News & Headlines

Harvard Law Professors Put the Chill on Campus Sexual Assault Victims

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See Irwin Zalkin's latest blog post on the Huffington Post website.

"As a lawyer who has represented hundreds of sexual abuse and sexual assault victims, I find the conduct of these law professors to be reprehensible, but not atypical of those who are more concerned about protecting their reputations, and the reputation of their institution, than the safety and welfare of their students. It's time to set the record straight."

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The Safe Campus Act: Backed By Fraternities And No Real Protections For Victims

By Irwin M. Zalkin, Esq. Republican Representatives Matt Salmon and Pete Sessions are promoting a bill in Congress titled “The Safe Campus Act” which, by its title, would lead one to believe that it is intended to better protect students from campus sexual violence. Don’t be fooled by the clever title created by high powered lobbyists and publicists bought and paid for by college fraternities.   This bill has nothing to do with protecting students and everything to do with insuring that fraternities and colleges are better able to shield themselves from legal responsibility for the incredible harm caused by a small number of their members and fellow students.

Currently, under Title IX (federal civil rights legislation that was passed in the 1970s to insure gender equality in education) secondary schools and colleges have a responsibility to conduct “prompt and equitable” investigations of claims of sexual violence and gender discrimination by its students. (34 Code of Federal Regulations Sec. 106.8(b)). The Safe Campus Act would change that. It would require victims of sexual violence to report their assailant to the police and permit schools and colleges to defer their own investigations pending result of the police investigations. It also would require the victims of sexual assault to meet a higher standard of proof before the school or college would have to take any remedial action.

The Office of Civil Rights, the arm of the federal Department of Education, the agency authorized by law to implement, interpret and enforce compliance with Title IX by schools and colleges, has made it very clear, that schools and colleges are to conduct their own immediate investigation and not wait until law enforcement has conducted its investigation. These institutions have a non-delegable responsibility to their students to protect them from gender violence that is not, and cannot be dependent on what law enforcement does. (United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, Dear Colleague letter of April 4, 2011, page 8, N. 23). This makes sense since, the standards required for a criminal conviction are significantly higher where the assailant faces the loss of his or her liberty than what is necessary or required of a school or college to respond and remedy a claim of sexual violence.

The Campus Safety Act turns Title IX on its head and would reverse decades of regulations and court decisions dealing with the scourge of sexual violence on college campuses, much of which occurs at fraternity parties. The Greek system is a major source of financial benefit to colleges, including a source for alternative housing for college students, and for obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars in donations.

It’s no wonder fraternities are on the attack against sexual assault victims. They want to go back to business as usual. As one slogan often used by frat boys says “Parents send us your daughters.”

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Yom Kippur Thoughts for Pope Francis

By: Irwin Zalkin This was the week of Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holiday known as the Day of Atonement.  It is a day when Jews personally and collectively acknowledge our transgressions of the previous year and seek forgiveness.

I was in synagogue observing the holiday and confessing my sins when our Rabbi, as part of her sermon, read a recent encyclical (letter) issued by Pope Francis where he called for the world to acknowledge the hardships of those who are suffering from an array of problems from the ravages of war to persecution to poverty.  It was a moving challenge to all of us to acknowledge our obligation to reach out and help the suffering and the helpless.

During his current visit to the United States, Pope Francis had an opportunity to reach out to those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, from the scourge of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.  Instead, he lauded the "courage" of the Bishops of the United States for how they have responded to the fall out from the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.  I was disappointed to see no acknowledgment or compassion for the victims of clergy abuse, but only this “pat on the back” for Bishops, many who have ignored this travesty for decades.

As an attorney who has been representing survivors of child sexual abuse for over a decade, I was disappointed, but not surprised.  Our firm has been involved in efforts to change laws in various states in the United States, including California, that would allow survivors access to civil justice against institutions that are responsible for the harm that was done to them as children by employees, agents and volunteers of those organizations including the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church has been the leader in opposition to those efforts, spending millions of dollars on expensive lobbyists to defeat such legislation that would give victims access to justice.

