SEXUAL ABUSE CLAIMS
Sexual Abuse Lawyer
If you were a victim of sexual abuse, you’re probably already aware that reporting your case may result in a criminal investigation, which might then be followed by criminal charges. However, did you know that you are also able to file a personal injury lawsuit against your abuser? By filing a claim through a civil court rather than a criminal court, you may receive compensation for the harm inflicted upon you. Our sexual abuse attorneys at Reich & Binstock will fight for you to obtain the compensation you deserve to work towards your recovery.
We provide counsel for sexual abuse victims in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.
What is Sexual Abuse?
According to the American Psychological Association, sexual abuse is defined as unwanted sexual activity through force, threats, or by taking advantage of victims without consent. Any action that pressures or coerces another individual to engage in activity they don’t want to is sexual abuse. Both men and women can be either the victim or the perpetrator.
Sexual abuse doesn’t always entail a random person or violent attack. In most cases, the perpetrator and the victim know each other. It could be anyone from a clergy member, a trusted friend, or a person of high authority. Recently, we’ve seen sexual abuse allegations surge in organizations such as Boy Scouts of America. Sexual abuse can even occur between people who have been sexual partners before, including married or dating couples.
Some examples of sexual abuse include but are not limited to the following:
- Unwanted touching or kissing
- Unwanted rough or violent sexual actions
- Threatening or pressuring someone to perform or receive sexual activity
- Rape or attempted rape
- Restricting someone’s access to birth control, including the refusal to wear a condom
- Sexual contact or activity with someone who is unable to give clear and informed consent (i.e., someone who is drunk, drugged, or unconscious)
What Kind of Lawyer Handles Sexual Abuse Cases?
When it comes to finding a lawyer for a sexual abuse case, you’ll want to seek someone who is skilled in the area of civil tort law. A tort is an act that causes economic or emotional harm to a person and in which the party at fault possesses legal liability.
Several personal injury lawyers, including Reich & Binstock, are qualified to handle sexual abuse cases. This is because as personal injury lawyers, they cover civil torts of all types that result in injuries and economic harm. Sexual abuse certainly falls into this category, as it is one of the most harmful and traumatic things a person can experience. Often, emotional scars last far longer than any physical injuries, which is why pain and suffering is such a contributing factor to the case.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse?
The aftereffect of sexual abuse can be long-term, often resulting in anxiety, depression, deflated self-image, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, the ability to report doesn’t last nearly as long as the aftermath of abuse. In Texas, there is a different statute of limitations for criminal cases than for civil cases.
The criminal statute of limitations for rape and other sexual abuse offenses in Texas that involve a victim aged 18 or older is 10 years. This means victims have 10 years from the day the offense took place to file a criminal lawsuit in court. For sexual crimes that involve a victim under the age of 18, the criminal statute of limitations is 20 years from the date of their 18th birthday.
The civil statute of limitations for a victim aged 18 or older is 5 years after the day the sexual offense took place. For victims below the age of 18, the civil court allows 10-20 years after the victim’s 18th birthday, depending on the offense.
There are some exceptions when it comes to the time limits allotted to report sexual abuse. The state of Texas does not have a criminal statute of limitations for rape or aggravated assault cases where a suspect has not yet been identified. In addition, there is no statute for cases that involve a serial rapist.
How Does New Legislation Affect The Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Victims?
If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the law may finally be on your side. New legislation, the Child Victims Act revises the current statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse victims in several states, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Under the Child Victims Act, survivors of childhood abuse, regardless of his or her current age, have a 3 year window to file a civil lawsuit for the sexual abuse they’ve suffered, against both the perpetrators, as well as the institutions that enabled or covered those perpetrators, regardless if the abuser is alive or deceased.
How Does The Child Victims Act Help Childhood Sexual Abuse Victims Now?
The Child Victims Act provides a window for those who were sexually abused as a child to finally break his or her silence by offering three key changes to the previous legislation:
- Opens a 3 year window for claims that were previously time barred
- Extends the civil statute of limitations to age 40
- Broadens the definition of “childhood sexual abuse”, as well as “childhood sexual assault”.
Possible Liable Institutions for Enabling Sexual Perpetrators
Using new legislation, the sexual abuse attorneys at Reich & Binstock will hold any perpetrators accountable, as well as any organization or institution that either concealed or enabled the sexual abuse of children, regardless if the abuse occurred on-premise or not.
These organizations may include, but are not limited to:
- Armed Forces
- Baptist Church
- Boy Scouts of America
- Charter Schools
- Church of Scientology
- College Campus
- Evangelical Church
- Girl Scouts of the USA
- Haredi Orthodox
- Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Medical Organizations
- Mormon/Church of Latter-day Saints
- Private and Public Schools
- Protestants’ Church
- Roman Catholic Church
- Sports Organizations
- Summer Camps
- Any other organization that supervises children
The Child Victims Act Provides Hope to Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse
This new legislation empowers adult survivors of child sexual abuse to confront their abuse by providing more time to come forward and file a civil lawsuit against both their perpetrators and the institutions that concealed or enabled the abuse.
Even if the sexual abuse occurred decades ago, the Child Victims Act provides an extension to receive justice. If you’re a survivor of childhood abuse, this legislation may help your case in the following ways:
- Broader accountability for both abusers and institutions: The new legislation provides for more accountability specifically for The Boy Scouts of America group and Roman Catholic Churches.
