Sexual abuse is defined as any unwanted sexual activity and can result in a lifetime of trauma, with conditions like PTSD, depression, and anxiety lingering long after the abuse occurred. By filing a civil sexual abuse lawsuit, survivors may be able to obtain justice and closure by holding their abuser and any potentially negligent third parties accountable.
While a lawsuit cannot change what happened or eliminate the trauma an individual endured, it can hold the responsible party or parties responsible and provide financial compensation. Because sex abuse is both a state crime and a civil tort, victims of sex abuse have the option to seek justice through a criminal sex abuse lawsuit, a civil sex abuse lawsuit, or both. Contact a sex abuse lawyer to learn more about your options.
What is Considered Sexual Abuse?
According to the American Psychology Association, sexual abuse is defined as any unwanted sexual contact involving the use of force by the perpetrator. Examples of sexual abuse include:
- Rape or attempted rape
- Sexual abuse of a minor
- Groping or unwanted sexual touching
- Sexual battery
- Indecent exposure
- Sexual harassment
What is the Difference Between a Criminal and Civil Sex Abuse Lawsuit?
One of the biggest differences between the two forms of legal recourse is the potential outcomes. In a criminal case, the charges are brought by the state and not the victim. If a criminal case against a sexual abuser results in a guilty verdict, it may result in a prison sentence. In civil cases, the case is brought by the victim against the predator or an organization or business that may have played a role in the abuse. If successful, a lawsuit will result in financial compensation.
In a criminal case, the victim is considered a witness and is often asked to testify, which means recounting their traumatic experience in front of a jury. The jury must decide if the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” meaning the evidence must show that the defendant committed the crime without a doubt. Additionally, the victim has no say in the outcome or sentence the defendant receives. In a civil case, the victim has more control over proceedings and the final outcome.
Why Are the Benefits of Filing a Civil Sex Abuse Lawsuit?
In general, civil sex abuse lawsuits center more around the survivor’s needs instead of the perpetrator’s punishment. The benefits of filing a civil sex abuse lawsuit include:
- More control over the case: In most cases, the survivor has no say in the sentencing the defendant receives. In a civil case, they have more authority over the proceedings of the case and will make the decision regarding settling the case or going to trial as well as actively participate in the terms of the settlement.
- Financial compensation: A civil sex abuse lawsuit allows survivors to seek compensation for damages incurred as a result of the abuse, including loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, therapy or counseling costs, and more.
- The burden of proof: In civil sex abuse lawsuits, the abuser must only be found “more likely than not” liable, instead of “beyond reasonable doubt” in criminal cases.
- Third-party liability: In a civil case, the survivor has the ability to bring a case against the perpetrator as well as against any other third party who may have contributed to the abuse in some way.
Filing a Sex Abuse Lawsuit Against a Third Party
A third party may refer to a school, a youth organization, a religious institution, a corporation, or a business (a hotel, spa, cruise line, etc.) whose negligence contributed to the sexual abuse that took place. In a civil sex assault lawsuit, a third party may be found liable for abuse through many different actions or inactions, including:
- Inadequate hiring practices
- Lack of training or supervision
- Failure to conduct background checks
- Failure to provide adequate security
- Failure to report or investigate instances of abuse
- Covering up instances or accusations of abuse
In a criminal case sex abuse case, the state only prosecutes those directly involved in the crime that took place. A criminal case does not prosecute the institutions or individuals that may have made it easier for the abuse to take place, like a school covering up allegations of a staff member’s abuse. A civil sex abuse lawsuit can hold the organizations whose negligence may have opened the doors for abuse to happen responsible and prevent it from happening again in the future.
Do I Need a Civil Sexual Abuse Lawyer?
When considering filing a sexual abuse lawsuit, it is advisable to consult with an experienced sexual abuse lawyer who can guide you through the legal process. Things to keep in mind when choosing a sex abuse attorney include:
- Experience: Ensure the law firm you hire has ample experience handling sex abuse lawsuits by asking about the number of similar cases its attorneys have handled and what the final outcomes were.
- Expertise: It may be preferable to choose a law firm that specializes in sex abuse law as opposed to one that handles a large number of other types of cases. A law firm with ample experience and knowledge of sex abuse law will understand how to navigate the difficult nature of these types of cases.
Additionally, a qualified sex abuse lawyer should be empathetic and aggressive in handling sex abuse lawsuits. A capable sex abuse law firm will be able to guide you through the legal process, protect your rights, and advocate on your behalf to secure the maximum potential financial compensation for the abuse that occurred. Contact a sex abuse lawyer today to learn more.