Sexual Abuse by Clergy

South Carolina Sexual Abuse Attorneys

The South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Lofton & Lofton are dedicated to helping victims abused by members of the clergy. In practice for over 25 years, we have fought to bring sexual predators to justice, supporting devastated families affected by abuse. Located in Charleston, Lofton & Lofton puts years of knowledge and expertise behind recovering the compensation you deserve.

Sexual Abuse by South Carolina Clergy

Recent scandals have rocked the clergy membership across the United States. In South Carolina, many parishioners have come forward demanding justice. Sexual abuse allegations against 27 out of 45 accused priests and deacons were deemed “credible” by the statewide Diocese of Charleston. But this represented only 2.7 percent of the clergy accused of sexual abuse of minors. In all, studies estimate that the diocese has fielded more than 850 complaints since 1950, but prosecuted only two. The National Review Board, formed by the bishops, released its own findings in the matter:

  • Bishops failed to punish errant priests
  • Celibacy was not the cause of scandals
  • No new cases of abuse cases were pending
  • Diocese did not properly screen priest candidates
  • One in 10 priests was accused of abuse in the ‘70s
  • Most cases were already known to church officials
  • More than 80% of allegations involved young boys
  • Boys between 11 and 14 were largest group of victims

In a separate report, researchers called the diocese finding of 23 credible cases “low” given that each clergy offender typically has 7 victims. One researcher personally counseled dozens of Charleston priests, two of whom admitted to sexually abusing “hundreds” of kids. Of the 23 credibly accused priests, 20 have died, retired, or been placed on leave. Only one was removed from the ministry. In the end, the church has paid millions of dollars in legal fees.

Sexual Misconduct by Clergy

Clergy members are required to report incidents of alleged abuse. Yet diocese officials most often fight allegations without ever determining their merits. Clergy misconduct may include:

  • Statutory rape
  • Child molestation
  • Unconsented touching
  • Touching without clothing
  • Lewd or lascivious acts with minor
  • Child pornography, indecent exposure
  • Sexual threats, harassment of parishioners
  • Sexual assault or battery, aggravated counts

Under South Carolina law, the legal age of consent is 16.

Civil Damages for Clergy Sex Abuse

In addition to facing criminal prosecution, perpetrators are also civilly liable to abused victims. The recovery of civil damages is governed by another standard than that used to prosecute felonies. In fact, most victims are awarded monetary compensation by the diocese in abuse cases rather than facing criminal charges in court. The Charleston Diocese, for example, has chosen to minimize criminal action since the 1950s. Instead, it has paid more than $2.5 million in settlements to victims and $646,000 in counseling and legal fees.

Successfully Recovering Compensation

If you or a loved one were sexually abused by a member of the clergy, call the South Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lofton & Lofton today. Founded in 1984, our firm has recovered substantial compensation for sexual abuse victims in Charleston and South Carolina. Victims only have 6 years to file a civil claim, and are required to act before reaching 21 or within 3 years of reasonably discovering the abuse. At Lofton & Lofton, we act quickly to find all perpetrators and officials liable for your harm. Call (843) 722-6319 for a consultation or contact us online.

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