Sexual abuse and assault are heinous crimes, regardless of the circumstances. It’s particularly horrifying when institutions and their employees engage in widespread and recurrent patterns of abuse involving children, disabled youth or adults, the elderly, or other vulnerable individuals in their care.
As a survivor of sexual abuse, you may already know that, at least in theory, your abuser could (and should) face criminal liability for their actions, including penalties like jail time. What you might not know is that, in some instances, you can also file a civil claim for compensation. An experienced sexual abuse lawyer can help you get the money you need and deserve to make the fullest possible physical and psychological recovery from the ordeal you have been through.
The sooner you contact a sexual abuse attorney, the sooner we can start helping you get your life back. The consultation is free and confidential, and there’s no risk or obligation to move forward with a claim if you change your mind. Call (866) 778-5500 to speak to a compassionate representative from Console & Associates today at no charge.
There’s no doubt that sexual abuse is both illegal and an act that causes injury, but you don’t want to trust your claim to just any lawyer—or even just any personal injury attorney. Generally, the best course of action when you’re pursuing a sexual abuse lawsuit is hiring a law firm with experience holding companies and organizations accountable for enabling or permitting sexual predators to harm those in its care. Over the firm’s 25+ years of experience, Console & Associates has worked to help survivors of sexual abuse and assault, including recovering $250,000 for a minor sexually assaulted at work.
Why does hiring a sexual abuse attorney, specifically, matter so much? Special laws, like extended statutes of limitations, often apply to sexual abuse and assault matters.
Additionally, it takes a great deal of knowledge to be able to identify all potential defendants—not just the individual perpetrator of the abuse—and pinpoint all of the ways in which the assault or abuse affected your life. Experienced child sexual abuse lawyers are familiar with the intricacy of sexual abuse law and the unique challenges victims face.
Sexual abuse appears in many forms. The American Psychological Association defines sexual abuse as “unwanted sexual activity.” Many types of sexual activity, contact, comments, and advances can fit into this broad definition.
Any unwanted sexual activity can constitute abuse, regardless of whether the perpetrator used force, threatened the victim in any capacity, or took advantage of someone who is not legally able to give consent.
Keep in mind that a threat doesn’t have to pertain to strictly physical harm. Similarly, there are a number of possible reasons an individual may not be able to legally give their consent to sexual activity, including age, a disability, being in a drunk or unconscious state, or being part of a fiduciary relationship that exists between the victim and a perpetrator who is a person in authority.
Drug-facilitated sexual assault, in which the perpetrator either takes advantage of the victim’s voluntary use of drugs (such as drinking alcohol) or forcibly makes the victim ingest drugs without their knowledge (like putting date rape drugs in their drink), is also common.
The broadest term for unwanted sexual activity, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), is sexual violence. Due to differences in legal terminology and laws between different states, it’s difficult to quantify exactly how many types of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual violence exist. For example, while the state of Pennsylvania has a separate legal definition for the term “rape,” New Jersey classifies acts that would constitute rape as aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, according to RAINN.
Below are some of the types of sexual abuse for which you may be able to hold a perpetrator (and/or their employer) criminally or civilly responsible.
Any person may be sexually abused—men, women, and those who identify as non-binary, of all age groups and physical shapes and sizes. Some of the categories of sexual abuse and assault that exist can be expressed in terms of the person who is victimized, such as:
Other types of abuse cases focus on the perpetrator of the abuse:
Some states, like Pennsylvania, have laws specific to institutional sexual assault and sexual assault committed by a sports official, volunteer, or employee of a nonprofit association or organization. These laws are intended to prevent inappropriate and unwanted sexual activity between figures of authority and those in their charge, such as students, residents of inpatient programs, and children attendees of religious, athletic, and other programs.
Often, these laws apply to instances in which authority figures have implied fiduciary relationships with their victims, meaning that they had a duty to act in the victim’s best interests—and instead, those authority figures chose to exploit, assault, and abuse the very people who trusted them.
Being in any way forced or coerced into any of these (or other) kinds of unwanted sexual activity is deeply harmful. If you have been sexually abused or assaulted in any way and by any person, you deserve to get to a place of safety and get the help you need to make the most complete physical, emotional, and psychological recovery possible.
For survivors of sexual abuse, the harm doesn’t end when the abuse stops. Many times, victims of sexual violence suffer physical injuries, psychological disorders, or both. Both child and adult survivors of sexual abuse can experience psychological and physiological ramifications of sexual violence.
