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Lifelong financial struggles common among victims of clergy sex abuse

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2020 | Personal Injury


Allegations of clergy sex abuse began to surface publicly in the late 1980s. Adults and young people started to come forward to tell their stories and hold their abusers accountable.

Victims’ first-hand accounts generated headlines in the following decade, revealing that “punishment” of clergy members took the form of transfers to other parishes. New surroundings did not stop the abuse, and a global scandal emerged.

The turn of the century saw John Paul II issue an apology, and his successor, Benedict XVI, met with victims. Pope Francis accused victims in one case of “fabricating allegations,” before walking back that statement and expressing regret.

Victims’ personal struggles combined with financial challenges

Abuse can result in lifelong emotional trauma for victims. Another common consequence of clergy sexual abuse involves victims’ financial situations. Health economist Derek Brown published a paper that attempted to quantify the lifetime financial burden of child sex abuse. According to his data, each victim averages losses of more than $300,000 when factoring in income.

Simple skills such as saving money become challenges as victims’ grip on reality is impacted. Instead of paying bills, many victims purchase drugs and alcohol in copious amounts, sometimes into the millions of dollars.

Holding down a job can be difficult for many abuse victims, who often experience depression, anxiety and mistrust of those in authority. In many cases, “job jumping” prevents the abuse victim from building a financial safety net, leaving few options ever to retire.

Legal options in New Mexico

Civil lawsuits can lead to financial restitution for victims. However, statutes of limitations exist. In New Mexico, the statute of limitations for a civil lawsuit for child sex abuse is capped at six years after the victim’s 18th birthday, or age 24. Children under age 13 may file a lawsuit at any time. A discovery provision allows civil cases to be brought within three years from the date of the disclosure of abuse to a licensed medical or mental health provider.

For more on civil legal issues related to child sexual abuse, please see our helpful FAQ.