It is clear from this failure of the Pope to acknowledge victims of clergy abuse on his visit to the U.S. that the church’s continuing opposition to extending access to civil justice for sex abuse victims is a decision that comes from the top.  If this Pope wanted to support the rights of victims then there would be no such resistance to legislative proposals the church is battling with millions of dollars in several states across the country.

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Is Subway Liable for Jared?

An Analysis of the Federal Criminal Complaint and Subway’s Potential Civil Liability for Claims of Childhood Sexual Abuse. By Ryan Cohen, The Zalkin Law Firm

On August 19, 2015, Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against former Subway spokesperson, Jared Fogle, alleging various counts of sexual abuse against children. Prior to, Jared Fogle and his “Subway diet” had become a staple of popular culture, contributing to immense growth for the food chain. According to CNN, in 2013, Subway’s chief marking officer credited Fogle as likely being responsible for as much as one-half of Subway’s growth since 1998. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/19/us/jared-fogle-profile-subway/index.html)

As of September 1, 2015, Subway’s website touts having 44,201 restaurants in 110 countries. (http://www.subway.com/subwayroot/default.aspx) Considering how Subway very publicly focused its “healthy option” marketing campaign around Fogle, could Subway be civilly liable for Fogle’s heinous conduct towards children? In short, the answer is maybe. A review of the criminal complaint and subsequent press reports sheds some light on the manner in which Fogle perpetrated these crimes. While more information is needed, Subway should certainly be concerned about potential civil exposure.

The Zalkin Law Firm, P.C. represents victims of childhood sexual abuse in personal injury lawsuits against the parties responsible. We often seek damages from institutions responsible for the sexual abuse of our clients. Per the criminal complaint, Fogle perpetrated acts of sexual abuse in various states, including New York and Indiana. Thus, the applicable jurisdiction and associated laws are unknown and any analysis of Subway’s liability must be considered merely informative and not intended to be taken as legal advice. However, paramount to any institution’s liability for sexual abuse is the foreseeability of the risk to the victim. Applied herein, the question becomes whether it was foreseeable to Subway that Fogle would be in contact with children and whether those children would be at risk of sexual abuse.

The criminal complaint defines Jared’s relationship with Subway as “a spokesperson for a business having multiple worldwide retail locations, which he frequently visited for marketing purposes.” The complaint also states that Fogle “repeatedly made travel plans in order to have his business trips coincide with his pursuit of commercial sex acts.” The complaint further asserts, “At various times between in or about 2007 and 2013, the Defendant communicated with several adult women who were not escorts and expressed his desire to engage in sexual acts with young minors. In some cases, he stated that he has done so in the past.”

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Finding Justice for Victims of Campus Sexual Assault

By: Alex Zalkin, Esq. The Zalkin Law Firm

There is a growing national spotlight on the issue of sexual assault on our college campuses. Research findings about the scope of the problem vary widely, with findings ranging from 3% to 17% to as many as 20% of women in college will be victims of some form of sexual assault.

While these statistics alone are staggering enough, there is an equal or possibly even more egregious reality relating to the way our nation’s colleges and universities respond to these sexual assaults. All too often, university administrators fail to adequately address claims of sexual assault on campus, and even actively discourage sexual assault victims from pursuing any recourse for their victimization.

This issue of campus sexual assault has been highlighted for the public by brave victims coming forward and by the new film, “The Hunting Ground”, showing this weekend at both the Hillcrest Landmark Theater and AMC La Jolla 12. The film follows the plights of two sexual assault victims who were denied justice and accountability by their own school’s disciplinary process, and ultimately sought recourse through an administrative Title IX complaint with the Department of Education. This film expands on the growing national awareness of this issue.

