The number of clergy abuse cases has revealed to many sex abuse lawyers just how deeply sexual misbehavior was covered up, and this MPR story only further reveals those connections.
Story excerpt….”This wasn’t the first time Wehmeyer had been in trouble. Top archdiocese leaders knew of Wehmeyer’s sexual compulsions for nearly a decade but kept him in ministry and failed to warn parishioners, according to canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger, who resigned in April, and dozens of other interviews and documents.
A memo written in 2011 obtained by MPR News from police shows the former vicar general the top deputy of the archdiocese did not want parish employees to know about Wehmeyer’s past.”
The Zalkin Law Firm and Kircher, Arnold & Dame, filed a civil lawsuit today in the Lorain County Common Pleas Court on behalf of a former child member of the West Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, located in Lorain, OH. The plaintiff, Elizabeth McFarland, was a minor child whose family was active in the congregation at the time of the alleged abuse. Click Here for full release…
Sex abuse law is complex, and many victims don't come forward until the statue of limitations has long passed. This LA Times story takes a closer look at SB 131 - a bill that hoped to give victims a bit more time.
SB 131 passed the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee and is now up for a vote on Tuesday September 3, 2013. Read More at the LA Times.
Channel 7 News Coverage of recent New Mexico Lawsuit filed by the Zalkin Law Firm representing a victim of childhood sexual abuse in a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation.
Click here to see the news coverage and the Irwin Zalkin interview.
ABC 10 News in San Diego recently ran a feature story detailing the horrific practices of the Jehovah’s Witness church in covering up several instances of known child abuse. Sexual abuse attorney Irwin Zalkin was featured in the story. Watch below, or read the story here.
Alleged Childhood Sexual Abuse Occurred at New Mexico Congregation
Albuquerque, NM, August 15, 2013 A third in a series of civil lawsuits against Jehovah's Witnessescongregations around the countryhas now been filed against a congregation in New Mexico by The Zalkin Law Firm and The Revo/Smith Law Firm. This new lawsuit was filed in the Thirteenth Judicial District Court, County of Valencia, New Mexico, on behalf of a former child member of the Los Lunas Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, located in Los Lunas, NM. The plaintiff, Monica Lynn Jaramillo, was a minor child whose family was active in the congregation at the time of the alleged abuse.
The Zalkin Law Firm has had a chance to serve as the sexual abuse law firm for many victims in cases involving the Jehovah's Witness Church, and this video looks at one lawsuit filed against the church in Ohio.
August, 1, 2013. New lawsuit filed against Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Ohio.
Take a moment to review an exclusive interview with an admitted child molester in the Jehovah's Witnesses and an interview with sex abuse attorney Irwin Zalkin who represents victims in these cases.
Click here to see Channel 10 news story.
An Army doctor will file a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America Wednesday, Team 10 learned.
The lawsuit will be filed by the Zalkin Law Firm on behalf of Drew Belnap, who claims he suffered abuse as a child at the hands of a scoutmaster known to abuse children.
Army Doctor To Sue Boy Scouts Over SexAbuse
Victim Suffered Abuse from Scoutmaster Known as Child Molester
According to Irwin Zalkin, managing partner of the The Zalkin Law Firm, a four count civil lawsuit was filed on June 12th on behalf of a military doctor who, as a teenage Boy Scout in Southern California, suffered multiple acts of sexual abuse by a Scoutmaster with known proclivities towards child molestation. The civil complaint was filed as Drew Belnap v. Defendant Doe 1 Scouting Organization, et. al. , Superior Court of San Diego-North County Judicial District, Case No. 37-2013-00052642-CV-PO-NC.
By now, most have heard that a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge recently ordered the LA Archdiocese to release tens of thousands of documents that reveal the extent of that institution's cover up of rampant childhood sexual abuse within its institution. However, the documents reveal another shocking story of institutional negligence in the protection of children.
