.
- It’s Not Too Late To File A Claim for Childhood Sexual Abuse in Maryland
- Why Choose Herman Law for Your Maryland Clergy Abuse Lawsuit
- Sexual Abuse at the Baltimore Archdiocese
- Abuse by Protestant Churches
- What Constitutes Clergy Sexual Abuse?
- Clergy Lawsuits in Maryland
- Who Can I Sue?
- How Common is Sex Abuse in Maryland?
- Long-Term Effects of Sexual Abuse
- What Compensation is Available for Victims of Clergy Sex Abuse in Maryland?
- Recognize the Signs of Clergy Sexual Abuse
- What to Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Been Sexually Abused by Clergy in Maryland
- How Can a Maryland Clergy Abuse Lawyer Help?
It’s Not Too Late To File A Claim for Childhood Sexual Abuse in Maryland
Thanks to the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023, victims of childhood sexual abuse in Maryland have more time to file a civil lawsuit, regardless of how much time has elapsed since the abuse occurred. On April 11, 2023, Governor Wes Moore signed the bill into law. It takes effect on October 1, 2023.
Before the bill passed, childhood sexual abuse survivors were required to file their claims within 20 years of turning 18, or by their 38th birthday. This was based on a law enacted in 2017.
Before 2017, the statute of limitations was just three years after the offense occurred or three years after the victim’s 18th birthday, whichever was later.
The 2017 law blocked lawsuits that were already time-barred before the passage of this law. Due to the traumatic effects of childhood sexual abuse, it can take significantly longer than three years and often longer than 20 years for a survivor to become ready to file a sex abuse lawsuit.
The new law creates an unlimited lookback window, which means all child sex abuse survivors in Maryland can file a sex abuse lawsuit regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
Why Choose Herman Law for Your Maryland Clergy Abuse Lawsuit
At Herman Law, sexual abuse litigation is all we do. We are the leading law firm in the nation for sexual abuse cases, with over 25 years of experience standing up to large institutions, including the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, schools, and religious organizations.
We have helped thousands of sexual abuse survivors recover millions in compensation. However, we measure our success not in dollars but in the healing and empowerment our clients experience when we give them a voice to stand up to their abusers and the parties who failed to protect them.
We consider the difference we make in the lives of sexual abuse survivors to be our most significant accomplishment. This is why it means so much to us when we receive client testimonials like the following:
The Herman Law Firm never overpromised. They kept everything in perspective. But they sure hit a grand slam for me in the end. The firm always kept in contact with me to let me know things were getting done. I was blessed with this firm. Thank You Jeff and Jason for all your empathy and professionalism. You guys really helped me to get closure in my life.
They are true professionals, true human beings with only your best interests in mind. If I have a concern all I have to do is pick up the phone and call. I always feel better when I speak with my attorney who knows my case without looking at my file. There is only one law firm in this country, Herman Law.
This team of lawyers has really given me a sense of justice in knowing that I’m not alone. I cannot express in words my heart’s gratitude for Herman law.
We respect and admire the courage required to pursue a sexual abuse lawsuit against clergy. When you contact Herman Law, you can count on our compassionate attorneys to believe you and to become your fiercest advocates. Regardless of your gender, gender identity, or age when the abuse occurred, we will support you through every phase of your lawsuit.
Sexual Abuse at the Baltimore Archdiocese
The Attorney General of Maryland released a report in April of 2023 exposing sexual abuse by 156 priests in the Baltimore Archdiocese between the 1940s and 2002. The report also lists 43 priests who moved into the archdiocese’s boundaries after committing sexual abuse outside of Maryland.
At least 600 children experienced sexual abuse by these priests. The priests targeted especially vulnerable children, including children who had problems at home, lacked confidence, and were devoted to the church.
The priests groomed the children with gifts and special attention and—in the ultimate abuse of power—used their position to intimidate them into silence. They utilized the following forms of psychological manipulation:
- Telling them the abuse was “God’s will.”
- Telling the children no one would believe them over the word of a priest
- Threatening the children that they or their family members would go to hell if they told anyone about the abuse
You can access a list of priests in Maryland who have sexually abused children by visiting our Maryland Predator Priest Index.
The Blatant Coverup
Despite the manipulative tactics, some children courageously reported the abuse to their parents or others. Shockingly, the archdiocese responded by protecting the abusers and refusing to acknowledge the abuse.
When the abuse became impossible to deny, the archdiocese quietly transferred abusive priests elsewhere without warning families of the abuse. Many of these priests continued to abuse children with the full protection of the Catholic church.
“The archdiocese was more concerned with avoiding scandal and negative publicity than it was with protecting children,” the Attorney General’s report said.