Some of the psychological effects of sexual abuse that survivors may experience, according to RAINN, include:
The psychological effect of sexual abuse can affect survivors just as much as physical injuries can. If you are dealing with mood disorders, other types of psychological disorders, or persistent upsetting thoughts and feelings arising from sexual abuse, you should know that help is out there. Therapy, sometimes in conjunction with medication, can help you work through and process the trauma you have been through and begin to feel better and more in control of your life again.
Some of the physiological injuries and harms a rape survivor may develop include:
Any treatment or preventive medical intervention required because of the sexual abuse you have been through contributes to your legal damages—in the form of medical costs as well as pain and suffering.
Sexual abuse and assault can lead to two different categories of legal matters: criminal and civil cases.
A criminal case seeks to hold the perpetrator of abuse legally accountable for their crimes. In a case alleging criminal liability, a government prosecutor will present evidence with the intent to prove beyond “reasonable doubt” that this person broke the law.
When sexual predators are convicted, the consequences they face, such as a prison sentence, are punishment for their criminal actions. Unfortunately, while the survivors of sexual violence may feel some sense of justice or relief that the person who harmed them so severely is behind bars for their crimes, criminal cases may not provide any direct benefit to the victim.
The focus of a civil case arising from sexual abuse isn’t punishing the perpetrator, as it is in a criminal matter. Instead, the reason for pursuing the claim is for the victim to recover money damages intended to “make them whole”—at least, to the extent to which financial compensation is able to do so.
A civil claim won’t result in your attacker getting jail time for sexual abuse, but it can help you recover money for legal damages that may include physical and mental health treatment, as well as pain and suffering.
Evidence is still crucial for winning a civil sexual abuse claim, but the standard of evidence is different in civil vs. criminal claims. Instead of proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” your attorney will seek to prove negligence based on a standard referred to as the “preponderance of the evidence.” For survivors of sexual abuse, this difference has two important consequences:
Survivors of sexual abuse don’t have to choose between pursuing criminal and civil cases. When the circumstances of the abuse encompass both criminal actions and civil negligence, victims can, and often do, move forward with both types of legal matters simultaneously.
As a victim of sexual abuse, you should report the assault to the authorities and provide the information that you can to serve as evidence in the criminal case against your abuser.
To hold your abuser civilly liable for the harm they have caused you, you will need to reach out to a sexual abuse attorney who can investigate the assault, identify all negligent parties, and put together a civil case for compensation on your behalf.
In certain situations, you may be able to hold accountable not only the sexual predator that abused you but also their employer if that organization’s negligence allowed the abuse to occur. This is often the case with institutional sexual assault, which may occur on a large scale, sometimes over decades, in settings like inpatient behavioral health facilities, and religious organizations. When the workers in an institution sexually abuse those in their charge, the employer may be partially liable due to negligent supervision, hiring, training, reporting, or disciplinary practices.
Another example of these situations is sexual harassment in the workplace. If an employer doesn’t take workers’ reports of sexual harassment seriously, it may be fostering an environment of sexual abuse at the workplace. Our sexual abuse attorneys have even represented clients who were abused or assaulted by coworkers against whom management knew there were ongoing criminal charges of sexual assault yet failed to act to protect their other employees.
The legal process for sexual abuse matters differs between civil and criminal cases.
In a civil lawsuit, the first step in the legal process is a thorough investigation conducted by an experienced sexual abuse lawyer. Through this investigation, your sexual abuse attorney will gather the evidence needed to identify all potentially negligent parties and build a case against those people and organizations.
During this time, your sexual abuse lawyer will also calculate and compile documentation of your damages, which may include the costs of treatment for psychological harm as well as physical injuries resulting from the abuse. Your sexual abuse attorney may represent you in legal proceedings such as depositions as well as negotiating a settlement out of court or, if needed, taking your case to trial.
In a criminal case arising out of sexual abuse, the first step is always reporting the crime to the authorities. The victim can choose whether to “press charges,” which means moving forward with a criminal investigation, but sexual predators will ultimately face charges only if the prosecutor—who works for the government—has enough evidence to charge the perpetrator, according to RAINN.
If the charges are resolved out of court through a plea bargain, as is often the case, the victim won’t have to testify. However, if the case goes to trial, the victim may need to testify against their abuser in court.
The sexual abuse you suffered will likely affect you, at least in some ways, for the rest of your life. It seems unfair, then, that the time you have to pursue a legal case arising from the assault is limited. Yet statutes of limitations, laws that establish the maximum amount of time allowed to begin legal proceedings, can apply to both civil and criminal matters—and that’s one reason sexual abuse attorneys encourage survivors of abuse to take action sooner rather than later.
