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Columbia Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyers

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyers in Columbia : Helping Catholic Church Abuse Victims Obtain Civil Justice

If you, your child, or a loved one has suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic Church leader or employee, you may have the standing to bring a claim for compensation against the individual and the Church in addition to any criminal charges. Contact the experienced and compassionate Columbia sexual abuse lawyers at Strom Law Firm today.

Anybody who preys upon the least vulnerable among us, the children who need our protection, should pay the price, both criminally and financially.  Child sexual abuse is an unimaginably heartbreaking act, especially when committed by men of the cloth. Too often, such religious leaders have committed these heinous acts. These individuals and the Catholic Church should be protecting these children from any sort of harm, including sexual abuse. When the Church and individual officials have failed to protect children from sexual abuse, they should be held accountable.

What Constitutes Child Sexual Abuse?

Catholic Sexual Abuse Claims in ColumbiaLegally, ethically, and morally, children are unable to consent to sexual activity. Anybody who commits any sort of sexual act to a child is a criminal. The law offers multiple ways of holding such behavior accountable. One such accountability is provided by criminal law and results in charges being pressed against the offender.

If convicted, such a process would likely end with the predator spending a significant amount of time in prison. In addition to criminal charges, a victim may file a civil lawsuit against a sexual predator and seek financial compensation for the suffering endured by that person. The Columbia child sexual abuse attorneys at Strom Law Firm excels at representing clients in vulnerable situations and are here to help your family navigate this complicated process.

Child sexual abuse presents itself by a variety of inappropriate and disgusting acts, and it does not have to be physical:

  • Fondling
  • Digital communications, like sharing sexual photos over the internet
  • Exposure of private parts to a minor
  • Any possession, distribution, or creation of child pornography
  • Sex trafficking of children
  • Sexual intercourse and other sexual acts
  • Masturbation by or in front of a child

Sadly, when child sexual abuse occurs, it is usually carried out by a person that the child knows and trusts. As many as 93% of childhood victims know the person who abuses them.

Sexual predators know that children are vulnerable, and will convince them to keep the abuse a secret from parents and others of authority. Sexual predators within the Church may even convince the child that they must keep it a secret. Some signs to keep an eye out for are:

  • Sudden changes to your child’s genital area or anus – Any sort of symptoms that might be consistent with sexually transmitted diseases (STD), bleeding, or complaints of pain.
  • Changes in behavior – Of course, mood swings among children and teenagers are frequent, but keep an eye out for significant changes in behavior such as self-harm, starting fires, changes in appetite accompanied by weight loss or weight gain, or running away.
  • Increasingly poor hygiene – If your child is refusing to shower or wear clean clothes, it may be a sign that something more is going on.

The Catholic Church Response to Sexual Abuse Allegations

Sadly, a concerted effort was undertaken by the Catholic Church to cover up the abuse of children as young as four years old by its priests and other officials. The unique relationship between the abused, their family, and the Church meant that it was far too easy for the Church to hide this behavior.

While often worrying about their brand’s reputation or the company’s bottom line, no organization is justified in covering child sex abuse.  If a child sex predator has victimized you, no matter your current age, contact a sexual abuse attorney today, and we will examine all of your options.

South Carolina Statute of Limitations on Child Sexual Abuse Cases

In basic terms, a statute of limitations is a time limit placed on when a party is allowed to file a lawsuit. Many factors can go into determining at what point the time limit set by a statute of limitations begins to count. Child sex abuse victims must file a lawsuit by whichever is the later of these two dates:

  • Six years after the victim’s 21st birthday
  • Three years after the victim realizes that the abuse caused an injury

This statute of limitations recognizes the unique concerns and realities surrounding sexual abuse by priests and other church officials.  It can take years to discover an injury that is mentally or physically related to child sex abuse. Memories of sexual abuse are, many times, suppressed by the victim as a way to cope with their suffering. Sometimes, victims do not fully remember the sexual abuse suffered at their abuser’s hands until decades after the attacks. Due to the above described South Carolina statute of limitations on child sexual abuse, a lawsuit might be filed at any point throughout a victim’s life. Contact one of our Columbia Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyers for more information.

If the time comes that you are ready to hold your Catholic Church sexual abuser accountable, no matter your age, contact the Columbia Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyers at the Strom Law Firm today. We will fight to hold the abuser and the Church responsible.