Liability for Sexual Abuse
By failing to protect children, the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Catholic church neglected what should have been their highest priority and made themselves complicit in the abuse.
Our Maryland clergy abuse lawyers at Herman Law are passionate about getting justice for sexual abuse survivors against institutions like the Catholic church, which betrayed a sacred trust by helping their priests commit the worst kind of abuse of power.
Abuse by Protestant Churches
Sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic church may be the most widely publicized clergy abuse, but clergy from protestant denominations have also been implicated.
The Southern Baptist Convention
When the Southern Baptist Convention’s sexual abuse scandal was revealed in 2022, the denomination released the names of 700 pastors and church leaders who had sexually abused children. The following five pastors from that list have ties with Maryland, according to the Daily Voice Anne Arundel:
- Joe Nix Ivey, former pastor of Barnesville Baptist Church in Walkerville, who is now a registered sex offender in Frederick County after serving a four-year prison sentence
- Kenneth “Atlantis” Keith Long, the former pastor of Seat Pleasant Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, Prince George County, who was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in 2000
- Joshua M. McCready, a youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Berlin, who served 18 months in jail after pleading guilty to nine counts of child abuse in 2000
- Douglas Myers, the former pastor of Bayside Baptist Church in Chesapeake Beach, who is serving a 15-year sentence with a civil lawsuit pending
- Walter Harrison Yocum, youth pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Bel Air, who received a five-year suspended prison sentence and remains in Maryland as a registered sex offender
Like the Catholic church, the Southern Baptist Convention leadership actively concealed the sexual abuse. The leadership secretly kept a list of abusers without turning them over to the authorities. They also mistreated and intimidated victims who reported the abuse.
What Constitutes Clergy Sexual Abuse?
Clergy sexual abuse is abuse by anyone who is ordained or holds a ministry position for a church or religious organization, including the following:
- Ordained ministers
- Youth pastors or leaders
- Ministry leaders
- Denomination administrators
Clergy Lawsuits in Maryland
Numerous lawsuits are expected against the Archdiocese of Baltimore due to the state Attorney General’s bombshell report, especially in light of the Maryland Child Victims Act removing the statute of limitations.
According to the Portland Press Herald, the Baltimore Archdiocese has admitted to paying more than $13.2 million to compensate 301 sexual abuse victims since the 1980s.
If you were the victim of clergy sexual abuse, you have the right to file a civil lawsuit to pursue significant financial compensation. While no amount of money can restore a lost childhood or remove the emotional trauma from sexual abuse, it can provide a sense of justice and restore lost opportunities.
The psychological trauma associated with clergy sexual abuse can result in the loss of educational opportunities and reduce your capacity to work, resulting in a substantial loss of income throughout life. Financial compensation from a lawsuit can help restore you to the financial position you could have attained were it not for the abuse.
At Herman Law, we think you deserve this, and when you hire our law firm, we will fight for it on your behalf.
Who Can I Sue?
Any institution that hosts or supervises children is legally obligated to provide a safe environment and report any abuse to the authorities. Clergy may be present in numerous functions inside and outside the church.
If you or your child has experienced sexual abuse by clergy, the organization that exposed you to the clergy member may be liable. This includes the following agencies and organizations:
- Public schools
- Private/religious schools
- Youth organizations
- After-school care facilities
- Recreation centers
- Community centers
- Group homes
- Juvenile justice facilities
In a lawsuit, you may also pursue compensation from any clergy member, administrators, bishops, archbishops, the agency or organization that exposed you to the individual, and the religious organization that commissioned the individual.
How Common is Sex Abuse in Maryland?
According to the U.S. Administration on Children and Families, there were 2,059 child victims of sexual abuse in Maryland in 2020. According to the advocacy organization Darkness to Light, approximately one in 10 children experiences sexual abuse before age 18.
Due to the vast underreporting of child sexual abuse, the actual numbers are likely much higher. According to the Attorney General’s report, the United States Department of Justice published in a Criminal Victimization Bulletin that just 22.9 percent of rapes and sexual assaults were reported.
When limited to children, the percentage reporting abuse may be even lower. A 1999 study published by Child Abuse & Neglect mentioned by the Attorney General found that only 11.9 percent of women sexually abused before age 18 reported the abuse to the authorities.
Long-Term Effects of Sexual Abuse
Childhood sexual abuse can lead to severe short-term and long-term effects, which may include the following:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Suicidal thoughts
- Increased risk of drug abuse
- Panic attacks
- Poor self-esteem
- Changes in eating habits
- Sleep disturbances
- Feelings of guilt and shame
When the perpetrator is a priest, pastor, or youth pastor who served as a moral role model, the betrayal of trust and the dynamics surrounding the abuse can heighten these effects. Clergy abuse is often repetitive and prolonged, and the pressure to keep the abuse secret can be especially high.
