Gijs van Dijck, ‘Victim‐Oriented Tort Law in Action: An Empirical Examination of Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Cases’

Catholic Church sexual abuse cases have received worldwide attention, with lawsuits and nationwide investigations reported in various countries. This study examines a procedure – a hybrid between tort litigation and a victim compensation fund – that not only allowed sexual abuse victims to seek monetary compensation on an individual basis, but also nonmonetary relief, including an apology, recognition, and measures against those responsible for the abuse. The publication of all decisions offers a unique opportunity to analyze what victims pursued by filing a claim, whether what they were offered matched their objectives, and what impacted the probability of victims obtaining certain types of nonmonetary relief. After analyzing 1,237 decisions, this study reveals a mismatch between what victims sought and what they were offered. Surprisingly, the presence or absence of a few panelists (out of 27) turns out to be the best predictor of whether adjudicators ordered nonmonetary relief. Consequently, whether victims obtained nonmonetary relief did not only depend on a proper legal infrastructure, but mostly on the mentality and attitudes of those participating in the system.

van Dijck, Gijs, Victim‐Oriented Tort Law in Action: An Empirical Examination of Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Cases (March 2018). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol 15, Issue 1, pp 126-164, 2018.

First posted 2018-02-21 07:57:33

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