Only last September, President Obama launched the “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assault on campus. Lady Gaga released “Till It Happens To You,” an emotional ode to the psychological effects resulting from a sexual assault. Thankfully, this growing national concern has led to efforts to correct the inadequacies of the status quo among universities and their attitudes towards campus sexual assault.

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Childhood Abuse of Children With Disabilities: Bad News From Our Schools

By: Ryan Cohen The Zalkin Law Firm

At the Zalkin Law Firm, we represent victims of childhood sexual abuse, sexual harassment, campus sexual assault and those who have suffered other personal injuries. While childhood sexual abuse dominates the headlines, there is a disturbing trend in schools across the country where children with disabilities such as Autism, are being subjected to abuse and mistreatment. And unfortunately, parents have few options but the legal system to seek justice or restitution for these cases of physical and mental abuse of their children.

In Georgia, a thirteen year-old boy, diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is confined to an eight by eight foot sized room containing only a small window covered by a metal grate. Over a twenty-nine day period, he is secluded there nineteen times at an average of ninety-four minutes a visit. The last time, he can be heard screaming and hitting the door for the first fifteen minutes until, eventually, silence. Sometime later the door is opened to reveal he committed suicide.

Unfortunately, this tragedy in Georgia is not an anomaly. In Florida, a child diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, a disability affecting physical and mental development, is restrained eighty-nine times over fourteen months. His special needs are exacerbated by his trauma, keeping him from effectively communicating his pain to his parents. His regressive behaviors eventually lead to admission to a psychiatric facility and a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In Connecticut, children with various disabilities are secluded in what parents deem “scream closets” requiring urine to be cleaned off floors and blood to be cleaned off concrete walls where several children repeatedly banged their heads. In Arizona, a second grader is restrained with duct tape for sharpening her pencil too frequently. In Kentucky, a nine year-old with autism is restrained in a duffel bag as punishment. In Minnesota, an eight year-old girl with special needs is secluded forty four times in a year. In New York, a teenager with disabilities dies after being restrained facedown by at least four adults for allegedly failing to leave a basketball court.

While each incident described above is unquestionably concerning, they are perhaps more so when considered with the following: each happened while the child was at school. Unfortunately, restraint and seclusion are alarmingly prevalent in school districts throughout the United States as a means to educate children with special needs. Also troubling is the current state of the law not only presents little opportunity for recourse to their families, but little incentive to school districts to fix their existing policies and procedures.

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It's Time for States to Act: Statue of Limitations Reform for Victims

By: Alex Zalkin, Esq.

The injuries associated with childhood sexual abuse usually do not manifest at the time of the injury, but rather, can, and often do, arise much later in life. Because of the latency of the injury, it is virtually impossible for victims of childhood sexual abuse to connect their injuries later in life to their childhood sexual abuse. This is in sharp contrast to an automobile accident, for example, in which the injury occurs at the time of the accident. Expecting a victim of childhood sexual abuse to understand that their mid-life alcoholism and depression are related to their childhood sexual abuse would be akin to expecting someone who breaks their leg in their 40's, to connect that injury to an automobile accident in their childhood. It is unrealistic to expect any person, no matter their station in life, to do so.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the statute of limitations, many states treat childhood sexual abuse injuries as they do automobile accidents and other common injuries. In New York, for example, a victim of childhood sexual abuse has until age 23 to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator of their abuse, and until age 21 to file a civil lawsuit against an institution that could have been partially responsible for the abuse as well. More often than not, a victim of childhood sexual abuse will not even exhibit all of their injuries associated with the abuse until much later in life, let alone connect those injuries to their childhood sexual abuse. By the time they do make that connection, their ability to file a civil lawsuit has long passed.

To address this problem, some states have amended their statute of limitations to include a delayed discovery provision. This allows victims a certain period of time to bring a civil lawsuit, beginning from the time in which they realize that their adult psychological injuries were the result of their childhood sexual abuse. Often times, states will also open a window, during which, those victims whose cases have been barred by the statute of limitations, can bring their lawsuit.