Even if the abuse is reported or discovered, the church and the family may blame the victim or question the validity of the victim’s memories. This maltreatment discourages other victims from coming forward.
As a result, clergy sex abuse survivors may be left with the following additional effects, according to Psychology Today:
- Mistrust of all adults
- Difficulty forming relationships
- Disbelief in God
- Disillusionment with the church
- Confusion about their gender identity
- Excess fear about reporting the abuse or testifying
What Compensation is Available for Victims of Clergy Sex Abuse in Maryland?
According to the Maryland Child Victim’s Act of 2023, child sex abuse survivors can recover economic and non-economic damages in a Maryland clergy abuse lawsuit.
Non-economic damages compensate for those effects that are not easy to quantify, like pain and suffering. Meanwhile, economic damages are actual monetary losses. Non-economic damages may include the following types:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Psychological trauma
Economic damages include compensation for such monetary losses as the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost businesses opportunities
- Therapy costs
The new law allows you to recover up to $1.5 million in non-economic damages in a Maryland child sex abuse lawsuit. There is no cap on economic damages. Previously, victims were subject to the standard non-economic damage cap, which is at $920,000 as of October 1, 2022.
If your claim is against a public institution, such as a public school, the Maryland Child Victims Act allows you to recover up to $890,000 for economic and non-economic damages.
You may also be able to recover punitive damages for clergy abuse. There is no limit on punitive damages. Punitive damages are rarely awarded in Maryland because they are only awardable when you can prove the defendant’s actions displayed “evil motive, intent to injure, ill will, or fraud, i.e., ‘actual malice,” according to case law.
Clergy sexual abuse cases in Maryland may rise to that level. Our Maryland clergy abuse lawyers can determine the types of compensation you may be able to recover after providing a free, confidential review of your case.
Recognize the Signs of Clergy Sexual Abuse
If you suspect something is not right about your child’s relationship with any adult, including clergy, it is important to trust your intuition and look for signs that abuse may be occurring.
Changes in a Child After Sexual Abuse
The warning signs in a child of clergy sexual abuse include the following:
- Inappropriate sexual knowledge or behavior
- Being more secretive than usual
- Aversion to being left alone with a specific individual, especially an individual the child previously trusted
- Changes in eating habits
- Mood and personality changes, such as new aggression or insecurity
- Low self-esteem
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- New physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches
Clergy Behavior Warning Signs
In addition to the signs of sexual abuse in your child, you should also be aware of any strange behavior by clergy your child has regular contact with. The following behaviors may constitute grooming or could indicate abuse has already occurred, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network:
- Attempts to gain alone time with your child
- Gifts, extra attention, or special favors
- Secrets between your child and a clergy member
- An increase in how much a clergy member touches your child compared to other children, often with progression
- The appearance of an inappropriate relationship
- Attempts by a clergy member to gain the trust of your child or family, often through charming behavior
What to Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Been Sexually Abused by Clergy in Maryland
If you suspect your child has experienced sexual abuse, the most important action you can take is to assure your child that you believe them and do not blame them. Your child will need therapy as soon as possible to start the healing process. With the right support, your child can heal.
Sexual abuse is a crime, even if the abuser is a priest, pastor, or other church leader. A criminal investigation will commence when you report the abuse to law enforcement.
The criminal justice system can provide families with a sense of justice, but it does nothing to compensate the child or the family for the harm that has been done. A sexual abuse lawsuit can provide the resources needed to ensure your child receives whatever help they need, and it can provide financial security for your child’s future.
How Can a Maryland Clergy Abuse Lawyer Help?
When you contact a Maryland sexual abuse lawyer at Herman Law, we will get right to work to hold the perpetrator and the organizations that enabled the abuse accountable. You can count on us to do the following:
- Help you report the abuse to the appropriate authorities
- Help you prove the abuse with the help of forensic psychologists, our special investigative unit, and expert witnesses
- Provide referrals to resources and support
- Negotiate a settlement so you and your child can avoid a trial
- Believe you
- Support you
- Advocate for you
We will fight for you in court if a church or parish fails to take responsibility during settlement negotiations. We have a successful record of getting remarkable case results, but no matter how a case resolves, the client rarely regrets filing a claim.
Confronting the parties responsible for your abuse or your child’s abuse is empowering, and for many survivors, it marks the first time they have had a voice to express how they had been violated. We can make it happen for you too. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.