Responsible Parties for Priest Abuse Injuries


As is anybody, priests are responsible for their actions, including clergy sexual abuse of children and others.  They choose to take advantage of vulnerable children by using the Catholic Church’s reputation.  This sort of predatory behavior was mostly practiced against children too young to defend themselves, and too trusting to know anything was wrong.

The Catholic Church and Bishops and Clergy

The Catholic Church and its officials allowed the culture of secretive abuse to develop and expand within the Church. Such officials had the responsibility to take precautions to keep sexual abuse. Some church officials chose to ignore allegations of abuse, while others wanted to simply send accused priests to other dioceses, where those priests would sometimes strike again.  There have been numerous opportunities over the years for the Church to stop this behavior and punish those accountable. Time and time again, they chose not to act.

You Are Likely Not The Abuser Priest’s Only Victim

Columbia SC Attorney
Pete Strom, Columbia Catholic Sexual Assault Lawyer

If you happen to be the only victim of your predator, you will not be their last without intervention. Sexual predator priests often take advantage of multiple vulnerable children multiple times.  There is likely someone who is suffering from the pain caused by your abuser’s actions, just like you.

There are resources available to help Catholic Church sex abuse victims. RAINN is an organization that exists for this purpose. RAINN offers a hotline for abuse victims to call and seek help and information.

Because sexual predators rarely strike only once, it is crucial to hold them and their organizations accountable as quickly as possible to prevent further abuse of additional victims.  Contact an attorney at Strom Law Firm today to help you deal with all the process of holding your abuser accountable. Financial compensation can only go so far in healing your wounds, but we hope that our support and encouragement will provide you with some healing.

Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers Representing Victims Nationwide

As religious leaders, clergy are trusted to provide spiritual and moral guidance. By using their religion and their positions  to commit clergy sexual abuse and keep that abuse a secret, members of the clergy commit the ultimate betrayal.

Over last few years many churches and religious institutions have come under scrutiny for widespread clergy sexual abuse within their ranks, and those same institutions have faced criticism for their failures to adequately investigate allegations against their own clergy, report abuse, and keep vulnerable children and members safe in the community.

SNAP – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is a self-help organization of men and women who were sexually abused by spiritual elders (Catholic priests, brothers, nuns, ministers, teachers, etc.). Members find healing and empowerment by joining with other survivors. They are an all-volunteer group with several chapters in the United States. They have a very active on-line email support group with members from throughout the world. The web site exists to provide support and knowledge to all victims of clergy abuse, promote the SNAP email support list and provide links to other helpful information. Toll free number is 877-762-7432.

Sexual Abuse Attorneys in Columbia, SC

Have you been victimized by sexual abuse? If so, contact a Columbia sexual abuse lawyer now for a complimentary case consultation. It is important for you or your loved one to realize that there are choices available to the victims of such heinous and unimaginable crimes.

Sexual abuse is broadly considered an offensive, undesired, or nonconsensual act that carries sexual connotations, whether expressly or implicitly. Abuse is a very broad term that may be used to describe offensive and unwanted behavior such as conversations that may be portrayed as “locker room talk,” while the term abuse may also be used to describe the most atrocious and inconceivable sexual assaults. All sexual abuse carries with it physical and emotional consequences for the perpetrator’s victims. Perpetrators of sexual abuse and assault are causing devastating suffering to their victims. These effects will often stay with the victim throughout their entire life.

Church Lawsuit in Columbia : First Baptist Church settles sexual abuse lawsuit with apology

Columbia’s First Baptist Church has settled a child sex-abuse lawsuit that allegedly involved a church volunteer and a young church member.

The church and its minister, Wendell Estep, issued an apology to the victim, who is now 17 years old, and have agreed to pay the family $300,000 to settle the lawsuit.

In the civil suit filed in October 2017, a minor referred to as Joel Doe and his parents, Jane and John Doe, sued the church, Estep, youth assistant mentor and small group leader Andrew McCraw, and church student minister Phillip Turner.

The suit states youth leader McCraw had inappropriate communications with the minor including sexual text messages, dinners, and sleepovers where nobody else was present. The abuse reportedly started when the minor was 11 years old and part of a youth group led by McCraw.

The suit also alleges that the church officials knew about the abuse and failed to report it.

“First Baptist has accepted responsibility for this even though we had strong policies in place and performed a background check on the volunteer which revealed no issues. What we did not have at the time was a policy specifically forbidding texting between an adult and a student without copying another adult. Such a policy, if followed, could have prevented these messages.” First Baptist Church spokesman Bryan Barnes said in a written statement.