This troubling issue is being addressed in a federal appellate court in New York that will soon face an important decision that impacts many childhood sexual abuse survivors access to the civil justice system in that state. The court will be deciding a technical, legal argument that survivor's argue, tolls or pauses the statute of limitations, such that they can still bring their case even after the statute of limitations has technically expired.

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Irwin Zalkin Statement on Vatican Refusal to Comply with U.N. Committee Report

Victim's Attorney Reacts to U.N. Committee Report

REFUSAL TO TURN OVER BAD PRIEST FILES SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE

Statement by Irwin Zalkin, Esq.

On Tuesday, February 5, 2014, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report calling on the Vatican to remove all child abusers from its ranks, report them to law enforcement and open the church's archives so that bishops and other officials who concealed crimes could be held accountable. The Vatican quickly responded that the report was an attempt to interfere with the church's exercise of religious freedom.

With this response from the Vatican, the U.N. has now gotten a taste of the hypocrisy of theCatholic Church's alleged reformation of its priest sex abuse policies. For the past decade, the Catholic Church has engaged in a public relations campaign to persuade the general public and disillusioned Catholics that the Church has amended its policies when it comes to how it deals with sexual predator priests.

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Treatment for Prolonged Depression and Justice in Court Are Both Needed by Victims of Childhood Abuse

By Devin Storey, Esq.

In an article published on Allvoices.com, the author discussed a report by researchers at the University of Toronto that was published in January in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. The article, entitled New study reveals childhood abuse prolongs depression recovery examined the study's findings that adults who were subjected to physical, sexual or emotional abuse as children, faced a far longer road to recovery from depression than those who were not abused. The study followed 1,128 depressed adults for up to 12 years and determined that adults who survived abusive childhoods experienced an average delay of nine months in bringing their depression into remission when compared to those who were not abused as children.

Over years of representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse, many clients of The Zalkin Law Firm have experienced depression and periods of crisis. And, while childhood abuse may result in physiological changes that prolong recovery, other studies show that professional intervention can be effective in aiding those suffering from depression to recover more quickly than those who remain untreated by mental health professionals. As childhood sex abuse attorneys, we have seen first-hand the benefit our clients have experienced as a result of timely treatment by mental health practitioners, and that healing can occur when a motivated survivor of abuse secures treatment from a qualified mental health professional.

For those who have not endured depression, it is difficult to fully comprehend how debilitating this condition can be. Depression can rob a person of the motivation to seek help for their condition thereby extending the period of depression and exacerbating the person's suffering. Any delay in the recovery time of a person suffering from depression can be catastrophic, and the average delay of nine months experienced by survivors of childhood abuse and trauma can seem like a lifetime.

As strong believers in the benefits of therapy and the cathartic effect of standing up to those who caused the abuse through the litigation process, the attorneys at The Zalkin Law Firm believe that proactive steps can be used to truncate the period of suffering, and we are committed to helping our clients receive both justice in the courts and the treatment they need to flourish in their lives.

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THE UN COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: JUST ANOTHER PR OPPORTUNITY FOR THE CHURCH

By Irwin Zalkin, Esq.

Recent news articles have raised questions about the lack of cooperation of the Vatican with the on-going investigations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Vatican has already refused to provide any details to the Committee on its own internal investigations of priests and now the Vatican is scheduled to appear before the committee in mid January.

Why should anyone expect the Vatican and its representatives to suddenly change its stripes and provide truthful and complete cooperation with the United Nations Investigation? The Zalkin Law Firm clergy abuse attorneys have been engaged with the Catholic Church in the United States in a decade long effort to expose the truth of the depth and breadth of the clergy sexual abuse scandal worldwide. Through our efforts, and the efforts of other clergy abuse law firms engaged in this battle, we have forced the public disclosure of the extremes to which the Catholic Church has gone to cover up the truth.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Children should put its boxing gloves on. They'll need to win many rounds if they hope to effect a change in Vatican policy.

