sexual assault

Republican Contender Cain Stirs Sexual Harassment Victims

While the Republican candidates for President debate each other, a more serious undertone has taken place regarding the upcoming presidential contest.  A number of former employees of Herman Cain allege that they were sexually harassed by this Republican contender for the country's highest office.  Many victims of sexual harassment in the workplace feel that their once silent voice should be heard.  What can they do?  In Illinois, depending upon where the alleged acts of sexual harassment took place, there are a number of civil forums where a victim can pursue her claim.  If the claim occurred in the City of Chicago, one may potentially bring such a claim in one of four venues: both the City and Cook County have administrative forums, the Illinois Department of Human Rights administers claim before the state, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reviews charges of discrimination on the federal level.  The decision where to bring a claim is not an easy one, and should be done with counsel.  Certain forums permit punitive damages, and others do not.  Other determining factors are jurisdiction - to bring a sexual harassment claim before the EEOC, the employer must employ 15 or more people.  Additionally, claims before the city, county, and state agencies generally take longer to resolve than those that proceed through the EEOC and ultimately, federal court.  Last, depending when the harassment occurred may very well govern where and if a claimant can bring a claim at all.  Generally, a sexual harassment victim must file a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights within 180 days of the harassment; for the EEOC, such a claim must be filed within 300 days.  Ironically, the number of charges of discrimination alleging sexual harassment has fallen over the past 13 years - in 1997, 15,889 charges were filed nationwide; in 2010, only 11,717 were filed.

New Lawsuit Filed Against Former Priest Kownacki

A downstate Illinois man filed suit alleging that former Roman Catholic  priest Raymond Kownacki sexually abused him as a boy and that the Belleville  Diocese was partly to blame for hiding the priest's history.  This is yet another lawsuit rocking various diocese for priest sexual abuse. The Plaintiff, identified as John Doe S.W., says Kownacki, 76, who lives in a south  St. Louis retirement home, is still a threat. Doe was described in the suit as Kownacki's longtime caretaker. His and  Kownacki's families "became very close," the lawsuit says. But that relationship  soured in 2009, when Kownacki gave Doe a list of names of people to contact on  his behalf, including people who had sex abuse claims against Kownacki, the suit  says. Doe refused, and he had "flashbacks" of his own sexual abuse, it says. The Plaintiff claims that Kownacki sexually abused him from 1985 to 1987 at places that  included St. Mary's Catholic Church in Valmeyer, where he served as an altar  boy. Doe was about 16 then. Kownacki "coerced and threatened" him to keep him  from telling anyone, the suit says. Doe argues in the lawsuit that the statute of limitations on sex abuse claims  doesn't apply to his case because he "recovered the memories" of Kownacki  abusing him in 2009. Kownacki, who was ordained in 1960, has a number of abuse claims against him,  including a jury verdict that rose to a $6.3 million payout in August to James  Wisniewski for sexual misconduct dating to the 1970s. Kownacki was removed from the ministry in 1995 after abuse allegations began  to surface. A former housekeeper accused him of raping, beating and performing  an abortion on her in the 1970s. That case, which alleged that Kownacki was  quietly shuffled among parishes, was dismissed after the state Supreme Court  ruled that it exceeded the statute of limitations. Even though Wisniewski filed his case about three decades after he was  abused, the jury agreed that the diocese concealed and misrepresented facts  about Kownacki, so the statute of limitations did not bar his claim. We anticipate that this argument will likely be argued in other clergy sex abuse cases, particularly  those involving Kownacki. Another case was filed against Kownacki in 2003 by a man identified as John  Doe, who as a boy mowed the parish lawn at St. Theresa's Catholic Church and  School in Salem, Ill., where Kownacki was pastor from 1979 to 1986. That case  was settled in 2009 for $1.2 million. At least two more cases are pending against the diocese accusing Kownacki of  sexually abusing young boys who are now grown men. According to the Belleville Diocese website, Kownacki's status is  "administrative leave/retired."