Sexual abuse law varies by state, type of sexual assault case (civil vs. criminal), and the age of the victim. In Pennsylvania, a 2019 law on sexual abuse extended statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse matters to the victim’s 55th birthday for civil matters and removed the deadline on criminal child sexual abuse cases completely, according to Trib Total Media. For young adult victims (between ages 18 and 23), the statute for civil sexual abuse claims now ends when the victim turns 30 years old, and criminal cases can still be initiated up to 20 years after the abuse occurred.
Since 2019, survivors of sexual assault in New Jersey have had seven years to pursue a civil claim, according to the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA). Child sexual abuse victims have until they turn 55 or seven years after they discover that financial harm has resulted from the abuse they suffered. For criminal cases involving sexual violence, no statute of limitations applies in New Jersey, according to NJCASA.
Handling sexual abuse cases and even figuring out which statute of limitations may apply to your situation can be a complex undertaking. You don’t have to do this alone. Sexual abuse lawyers are here to help you understand which deadlines and rules apply to you and get the legal process started.
Any person who suffers the ordeal of sexual abuse should get the help they deserve. Reporting the abuse to the authorities, which you should do as soon as possible, can allow a criminal investigation to begin. If you believe someone’s negligence may have contributed to the abuse, it’s a good idea to speak to a sexual abuse lawyer promptly about the possibility of pursuing a civil claim.
Of course, hiring a lawyer isn’t the first thing on your mind when you have been through the trauma of sexual abuse. You should know, though, that it’s virtually never too early after an assault occurs to speak to a sexual abuse attorney about your situation. Survivors of sexual abuse should know that the initial consultation is free, confidential, and risk-free, and that the attorneys who handle sexual abuse matters and their staff are compassionate, understanding professionals.
When you need legal representation for any matter pertaining to sexual violence or assault, it’s important to put your case in the hands of attorneys with experience securing sexual abuse compensation for their clients. Sexual abuse lawsuits are unique types of injury cases that require extensive investigation and, often, a willingness to hold major corporations or organizations accountable for their negligence. For example, it takes a knowledgeable child sexual abuse attorney to build an argument that an entire institution has acted negligently and to project the full amount of money damages to which a victimized child is entitled.
Throughout our 25+ years of experience, Console & Associates, P.C. has represented clients in sexual abuse lawsuits. We use our extensive knowledge of the legal process and our skills in calculating the full extent of our clients’ damages to negotiate sexual abuse settlements that make survivors of sexual abuse as whole as possible. Our successes in this area include six-figure payouts for victims of sexual abuse.
Legal representation for a sexual abuse claim is affordable for all survivors of abuse, thanks to Console & Associates, P.C.’s No Fee Promise. Our sexual abuse attorneys know that nothing should stand in the way of abuse survivors getting the compensation they deserve, so we represent all clients on a no-win, no-fee basis throughout the course of the legal process. You can hire an experienced sexual abuse lawyer to handle every aspect of your claim and pay nothing unless and until we succeed in getting money damages for you.
Undertaking a sexual abuse lawsuit against a major institution or organization on your own would be difficult and demanding, even if you weren’t still reeling from the trauma you have been through. Hiring a sexual abuse lawyer to handle this situation for you streamlines the process of getting the compensation you deserve. You can focus on physical and psychological rehabilitation while we handle the legal process.
At Console & Associates, all survivors of sexual abuse qualify for a free, no-obligation legal consultation, regardless of your financial situation, your age, or the identity of your abuser. We will answer your questions about the legal process and gather the information we need to determine whether you have the grounds for a civil lawsuit and how we may be able to help. For your free consultation, just call (866) 778-5500 or fill out our online contact form today.
Sexual abuse lawsuits against institutions and organizations often result in large payouts, because the harm that results from sexual violence is significant. It’s not unusual for survivors of sexual abuse to see payouts in the six-figure or even seven-figure range. Of course, the amount of compensation to which you are entitled depends on the specifics of your situation, including the amount of insurance coverage available and the damages you suffered because of this ordeal.
Generally, survivors of sexual abuse who pursue a civil lawsuit against a negligent party can seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include all damages that have a clear numerical number, such as the costs of treatment for the physical and psychological effects and injuries that you suffered and any lost wages or decreases in future earning potential. Non-economic damages may include compensation for your pain and suffering and the emotional distress you have been through.