From the moment the scandal of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy caught broke in 2002 with the explosive reporting by the Boston Globe, the public relations machine of the Vatican and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the political arm of the Catholic Church in the United States, went into full battle mode.

The USSCB held two national conferences of all U.S. Bishops, commissioned the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to conduct an investigation into the scope of the scourge of childhood sexual abuse within the Catholic Church of America, and held numerous press conferences to assure the public they were working on the problem. Ultimately, they passed the Charter for The Protection of Children and Young People with its associated Norms that set up protocols for outreach to victims, and adopted a zero tolerance policy (which the Pope vetoed). A lay commission, the National Review Board, was appointed by the USCCB to investigate and cooperate with the John Jay investigation.

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SB 131 Passes CA Assembly

With a vote of 41 in favor, 14 against, and 22 abstentions, SB 131 has passed the CA State Assembly! ?To view the Assembly Floor Debate
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Woman accuses member of West Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Lorain of sexual abuse

July 31, 2013.  ABC 5 News. Cleveland, Ohio.Click Here to see news coverage of Irwin Zalkin and his client announcing new lawsuit against Jehovah's Witnesses congregation.
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LAUSD: Another Example Of Institutional Ineptitude In The Protection Of Children

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.
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Pope Benedict XVI Resigns

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.

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Who Should Bear The Cost Of Childhood Sexual Abuse?

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.

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The Need To Amend Statutes Of Limitation

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

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A Response To Rabbi Handler

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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The Baseless Threats of Catholic Dioceses Bankruptcies

The baseless recent threat by the Stockton Catholic Diocese to file Bankruptcy if more child sexual abuse cases are filed against it is just one of several threats by diocese around the state that have no factual basis and are part of an on-going concerted effort by the church to continue to protect sexual predators in its midst.

This scare tactic is in use once again by the Catholic Church as a way to confuse state legislators and to keep them from supporting SB 131, the California Child Victims Act. This legislation would give victims access to the courts to seek justice for the life time damage created by sexual abuse that was hidden by the church and other organizations that should have been protecting children not harboring predators.

Are Catholic bankruptcies a real possibility or just another scare tactic strategy to protect abusers?

Consider the following facts.

This scare tactic started in California back in 2007, when the Roman Catholic Bishop of San Diego a Corporation Sole, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection on the eve of trial of the first of five sex abuse cases in San Diego Superior Court. The case was assigned to Federal Bankruptcy Judge, Louis de Carl Adler, who at the first hearing where everyone meets the Judge and she outlines her vision for how she wants to proceed, she emphasized that she is Catholic, her children were the products of a wonderful Catholic school education, and that this was not going to be a case based on emotions, it was going to be all about business.

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Six Things To Know About The LA Archdiocese's Predator-Priest Records

Recently, the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church took two major actions: it released 12,000 documents relating to priests accused of child sexual abuse, and simultaneously announced Cardinal Roger Mahony had been relieved of his duties. Cardinal Mahony has been heavily criticized for his handling of sex-abuse charges against Church officials, and yesterday the Church also relieved his subordinate, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, the current Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara, of his responsibilities. As the former Vicar for Clergy, Bishop Curry served as Cardinal Mahony's point person on claims of sex abuse within the Church.

Irwin Zalkin, an attorney with The Zalkin Law Firm and an attorney who has represented numerous victims of child sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests, responded to questions today about the news from the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Q: What's the history of these records and why are we hearing about them now?

A: In the summer of 2007, a $660 million global settlement was reached between 508 victims of sexual abuse within the LA Archdiocese and several Catholic religious Orders. The settlement required the LA Archdiocese to release files on all priests who, over the last 50 years, had credible claims of sexual abuse made against them. While the settlement included a very clear process for identifying which records to make public, it has taken six years to get the LA Archdiocese to comply with that agreement. Finally, the world can know the whole truth about what they did to protect predator clergy members and the Church's reputation at the expense of young innocent children.