The Los Angeles Unified School District hired Joseph Pina, a former priest in the LA Archdiocese, in January 2002 as a community organizer. In his new capacity, Pina frequently came in to contact with young children. However, the newly released church documents reveal that Pina had been removed by the LA Archdiocese because he admitted to being attracted to young girls, and in one case, acted on that attraction by sexually abusing a young girl. In fact, the documents also reveal that in a pre-employment questionnaire sent by the LA Unified School District to the LA Archdiocese, the Archdiocese specifically warned LA Unified that there was additional information about Mr. Pina that would make him unsuitable for employment at a school. However, neither school officials nor the Archdiocese ever followed up after the initial questionnaire.
Roughly 8 months after hiring Pina, school officials became aware of allegations that Mr. Pina had sexually abused a 14-year-old girl in the 1970's while still serving as a priest in Los Angeles. Officials then confirmed with the Los Angeles Police Department, that Mr. Pina was in fact accused of such conduct, but that no charges could be brought because of the statute of limitations. School officials decided not to relieve Mr. Pina of his position, reasoning that he had not been convicted of a crime.
This is just another example of institutional ignorance in the protection of children. Here, LA Unified was warned that Mr. Pina was unfit to work in a school by his former employer, and subsequent to hiring him, learned that he was being investigated criminally for abusing a minor child. Instead of relieving him of his position upon learning of his proclivities, Pina was allowed constant contact with children for approximately 11 years. It wasn't until the release of the LA Archdiocese documents that LA Unified finally decided to let him go. As a law firm that represented one of Pina's victims against the LA Archdiocese, it is truly shocking that this man was allowed free access to Los Angeles' children for over 11 years.
One of the central figures in the scourge of childhood sexual abuse that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church has stated his intention to resign. After less than eight years in office, Pope Benedict XVI will be the first pope to resign in six centuries. His resignation comes in the wake of a preliminary report earlier this year from his native Germany of the wide spread abuse of children within the Church. That report is embroiled in controversy as the lead investigator has accused the local bishops of trying to censor the information contained in the report.
The report from his native land was not the only controversy facing Pope Benedict. Here in the United States, Cardinal Roger Mahoney became the intense focus of international news earlier this year as records were released that showed his direct involvement in cases of childhood sexual abuse. The released documents illuminate the true intentions of those involved: to actively avoid the involvement of law enforcement and other civil authorities, and to bury the truth. Such revelations have reduced Mahoney to a nullity within the Church. His successor, Archbishop Jos Horacio Gomez of Los Angeles, publically rebuked Mahoney, and stripped him of all administrative and public duties. While Mahoney was in retirement and had little in the way of any direct duties, the role of an Archbishop emeritus is one usually enjoyed in peace and dignity. Having been born and raised in the Archdiocese, and having served in the region throughout his ordained life, the rebuke could have been nothing less than humiliating for one of the princes of the Church. This was a step that would not have been taken without the approval of the Pope.
Pope Benedict has also been involved in dealing with the sexual abuse scandal that has erupted in Ireland in recent years. In what was once the most Catholic of nations, it was discovered that Vatican officials had written to Irish Bishops instructing them not to report abuse to the police. The letter, written in 1977, was in response to plans the Irish Bishops had crafted during the prior year to help police identify pedophile priests. The letter became public during Benedict’s papacy, and he has been widely criticized for his handling of the crisis in Ireland. In addition to the problems he was facing in Ireland and America, the Roman Catholic Church in Australia erupted during Benedict’s papacy with allegation of childhood sexual abuse. The scandal has never ebbed during his reign.
Prior to being elected Pope, Benedict was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office formerly known as The Inquisition. In that capacity he wrote in 2001 to all of the Catholic bishops throughout the world, ordering that the Church’s investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret. He asserted that it was the Church’s right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and to keep the evidence confidential. While at the congregation, Ratzinger placed himself in charge of handling the global scandal, a job in which he failed. In his authoritative role as Prefect, he placed secrecy before openness, and concern for the reputation and coffers of Catholic corporations before the safety of children.
There is no excuse for the course on which Benedict set the Church. As head of one of the largest child-serving institutions on the planet, he had an obligation to place children first. Throughout his time on the world stage, he had an opportunity to act with compassion and seek reconciliation with those who survived sexual abuse by Catholic priests. He could have been a man who conquered the greatest challenge to his Church in his time. Instead, he is a man resigning from office while the investigations continue and the suffering endures.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse are frequently told that it is unfair to amend a statute of limitations to allow them to seek a remedy for the abuse they suffered while participating in youth serving organizations. The argument follows that the “good works” of the youth organization will be diminished if survivors are allowed to bring claims for conduct that occurred beyond the immediate past.
