Many brave sexual abuse victims have spoken publicly to draw attention to just how widespread sexual assault and sexual abuse really are. As part of the movement to give voice to victims, nondisclosure agreements have come under scrutiny, including from lawmakers in a number of states.
Confidentiality agreements were a major tool of the church, others
Nondisclosure agreements prevent a party to a settlement – in this case, the victim – from speaking publicly about what she or he endured.
Historically, confidentiality agreements have been used to protect institutions from negative press. Sadly, this meant that organizations focused all their energy on keeping victims silent, rather than making reforms that would prevent future abuses from occurring.
Having worked to protect the rights of sexual abuse victims for years, we know how important it is that victims have control over what they choose to reveal about their traumatic experiences. Victims may wish to speak publicly about what happened to them to hold perpetrators accountable and help prevent future abuse. Others may prefer to deal with the issue privately. The point is that it should be the choice of the victim to speak out. The legal ability to hide wrongdoing only makes it easier for serial offenders to continue their horrible abuses.
Declaring nondisclosure agreements involving sexual abuse invalid
On Monday, June 2, Ben Andreozzi, of Andreozzi + Foote filed a motion in Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas to invalidate a confidentiality agreement (nondisclosure agreement) with the Diocese of Harrisburg entered into in the 1990s with several victims.
As reported by The New York Times and others, the motion asks for an invalidation because the victims received no compensation for agreeing to a nondisclosure agreement. They were not aware of the terms and the agreement was signed by their parents and sisters, not themselves.
The Times quoted Mr. Andreozzi’s stance on the issue: “They force victims to enter into these confidentiality agreements, and it stunts the ability to identify who these perpetrators are . . . the public wants to know who these accused priests and other bad actors are. And these confidentiality agreements aren’t helping.”