“The church condemns the volunteer’s conduct in the strongest terms possible. We want to send a strong and transparent message that we regret his actions and the harm he caused.”

According to the church’s statement, law enforcement investigated and closed the case with no criminal charges filed.

The church’s apology will be read to the congregation after a Sunday church service.

Copyright 2018 WIS. All rights reserved.

We Are Here To Help Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Survivors

If you, your child, or another loved one, was abused by a priest or other church official, we are here with the resources and experience to hold these sexual predators accountable. We are ready to fight to the finish with any religious organization if it is choosing to cover up clergy sexual abuse, no matter the size.

If you or a loved one are being abused or were abused as a child in Columbia, Richland County, or anywhere else across South Carolina, contact us. We offer free case evaluations, and we do not collect a fee unless we recover for you. Contact the Columbia Catholic Church sexual abuse lawyers at Strom Law Firm by calling 803-252-4800 and find out if we can help you.


South Carolina Clergy Sex Abuse List

This list is not endorsed by the Archdiocese, which has yet to release the names of priests found guilty through its own internal investigations.

Last Name First Name Diocese Notes
Aiken Roy Francis Charleston, SC Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 7/4/06.
Bench John F. Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse:Ordained for the Pittsburgh diocese. Relocated to Charleston diocese in 1980. Resigned from Holy Cross Parish in Pickens at request of Bishop in 12/93 after accusations that he had molested a girl. In 2000 he asked to be reinstated and transferred to FL. Child’s parents were consulted and strenuously objected. Bishop then denied request. Died 6/6/09 in FL. On diocese’s list 3/29/19.
Berberich Peter Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 3/20/97.
Burn William Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 5/29/09.
Castano-Mejia Juan Carlos Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Priest of The Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Ipiales, Colombia. Arrived in U.S. in 1999; investigated before being granted visiting priest status. Arrested and indicted 4/02 on charges that he abused a 4-year-old girl in 2000. She told her brother who told another relative. Incident was not reported to diocese until 2002. In 4/03, he admitted fondling the child and was sentenced to 2 years in jail, 2 years probation, and required to pay restitution. There may have been similar allegations in South America. On Charleston diocese’s list 3/29/19. Deported after release from prison.
Collerett Roger Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Priest of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) – Canada. On Charleston diocese’s list 3/29/19. Believed to have returned to Canada.
Condon Eugene L. Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Indicted 7/96 re 1970s abuse of minor. Resigned immediately after Diocese learned of charges and allowed “early retirement” without privileges. Ordered not to be alone with minors. Police also found child porn in his possession. In 4/98 he received 5 years probation for committing lewd acts with boys in 1970s. Arrested again in 1/06 on similar charges. Retired 2006. Charges dropped 2/09 because victim’s extensive legal, mental and sobriety issues did not allow him to testify. Died 5/24/14. Buried 05/28/14. On diocese’s list 3/29/19.
DuMouchel Raymond Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Retired in 1999. In 11/02, Charleston police charged the 78-year-old with sexually molesting two girls while working at city churches and a local hospital in the1950s. Third accuser came forward 2/03. Charges dropped in 2005 because of his dementia and inability to contribute to own defense. Died 9/10/06. On diocese’s list 3/29/19.
Evatt Thomas A. Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Placed on leave 5/02 after a man accused Evatt of performing a lewd act on him at age 9 during overnight stay at rectory in 1977. The alleged victim did not tell his father until 1991 and did not inform police or Diocese until 2002. Evatt said the 1977 incident was a “singular horrible event” that never happened again. Trial pending 7/03 when Evatt was found dead in his home 7/18/03. Death ruled accidental, due to massive blood loss when Evatt cut his leg on piece of furniture. Alcohol abuse contributed to death.On diocese’s list 3/29/19.
Goodwin Justin L. Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Arrested 1994 on charges of abusing 4 boys in the late 1970s. Released on personal recognizance. In 1995 he entered an Alford plea (did not admit to wrongdoing but felt evidence would result in conviction) and was sentenced to 10 years prison, suspended upon service of 5 years probation. Died 12/25/95. Plaintiffs settled for $200K total but were denied permission to participate in 2007 settlement.
Hopwood Frederick J. Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Accused of abusing multiple people. Resigned 12/93 after accusations became public. Criminal charges filed 1994. Pled guilty. Sentenced to 3 years probation, treatment and 250 hours public service. Hopwood’s roommate at seminary (and later) was Cardinal Bernardin. Ordained by Bishop Russell of Charleston who made him Chancellor immediately after ordination. Died 4/30/17. On diocese’s list 3/29/19.