Q: Why didn't the Church turn over the files in 2007?

A: The Catholic Church wasn't going to release these files a minute before it was absolutely forced to. The Catholic Church has known for centuries that they have a problem with sexual predators. This issue is discussed in the Book of Gamora, in Canon Law, and in a Papal Edict issued in 1962. Father Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer at the Vatican, co-authored a report to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1985 warning that if the Church did not act on the problem of sexual-predator priests it would end up costing over one billion dollars. For his efforts he was made a military chaplain and sent to an American Air Force base in Germany. The corporate culture of the Catholic Church is to protect itself from scandal at all cost. To the men who run the Church, this means hiding their dirty secrets at all cost. They hoped that by paying the money, everyone would just go away. That didn't happen.

Q: How did they hold up the process for six years?

A: The settlement identified a certain retired judge to decide which records to make public. That judge belonged to a Catholic Diocese lay reviewcommittee responsible for reviewing child sexual abuse claims, and recused himself to avoid the perceptionof a conflict of interest. It took several months to identify another retired judge to replace him. For the next five years, lawyers for several priestsand the LA Archdiocese made legal objections to the release of the most damaging records. The priests even went to the California Supreme Court, where they lost. The retired judge then ordered the documents released, but allowed the Church to redact the names of Archdiocese officials, including Cardinal Mahony, the Archbishop, from those records. That, of course, makes it hard to tell who within the chain of command knew what and when. Lawyers for the victims appealed, and after months of legal wrangling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias ordered the documents released without redactions. Lawyers for the LA Archdiocese objected again, claiming it would take months to undo their redaction work. We’ve been fighting with them over this for months. Finally, yesterday, Judge Elias issued her written order compelling the LA Archdiocese to release unredacted versions of the documents.

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Court Fulfills Promise of 2007 Settlement: LA Archdiocese Ordered to Reveal Full Truth

Six years ago, Irwin Zalkin was preparing to serve as a lead trial attorney in a 14-victim clergy sex abuse case against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. Just before trial, a group of 562 victims of clergy abuse (including the 14 plaintiffs in our case and others represented by The Zalkin Law Firm) reached a historic, $660 million global settlement with the archdiocese. That settlement provided benefits to victims of clergy abuse and the general public that went beyond monetary compensation, and last week it paid dividends with the ordered release of some 30,000 pages of unredacted archdiocese files.

Most of us have a general sense that the Catholic Church has engaged in a systematic cover up of its child sexual abuse epidemic; most of us do not know, however, just how far it went to do so. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. And therefore, the 2007 settlement called for the church to release a vast array of memos, correspondence, psychiatric reports, and other documents relating to its handling of sex abuse claims.

The Catholic tragedy is one that deserves deeper understanding than the simple knowledge that children were hurt and the Church covered it up. People need to know the lengths Church officials went to in protecting their own while ignoring, and worse, rejecting the cries of children and their families. And that’s why the Zalkin Law Firm is proud to have been deeply involved in the fight for the release of these and other documents withheld by the LA Archdiocese and the San Diego Diocese.

After years of legal delays, last week Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias issued an historic ruling that marks a sweeping victory for victims and other concerned members of the public. The order compels the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles to release almost 30,000 pages of documents detailing the breadth and depth of the Catholic Church’s actions to cover up the epidemic of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by members of its clergy.

From our experience in this and other litigation, we can attest to the heartbreaking details these records reveal. Details such as Church officials knowingly placing child rapists in positions where they would have unfettered access to children, then moving them to new positions with access to more and different children. Or Church officials instructing that files should be locked away, or even destroyed, to keep them from law enforcement and victims’ lawyers.

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