- Extension of time to come forward: Sexual abuse victims may now come forward until they are 40 years old or within 5 years of the realized psychological damage, whichever comes later.
- Broader definition of the term, “victim”
- 3 year window for victims: ALL sexual abuse victims whose claims were barred now have a 3 year window to file claims.
Under the Child Victims Act, if you’re a victim of childhood sexual abuse, regardless of your current age, you have an opportunity to bring a case against your abuser, who may have ruined your childhood. You also have the opportunity to bring a case against the organizations or institutions who sheltered that abuser by either covering the abuse up or knowingly allowing the abuse to continue.
Damage From Childhood Sexual Abuse
Childhood sexual abuse is and has been a problem throughout the country. 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 will experience sexual abuse at the hands of an adult. 90% of those victims know his or her abuser.
Many sexual abusers take advantage of his or her position in relation to the child he or she abuses. Such positions can include family members, coaches, priests, summer camp instructors, teachers, etc.
When a child is sexually abused by someone he or she trusts, the damage that comes as a result can follow them into adulthood and forever leave a negative impact on his or her life. Many times, victims don’t understand the impact of sexual abuse in its entirety until later in life.
It’s important for survivors of childhood abuse to know that it is never too late to start the healing process.
What are the Signs of Sexual Abuse?
Adults who were sexually abused as children may experience a range of both short and long term effects that may continue to affect your life negatively. Some of these include but are not limited to:
- Shame or guilt: survivors of sexual abuse oftentimes feel shameful that the experience happened, shameful that he or she didn’t speak up, or guilt that they continued to allow the abuse. It’s important to understand that the abuser should always be held accountable, never the child.
- Difficulty with intimate or serious relationships: For most childhood sexual abuse survivors, sexual assault was actually the first sexual encounter he or she ever experienced. Victims may suffer from flashbacks or harsh memories, even during consensual sexual experiences. Certain actions, smells, words, etc. may trigger them, without them even realizing there was an issue before the trigger. They may also find it difficult to feel safe, even in the best of relationships.
- Low self esteem: A common thread between sexual abuse victims is low self esteem. The occurs as a result of the negative messages he or she more than likely received from the perpetrator, as well as having his of her own safety violated. This low self esteem can flood over into other areas, such as careers, relationships, and both physical and mental health.
It's Not Too Late to Start Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse
At Reich & Binstock, we understand that survivors of childhood sexual abuse need time to process what they’ve endured, as well as time to understand just how much damage these acts have brought into to their daily lives. Survivors of childhood sexual assault may not realize until decades later–the institutions that should have been protecting them, failed, or even worse, enabled or protected the abuser.
Studies show that survivors of childhood sexual assault do not typically share the information with anyone, until they are well into adulthood. For other survivors, when he or she tried to speak up as a child, they were met with resistance or felt as if there was no one who would listen or believe them.
There shouldn’t be a timeline for dealing with childhood sexual abuse. Now, under the new Child Victims Act, as an adult survivor, you can come forward and help ensure that the abuse you suffered does not happen to another child.
Civil Remedies for Sexual Assault Survivors
Victims of sexual abuse can pursue justice through the criminal system, as well as the civil justice system. For most sexual abuse victims, the remedies go beyond monetary compensation. In a civil case, sexual abuse victims can hold their abusers accountable, they can bring a sense of closure to this chapter of their life, and most importantly, they can prevent the potential for future victimization. Civil claims can be filed without pursuing a criminal case or even without a police report. In certain cases, victims and their family may be eligible to seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages (depending on the state)
Help for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
If you’re an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, you’re not alone, and you’ve suffered in silence long enough. The sexual abuse attorneys at Reich & Binstock want to help you understand your legal options, seek justice for everything you’ve been through, and hold your abuser, along with anyone who helped them continue this terrible act, accountable.
Sexual Abuse: Criminal Case VS. Civil Case
Sexual abuse can fall into two different types of categories within the justice system: criminal and civil. In a criminal case, the focus lies on the abuser. It is a case brought against the abuser by the state or federal government as a way to protect society as a whole and punish the perpetrator. Because the focus is more on protecting society and not on advocating for the victim, a criminal case may be a poor option for the survivor in receiving restitution or financial compensation.
In a civil case, the focus is pointed toward the survivor and helping them through their traumatic experience. Unfortunately, there is no jail time for the abuser available in a civil case. These cases are handled by civil attorneys, as opposed to prosecuting attorneys. The victim is able to seek compensation for the damages that resulted from the sexual abuse they experienced. This includes mental anguish and emotional distress, pain and suffering, lost income or earning capacity, and medical expenses.
The standard of proof that is needed for a criminal case is much higher than that of a civil case. The jury must be sure “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the accused is guilty. Unfortunately, many abusers are able to escape liability because of the doubt of proof. The civil justice system is much more relaxed when it comes to the standard of proof. The jury simply must believe the survivor’s case to be more likely true than not.
Though a criminal conviction can be extremely powerful evidence, a civil case does not rely on a guilty verdict in a criminal court to be successful. So if your abuser was not found guilty in a criminal case, that doesn’t mean he or she will also be innocent in a civil trial.
Contact a Sexual Abuse Attorney at Reich and Binstock Today
There is a never a fee unless we recover on your behalf.