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What Is Sexual Abuse Within An Organization?

Attending religious services can impact your life positively. The same can be said for joining an organization like the Boy Scouts or a college fraternity. For most people, these groups provide enrichment and offer a community of like-minded people. But organizational sexual abuse runs rampant, and something that should be wonderful can become a nightmare. 

When organizations protect abusers, it can create a culture that encourages silence and makes it difficult to speak up. Even when someone is assaulted by someone they don’t know well, sexual abuse is reported to law enforcement at surprisingly low rates. When the abuse is happening in a close-knit environment with a trusted leader or peer, the motivation to report may be even lower. 

Sexual Abuse Within Religious Organizations

In theory, religious spaces should be the last place you would find sexual abuse. But instead of being safe havens, many houses of worship harbor sexual predators. Sometimes, leaders even work to protect them from accountability. The Catholic Church has famously covered up abuse in its ranks and spent more than $3 billion on sex abuse settlements. Between 2018 and 2019, there were more than 4,000 reports of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It’s estimated that nearly 5,000 Catholic clergy members have been credibly accused of assault.  

The Catholic Church isn’t the only religious organization with a sexual abuse problem. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, has also faced sexual abuse allegations and lawsuits alleging coverups. One lawsuit filed in late 2020 accuses Mormon bishops of ignoring mandatory reporting laws and choosing not to turn in a man accused of abusing his children. 

In another example, The Washington Post investigation found “an epidemic” of sexual abuse in evangelical Christian churches. Because of a lack of oversight and accountability — in many evangelical churches, there’s no governing board or ethics committee. As a result, predators can freely assault victims, who fear they may not be believed if they come forward. 

Youth Organizations with Sexual Abuse Claims

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has been in existence for over a century, and the organization promises to provide young people with character development and leadership skills. With millions of youth members and one million troop leaders, the nonprofit is one of the most popular activities for young boys and girls in the U.S. 

Even though the BSA is widely known for offering outdoor activities and merit-based challenges for scouts, hundreds of members have reported being abused by adult volunteers. One estimate found that 12,000 children have been abused in the Boy Scouts, but experts say that number is underestimated. 

Sexually abused children may face obstacles that aren’t there for adults. Abusers may convince a child that their parents won’t believe them or that they’ve done something wrong and need to keep the abuse a secret. When it comes to sexual abuse, minors are especially vulnerable — and organizations like the BSA may unintentionally provide an environment that gives abusers access to children.  

The Boy Scouts isn’t the only youth organization that’s faced sexual abuse accusations. The Girl Scouts of the USA, which is unaffiliated with the Boy Scouts, have also endured sexual abuse and assault allegations. Victims have bravely come forward to share stories of abuse at the hands of Girl Scout leaders

Unfortunately, the statute of limitations can be a deterrent to report a crime committed when the survivor was a child, given that it may be impossible to get justice by filing criminal charges or pursuing legal action. However, some states, including New Jersey,  have adjusted the sexual abuse statute of limitations. Since sexual abuse laws and statute of limitations vary by state, sexual abuse victims should consult a lawyer in order to seek justice. A knowledgeable sexual abuse lawyer can walk you through the process and help you understand your legal options and the best way to move forward.

Sexual Abuse Within Fraternities & Sororities 

On college campuses, fraternities and sororities promise lifelong friendships, networking skills, and ample opportunities for socialization. While many of the students who join these organizations have positive experiences, there is a dark side to campus Greek life. Male fraternity members are three times more likely to commit sexual assault when compared to non-fraternity members, and sorority members are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse. Research has shown that members of fraternal organizations may feel shame, embarrassment, and fear of ostracization and avoid reporting sexual abuse as a result. 

Ways For Sexual Abuse Victims To Move Forward 

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse within an organization, you might wonder whether anything good can come out of reporting what happened. You may worry that you’ll be excluded or judged for the abuse, even though what happened wasn’t your fault. If you have experienced sexual assault, harassment, or abuse, you can visit a resource like RAINN to talk to a trained counselor

Should you pursue legal action against your abuser? While the effects vary, many sexual abuse survivors deal with distressing mental health symptoms after the assault and may experience loss of income, difficulty working, and medical and counseling bills. You should reach out to an experienced sexual abuse lawyer to discuss your options. 

The New Jersey-based team at D’Arcy Johnson Day handles all types of sexual abuse cases including organizational sexual abuse and workplace sexual abuse. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, contact our firm today for a confidential consultation at (866) 327-2952.

See Our Full Legal Guide to Sexual Abuse