Boy Scout Victims Sue Over Sexual Abuse

Four Oregon men who claim that they were sexually abused by their scoutmaster in the 1970s have sued the Boy Scouts of America. The victims filed their lawsuits in Portland, and allege the national organization is guilty of negligence and fraud in that the Boy Scouts knew that the scoutmaster, Steven Terry Hill, was accused of molesting three other boys, yet placed him in charge oftheir troop. Hill was convicted od sodomy in an unrelated case in 1991 in a sexual abuse case involving a 17 year old boy. Last year, the Boy Scouts was rocked by a $20 million jury verdict from a sexual assault case in the 1980s. This case has strong parallels to the sex abuse scandals involving various archdiocese across the country.

Chicago Archdiocese Settles Another Sexual Abuse Claim Involving Father Fitzharris

On Monday, August 29, 2011, the attorneys of another sexual abuse victim of Father Joseph Fitzharris announced that they had reached a settlement with the Archdiocese of Chicago regarding the claim. The victim, who attended St. Francis Xavier Church in Avondale, claimed that he had been sexually abused by the priest In the 1980s. As part of the settlement with this victim and others, the Archdiocese has agreed to release information concerning 35 priests who have been accused of clergy misconduct. This office has handled numerous cases against Father Fitzharris and other priests involving claims of clergy misconduct.

Five Former Altar Boys Settle Sexual Abuse Claims With Trenton Archdiocese

Five former altar boys who claim that a priest sexually abused them in the 1970s and 1980s have reached a settlement with the Archdiocese of Trenton, New Jersey for $1 million.  The Archdiocese of Trenton announced that the Plaintiffs' allegations of sexual abuse were credible.  The victims claimed that they were sexually assaulted between the ages of 11 to 16 by the priest.  One of the victims claimed that he was sexually assaulted 150 times.  Another one of the victims says he does not consider himself Catholic anymore.  When the first complaint came forward about the sexual abuse, the church removed the priest from ministry, according to the Archdiocese.  In 2002, the priest was defrocked.  The Archdiocese declined to issue an apology for what the priest allegedly did.  The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander has handled a number of sexual abuse claims against the Archdiocese of Chicago, including Father Joseph Fitzharris.

Wisniewski Sexual Abuse Case to Settle

The attorney for sexual abuse victim James Wisniewski has announced that his client will receive $6.3 million from the Diocese of Belleville. in 2008, a jury awarded Wisniewski $5 million. The verdict has since earned $1.3 million in interest. Wisniewski claimed thar Raymond Kownacki, a priest, abuse him dozens of times in the 1970s.

Two New Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Filed Against Chicago Archdiocese

This past Tuesday, two women filed lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Chicago, alleging that they were sexually assaulted by a priest at St. Peter Damian Catholic Church in Bartlett, Illinois. Both women, who are in their 60s, claimed that they repressed memories of the sexual abuse. The women claim that they were sexually assaulted by Reverend Thomas Barry Horne starting when they were very young girls. According to the plaintiffs' attorney, the Archdiocese refused to offer any financial compensation.

Jury Awards Woman $95 Million in Sexual Harassment Case

On June 9, 2011, a federal district court jury awarded a woman $95 million in a sexual harassment case against her former employer. In her lawsuit, the woman claimed that on October 12, 2006, she was sexually assaulted by her supervisor. According to evidence in the case, the supervisor began making inappropriate remarks to the 20 year old customer service representative, and then began pinching her. The sexual harassment escalated to groping her, and then on one occasion, coming up behind her and hitting her on the head with his penis. The woman testified that she made a complaint to a sexual harassment hotline, but an investigator never contacted her. The jury found that the supervisor assaulted and battered her, and that the employer failed to appropriately supervise him. The jury awarded the woman $15 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages. The employer vowed to appeal the jury's verdict.

Illinois Supreme Court Rejects Diocese Appeal of $5 Million Jury Verdict

On June 1, 2011, the state high court refused to hear an appeal of a $5 milliion jury verdict involving sexual abuse by a priest. in 2008, a St. Clair County jury awarded the sum to James Wisniewski after testimony established that he was sexually abused by a former priest, Raymond Kownacki. According to testimony at the trial, Wisniewski was sexually assualted when he was a 13 year old altar boy at St. Theresa's parish in Salem. The Diocese of Belleville had previously settled another sexual abuse case involving Kownacki for $1.2 million. Two other sexual abuse cases naming Kownacki are pending in St. Clair County Court. At trial, Wisniewski's lawyers introduced into evidence letters and documents that church officials knew that Kownacki had sexually assaulted minors but failed to call law enforcement and then repeatedly transferred the priest.

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