Clergy Abuse Survivors Can Take Decades to Come Forward. Hundreds Are Doing So Now

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Hundreds of lawsuits are hitting the Roman Catholic Church across California, made possible by a 2019 law that opened a three-year window for victims of child sexual abuse to file claims, regardless of when the abuse occurred.

Most of the accusations go back decades, some as far back as the 1950s.

Over the past four years, NBC Bay Area has interviewed nearly a dozen alleged victims of childhood clergy abuse, hoping to better understand their experience. For nearly all of them, the journey to speak out took decades.

For Steven Chavez, who alleges in a recent lawsuit he was given HIV after being raped by a South Bay priest as a teenager, it came down to his devout parents.

“They asked me not to embarrass them, not to embarrass the church,” said Chavez, who waited more than four decades to publicly tell his story.

When asked why he’s coming forward now, Chavez said, “Because my parents are dead and I can do it.”

Others, like Rick Pfisterer, said they were called liars when they tried to confide their secret in someone as children.

“The priest had gotten my home phone number and talked to my dad prior to me getting home and telling him what was going on,” Pfisterer said. “And I got beat for lying to him. And so I never said another word to anyone, ever.”

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1 comment

  1. There must be no statute of limitation for child sexual abuse. Maybe then certain denominations and clergy will think twice about being sued for covering up abuse and/or molesting children.

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