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Florida Diocese Settles Child Sexual Abuse Claims

Last week the Diocese of Venice, Florida released a confidential document detailing the sexual abuse of a child by a former priest at a Fort Myers church when announcing its settlement of the case. The now defrocked priest, Jean Ronald Joseph, was accused in 2009 of sexually abusing a child while he was serving at St. Francis Xavier church.

The allegations against Mr. Joseph were made by a 31-year-old man, and he said that the incidents of abuse took place about 15 years prior. At the time of the accusations, Mr. Joseph held a press conference to declare his innocence. It was not until 2013 that a panel of three canon law judges found his denials not credible, and only then was he defrocked by the diocese.

The confidential document released last week in conjunction with the settlement outlined many red flags and reports of inappropriate conduct involving Mr. Joseph, especially among the Haitian youth of the community before and during his priesthood. According to the document, the diocese dragged its feet in taking nearly five years to investigate the latest claim of sexual abuse of a minor child before Mr. Joseph was ultimately found guilty of violating canon law.

Florida Child Sexual Abuse

According to the 2009 National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, nearly one in ten children has been sexually victimized in his or her lifetime. Like the victim of Mr. Joseph’s attack, adolescents ages 14-17 are far more likely to become the victims of child sexual abuse, with one in six people being abused within the last year. An astounding 93% of all victims of childhood sexual abuse know their attacker, and often the attacker is a family member, friend, or authority figure.

Florida Child Sexual Abuse Civil Cases

While many people are aware of the serious criminal penalties involved with child sexual abuse, most do not know that a victim can also file a civil lawsuit against the attacker. Florida recently amended its laws so that there is no longer a statute of limitations on when a civil sexual abuse lawsuit can be filed if the abuse happened when the victim was a child.

A civil sexual abuse lawsuit is intended to compensate the victim for the damages sustained as a result of the sexual abuse perpetrated by the attacker. These damages can be physical or emotional harm that the victim has suffered, and will continue to suffer from, as a result of the abuse. Compensation in a civil sexual abuse case can include:

  • Past, present, and future medical bills;
  • Rehabilitation;
  • Therapist bills;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Pain and suffering;

…and other costs reasonably related to the injuries sustained by the sexual abuse.

Call a Florida Sexual Abuse Attorney Today

Childhood sexual abuse is one of the most devastating and traumatizing events that a person can endure. If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse in the West Palm Beach or greater Florida area, contact the expert attorneys at Gary Roberts & Associates, P.A. for help today. Call the office at (561) 686-1800 to arrange a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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