The accusations began to receive isolated, sporadic publicity in the late 1980s.Many of these involved cases in which a figure was accused of abuse for decades; such allegations were frequently made by adults or older youths years after the abuse occurred.According to a 2004 research study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 4,392 Catholic priests and deacons in active ministry between 19 have been plausibly (neither withdrawn nor disproven) accused by 10,667 individuals of the sexual abuse of a youth under the age of 18.
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By 2010, much of the reporting focused on abuse in Europe In addition, the studies claim that the rate of abuse by priests had fallen sharply in the last twenty to thirty years, and that some 75% of the allegations in the United States were of abuse between 19.
However, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that the average time it took between a victim of Catholic sexual abuse being abused and reporting it, or seeking redress, is 33 years.
While sexual use of children by adults has occurred throughout history, only in recent times has it been examined as the object of significant public attention.
The first work dedicated to child sexual abuse was published in France in 1857: Medical-Legal Studies of Sexual Assault (Etude Médico-Légale sur les Attentats aux Mœurs), by Auguste Ambroise Tardieu, a noted French pathologist and pioneer of forensic medicine. Gerald Fitzgerald founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, a religious order that treats Roman Catholic priests who struggle with personal difficulties such as substance abuse and sexual misconduct.
In July 2010, the Vatican doubled the length of time after the 18th birthday of the victim in which clergymen can be tried in a church court.