Undeniably, the consequences of childhood sexual abuse are costly. Also undeniable, but lost upon proponents of this line of thought, is that unless statutes of limitations provide survivors with meaningful access to civil courts, those who are otherwise legally and morally responsible for the abuse never bear the cost. Instead it is the survivor, their family, their employer, their community, the system of public health programs, and taxpayers in society that bear the burden. Is that situation fair? Is it just social policy? Of course it is not. There is no logical reason, in law, policy or even common sense, for society to bear the cost of institutional wrongdoing instead of the culpable institutions themselves. The law must allow a reasonable time under the circumstances for survivors to bring a claim against the most highly culpable of the responsible third parties - those who knew of the danger, were in the best position to prevent it, and took no steps to protect children from abuse.
The consequences of childhood sexual abuse are wide ranging. Surviving such abuse brings increased riskof health and behavioral problems. Research conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in conjunctions with the Centers for Disease Control has proven that children who are exposed to adverse childhood experiences, such as sexual abuse, have an increased risk of developing adverse health issues later in life, including the onset of cancer in adult years. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse report more symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than those who have not been abused, and are more likely to experience major depressive disorder as adults. Many different forms of addiction can also accompany the survival of childhood sexual abuse.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse frequently have difficulty in the transition to adulthood, are more likely to suffer financial failure, and are at risk to fail in other areas of life due to problem behaviors and outcomes of the trauma. They often develop meaningful problems in dealing with authority figures.
The effects of childhood sexual abuse extend beyond individual problems as well. The health and behavioral problems faced by survivors have negative consequences within the family and workplace. This downstream effect of the abuse, leads to emotional, physical, and financial losses to third-parties involved in the survivor’s life, years and decades after the abuse. Often public health programs, including Medicaid, the last level of resort in the social safety net, are accessed by the survivor as they struggle in adult life to respond to the impact of what was done to them as children.
It is bad public policy, and a poor moral choice, to limit a survivor’s access to justice simply because one day has followed another. Or because of a fear of doing what’s right in the circumstance will cause a corporation to have to pay for its misdeeds. Where with the help of medical and legal professionals, a survivor can build a case against those responsible for their abuse; the burden should shift unto those who those who knew of the danger and could have prevented it, but instead took no steps to protect children from abuse.
The heads of some very powerful corporations, the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in America, are at it again. They are doing their best to silence survivors of childhood sexual abuse. They are doing it by spending charitable contributions raised in the pews to lobby state legislatures to deny adults, raped and molested as children, their day in court. Publicly, they make statements accepting responsibility for the scourge within their institutions. But in the hallways of state capitals and the private offices of lawmakers they demand that the court house door be shut on survivors, quickly, tightly and forever.
As a matter of review, many of the chief officers of prominent youth serving corporations all across this nation, otherwise known as diocesan bishops, allowed men they knew to have a history as rapists and child molesters to continue to have jobs providing them access to children. While facing substantial media pressure in 2002, these corporate officials issued a response through their trade association, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), admitting that what they had done, and what they had failed to do, contributed to the sexual abuse of children and young people by clergy and church personnel.
USCCB’s president, Bishop Wilton Gregory stated that a confession, by the bishops, was in order. He went on at length as follows:
“We are the ones, whether through ignorance or lack of vigilance, or God forbid with knowledge, who allowed priest abusers to remain in ministry and reassigned them to communities where they continued to abuse. We are the ones who chose not to report the criminal actions of priests to the authorities, because the law did not require this. We are the ones who worried more about the possibility of scandal than in bringing about the kind of openness that helps prevent abuse. And we are the ones who, at times, responded to victims and their families as adversaries and not as suffering members of the Church.”
