Last Updated on March 30, 2021 by Legal Team
Sexual Abuse - An Overview
Did you know that every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted? When it comes to sexual abuse, most people are familiar with the criminal components involved. However, victims may also sue their abusers under personal injury to hold the abuser responsible for any injuries caused.
Definition of Sexual Abuse
What constitutes sexual abuse varies by state as it is defined by state law. Generally, sexual abuse consists of any unwanted sexual activity by a person against the victim using force, threats, or coercion. In many cases, the abuser is in a position of power or authority over their victim. Here are some examples:
● A parent abusing a child
● A teacher or coach and a student
● Boss or manager abusing an employee
● Member of the clergy abusing a congregant or child
Sexual Abuse Through Harassment
Sexual abuse is not limited to physical abuse. Actions such as sexual harassment and indecent exposure can qualify as sexual abuse.
Who is Liable for Sexual Abuse?
Any person who participates in the sexual abuse of a victim may be held directly responsible. This liability means being required to pay for any damages awarded to the victim.
Who Can Be Sued for Sexual Abuse?
The victim can sue any third party who is responsible for the abuser’s behavior. Besides the abusers themselves, victims may also be able to recover from:
● Organizations that did not correctly screen employees before allowing them to supervise children.
● Employers failing to respond adequately to reports of sexual harassment or abuse.
● Family members who allowed abuse against children or other members of a household to continue after becoming aware of the abuse.
Third-Party Negligence Liability
A lawsuit against a third party typically arises under negligence. This means the third party’s actions or the actions of its’ employees were not reasonable. Typically, third-party liability arises when they failed to respond to prior sexual abuse claims, or hiring somebody they should have known was a risk to abuse somebody sexually. For example, if a church had previously received reports of a priest sexually abusing a church member but failed to do anything about it.
Types of Lawsuits and Damages For Sexual Abuse
Assault, battery, or intentional infliction of emotional distress
Victims will not sue under sexual abuse in a civil lawsuit. Against an individual, their cause of action will be assault, battery, or intentional infliction of emotional distress. To prove these lawsuits, the victim needs to show the abuser acted intentionally, and the intentional actions resulted in sexual abuse.
When bringing the lawsuit against a third party, they will sue under negligence. As explained above, the victim will need to prove that the third party acted unreasonably and that this failure to act reasonably caused their abuse.
What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered?
Victims can seek damages for past and future medical or psychological care, decreased earnings because of post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical and emotional distress.
Step-By-Step Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
Step 1 - Keeping track of medical records
The lawsuit itself will be similar to other personal injury lawsuits. Once you receive medical or psychological treatment, you should begin preparing for the legal process. This includes finding any pictures that were taken of your injuries if they are visible. Monitoring and recording your medical treatments in real-time will make it easier in the future to provide this information to your attorney.
Step 2 - Finding a lawyer
The next step in an elder abuse case is finding a lawyer. When looking for a lawyer, don’t just type into Google “personal injury lawyer.” It’s just too broad. You want expertise specifically within the sexual abuse space. Ideally, it would be great to find a lawyer who’s already tried a case with your specific type of complaint.
Step 3 - filing The Lawsuit
It’s now time to file the lawsuit. Assuming you have a lawyer representing you, your involvement should be minimal. Once the case is filed, it will move into the discovery stage. During this time, your attorney will receive requests for information from the defendant’s attorney. Many times, your attorney will be contacting you to collect the information required to respond.
The victim may have to attend a deposition, where the other side will ask you questions about the accident and your injuries. Additionally, the family members who frequently had contact with the victim may have to attend a deposition. In these cases, the family members often have information regarding the development of any injuries suffered or the abuse itself.
Step 4 - Negotiation, Settlement, and Trial
Once the discovery process is over, the sides will then begin negotiating. This process can be over quickly or be a long, drawn-out process. Remember, your attorney is required to advise you of any offer the defense makes. If you cannot reach an agreement, the sides will move forward to court assisted settlement discussions involving mediations or settlement conferences with the court. If these options fail, then the court will order an arbitration or have a trial.
Finding The Right Lawyer For Your Sexual Abuse Case
Sexual abuse cases are incredibly personal by nature, and having the right attorney is essential. Plenty of law firms handle sexual abuse, but few attorneys specialize in it. Due to the emotional nature of sexual abuse, you may be leaning on your attorney for your emotional needs along with your legal needs. Attorneys often say they have two jobs, to be their client’s attorney and therapist. Therefore, it is essential to pick an attorney you feel comfortable with and that you can trust.