Hubacz Leon Joseph Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the Charleston diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 6/28/99.
Kennedy Ernest Eugene Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 6/9/17.
Lee Walter Pringle Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 4/81.
McElroy James Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Abuse allegedly occurred in the 1940s. Died 7/5/71.
McLean Frederick Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 8/26/10.
Moynihan George Frederick Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 8/30/04.
Murphy Daniel Francis Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 7/21/80.
Murphy Joseph J. Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 8/24/98.
Owens-Howard J. (James) Robert Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Former Bishop England High School teacher Retired. Arrested on charges related to fondling an 8-year-old boy in a pool. Convicted 2/93. Apparently sentenced to 5 years prison. Released 4/98. Absent on sick leave per 1993 & 1998 Catholic Directories. Not indexed in 2002 directory. Registered sex offender in SC as of 6/10. Conviction information found on that website. On diocese’s list 3/29/19. Died 12/01/15.
Palatore Belfiore Cesare Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the Charleston diocese on its list 3/29/19. Visiting priest from the Diocese of San Jose in Costa Rica. Believed to have returned to Costa Rica.
Plikunas Anthony Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 11/28/73.
Richardson William Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Noted to have left the Catholic priesthood in 6/83.
Ryfinski Gerald J. Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Arrested 6/01 after computer repair man found child pornography on his computer. Pled guilty in 3/02 to one count of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. Received a five year suspended sentence with three years probation. Laicized 4/07.On SC Sex Offender Registry as of 1/3/10. On diocese’s list 3/29/19.
Seitz Paul F. Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Removed 11/94 after allegations that he was involved in sexual misconduct with a minor 30 years prior. Denied allegations. Allowed to return to work prior to 2002. Assigned to a smaller parish and ordered not to be alone with children. Per 6/02 article, Seitz resigned “for health reasons.” On diocese’s list 3/29/19. Noted to have retired 6/1/02 and to be “under restrictions.”
Sharples James Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Rock Hill, SC. Died 11/28/74. Named publicly as accused by the Charleston diocese on its list 3/29/19.
Sheedy Charles Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 7/6/89.
Sheedy Lawrence Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: 1 man filed civil suit in 2004 naming Sheedy as his abuser. Man said abuse occured at a Catholic orphanage in 1967-1968 until Mother Superior found out. Sheedy transferred to Arizona and later died. Suit settled 6/06 at mediation. Man and others accusing priest Nyhan turned around and immediately filed another suit against church for loss of consortium.
Simonin John Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Monsignor. Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 7/15/10.
Smith Gabriel “Gabe” Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Retired from active ministry 12/31/18. Allegation noted to have occurred eight years prior to ordination and “did not involve touching the minor.” Returned to ministry in 3/04 after the Vatican determined that he was not a risk to minors.
Suggs Frederick H. Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named publicly as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 8/26/98.
Tawes Creston J. Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Named as accused by the diocese on its list 3/29/19. Died 8/4/80.
Vaverek Hayden Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Privileges removed 3/13 after allegations of sexual misconduct involving a minor more than 15 years prior when he was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Greenwood SC. In 1/11, with permission of Bishop, he began working for Catholic Near East Welfare Assoc., a papal agency based in NY City. Apparently in Rome when allegations were made public. As of 4/23/13 accuser waived further criminal investigation, saying church punishment enough. Diocese was continuing investigation. Laicized 5/16. In 2017 created a nonprofit for supporting priests “at a vocational crossroads, ” Pax Bonum.
Washington Freddy Charleston, SC  Catholic church clergy abuse: Pastor of St. Mark the Evangeist parish in Harlem in the NY archdiocese when arrested 6/17 for sexual abuse in 1982-84 of two boys, ages 10 and 11-14, at St. Patrick’s church in Charleston. Washington was a lay person and volunteer at the time. The boys were in training to be altar servers. Abuse said to have included fondling and oral copulation. Charleston diocese learned of allegations 2/16 and contacted Rockville Centre diocese. Charleston diocese reported to Charleston police in 9/16. Former pastor of two Chicago parishes, and listed on Xavier Univ. in New Orleans website in 6/17 as associate prof. of pastoral theology.


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