Bishop Gregory was correct. These corporations and their officers are responsible for the scourge within their institutions. That fact has been confirmed in reports by grand juries and attorneys general in several of the states
In subsequent years the confession has proven to be mere words, more of a public relations ploy than evidence of any change in thebehavior of the corporate officers. The bishops have moved on from that moment, and despite admitting culpability, have put forth a monumental effort to block the reform of statutes of limitation. Reforms that would make the responsible parties pay for their misdeeds.
A statute of limitations is a legal limitation on the amount of time in which a criminal or civil case may be brought. After that time has run, the case is barred. Thus the people both criminally and civilly responsible can escape accountability only because a certain period of time has passed. Even in cases of childhood sexual abuse, once the statute of limitations has run, the courts lack the power to hold even the most heinous of defendants accountable. It is a harsh moment when a survivor loses access to the courts. In that circumstance, the survivor, his family, his employer, and society at large are left to pay for the damage. We recently discussed these costs in a blog article found here.
Society, however, has a remedy. While it has been held unconstitutional to revive lapsed criminal cases through amendments to statutes of limitation, the United States Supreme Court has declared that lapsed civil claims may be revived by state legislatures through such amendments. Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 511 U.S. 244, 267 (1994). Thus it is possible to hold those responsible for childhood sexual abuse accountable in civil court despite the passage of time This is important because, in many cases, the psychological injury or illness suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse does not become manifest to the survivor until well into adult years.
In many states the bishops have a problem, because they or a predecessor executive knew or should have known of agents who were engaged in child sexual abuse. Abuse that, as they admitted in 2002, occurred because of what an executive did or failed to do regarding the safety of children. That circumstance combined with a growing awareness of abuse in youth serving organizations generally, including the Boy Scouts who over the course of the last year have faced the release of documents evidencing widespread culpability in childhood sexual abuse, is leading legislatures across the nation to consider amending civil statutes of limitations
What is at issue is the ability to hold people and institutions responsible for criminal behavior at or near the onset of resulting psychological illness or injury. Despite the public cries of the bishops, the so called “good works” of the church are not threatened in any meaningful way by such accountability. Catholic Charities, a highly successful public relations program that directs and/or delivers the “good works” of the Roman Catholic Church in America, is funded primarily through government contracts and grants.
The battle to promote justice through amendments of civil statues of limitations is on and it is time hold these criminal enterprises responsible for the full measure of the damage they caused.
In an op-ed piece by Rabbi William Handler published by the Jewish Press, May 26, 2013, he warns that secular authorities, in particular New York child protection services and law enforcement, engage in overzealous investigations of reports of child maltreatment within the Orthodox communities, and persecute those accused of sexual crimes against children. With the same breath he offers his “sincere” concern that no one should minimize the harm done by sexual abuse of a child. His solution: let the gedolei Yisroel (true experts in matters of the laws of marriage and divorce) handle it. This position is naive at best, and dangerous if taken seriously.
The sexual abuse of children in our society is a national epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1-in-4 girls and 1-in-6 boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old. This is not a problem unique to the Orthodox Jewish Community and crosses all social, religious and economic strata of our society. For at least the past decade, since the exposure of the depth and breadth of the problem with Catholic Priest abuse, this issue has been in the forefront of our collective consciousness. We have learned, in great detail, how predators engage and groom their prey; about the incurable nature of the psychological disorders of pedophilia (abuse of pre-pubescent children) and ephebophilia (abuse of post pubescent children); about the latent and delayed psychological injuries that manifest later in adult life; and about the cost to our society in general. These issues have been the subject of studies by leading authorities in the field of child maltreatment who engage in scientific methodologies and peer reviewed presentations.
To suggest that the work of these experts should be rejected in favor of someone who has studied the biblical laws of marriage and divorce belies any sense of reason. To conjure up fear of persecution and advocate a “them against us,” Shtetl mentality as a way of protecting sexual predators is criminal. This kind of advocacy within the Jewish Community by community leaders such as Rabbi Handler does a disservice to the community, makes the Orthodox community suspect in the eyes of law enforcement, and provokes distrust within the larger national community. This kind of approach becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you have more concern about avoiding scandal and protecting sexual predators than you do for the welfare of children, you can be sure that the world will come to disrespect you. Ask the Catholic Church how it feels about that.
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