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Can a Nun Bring Suit Against the Catholic Church for Sexual Assault?

Allegations and proven examples of sexual abuse of children at the hands of members of the Catholic Church have rocked our foundations and sparked worldwide outrage, and rightfully so. However, children are unfortunately not alone in their quiet suffering. It is believed that many nuns within the church have faced sexual abuse as well. Similar to children, nuns may be coerced into keeping silent or be too ashamed of what has happened to them to come forward. Even worse, they may fear retribution or that nobody will believe their account.

In some cases, many years may pass by from the instance or instances of abuse, and the victim may believe there is nothing that can be done for them. However, this is not the case.

Massachusetts provides victims of sexual abuse a statute of limitations of 35 years if the victim was a minor at the time of their abuse (or seven years from the time the victim discovers a physical or psychological impact from their abuse). For nuns who may have been assaulted as an adult, there is a 15-year statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault cases – however there are multiple variables which can affect this, and we can explain in more detail.

To answer the more rudimentary question of whether or not a nun can file suit against the Catholic Church for an instance of sexual assault, the answer is a definitive yes. In cases of alleged rape or other forms of sexual assault – be it verbal or less severe than an outright rape – the church can possibly be held liable for negligence on the grounds that it failed to recognize and remove a dangerous priest (or any other aggressor, for that matter) from interacting with vulnerable members of the diocese. Class action suits are ongoing, consisting of many victims of clergy sexual abuse.

At Altman & Altman LLP, we deeply empathize with those who struggle with the notion of coming forward and facing scrutiny or even ridicule and retribution as a result of speaking out against sexual assault, but we assure you that facing this burden and holding those responsible accountable is one step towards closure and, ultimately, healing. We have worked with victims of every heinous crime imaginable in our 50 years of experience, and we understand how important it is to listen to your story and craft a legal strategy that will best suit you and give you the best chance at achieving the retribution you seek.

If events of the past nearly 20 years have shown us anything, it is that many of those entrusted with positions of power within what should be one of our safest and most welcoming institutions have abused that power for their own sick benefit. There is no possible way to accurately account for how many nuns and women within the church have faced abuse – as a significant percentage will likely never report the crimes against them – but victims are out there, and they deserve justice.

We understand the hesitancy to come forward, but we assure you that if you or a loved one has been victimized by any member of the Catholic Church – whether a priest, deacon, or even another nun – coming forward and working with an experienced personal injury attorney who will do everything in their power to deliver you the justice you deserve is the only way to hope to hold that perpetrator responsible. We have seen in the case of the Pennsylvania abuse scandal how the church cannot be held to a standard of investigating such claims on their own.

If you are seeking more information, know someone who has been abused or have been abused yourself and are looking for someone to stand up with you, contact us online or call for a free consultation to go over the details of your case today at 617.492.3000 or toll-free at 800.481.6199. We are available 24/7 and waiting to help you in any way.

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