Sexual abuse can have a life-long impact on survivors, whether the abuse occurred when they were a child or an adult. Long-term effects of sexual abuse like low self-esteem, substance abuse, depression, and other mental health issues, may last for years or even decades after the abuse.
Adult and child sex abuse survivors can seek justice for the crimes committed against them by filing a sex abuse lawsuit against the abuser or the institution that may have enabled the abuse. We have outlined the key points to keep in mind while filing a sex abuse lawsuit, including details on how much time you have to file a lawsuit. If you have questions regarding a sex abuse lawsuit, contact a sex abuse attorney today to learn more.
What is Sexual Abuse?
The American Psychology Association defines sexual abuse as any unwanted sexual activity where the perpetrators use force, threat, or otherwise take advantage of people without their consent. Sexual abuse refers to both physical and non-physical sexual contact, and may include:
- Sexual assault
- Rape or attempted rape
- Sexual harassment
- Child pornography
It is important to keep in mind that anyone can be subject to sexual abuse, and not all instances of sexual abuse need to involve violence. A majority of sexual abuse is committed by someone the survivor knew personally. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, 80% of rapes are committed by someone the survivor knows, with that percentage rising to 93% for child survivors of sexual abuse.
How do I Sue Someone for Sexually Abusing Me?
While filing criminal charges against your abuser can hold them criminally accountable, you should also consider filing a civil sex abuse lawsuit to compensate you for the trauma and damages experienced as a result of the abuse.
Survivors of sexual abuse have the right to bring a civil sex abuse lawsuit against their abuser as well as any third parties whose negligence may have played a part in the abuse. Examples of potentially liable third parties include schools, churches, businesses, and other such institutions. Sex abuse survivors can file a civil sex abuse lawsuit against third parties that fail to provide sufficient security, take precautions that could have prevented the abuse, or cover up allegations of sex abuse.
Filing a Sex Abuse Lawsuit
Filing a sex abuse lawsuit can help you hold your abuser and relevant third parties accountable as well as give you access to the resources needed to heal from the trauma caused by the offender.
Before you file a sex abuse lawsuit, here is what you should know about the legal process and what to expect.
1. Hire an experienced sex abuse attorney
Before filing a sex abuse or sexual assault lawsuit, you should consult with a knowledgeable sex abuse lawyer who can act as your advocate through the legal process. Not all personal injury lawyers have experience handling sex abuse claims, so it is vital to find a law firm with a proven track record of success handling sex assault lawsuits. A sex abuse lawyer will help you build a strong case to help you prove the defendant’s liability.
2. File a complaint
Filing a complaint with the court is the first step in a sex abuse lawsuit. A complaint contains all the necessary information regarding the details of the defendant, supporting facts about the case, and damages sought by the survivor. After the complaint has been properly filed, the defendant will get a notice that they are being sued.
3. Discovery process
During the discovery phase of a sex abuse lawsuit, your lawyer will request information from the defendant’s lawyer and vice versa. This may involve depositions, subpoenas, requests for documents, and requests for admission. Depending on the evidence gathered during the discovery process and whether or not the defendant has offered a reasonable settlement, your sex abuse lawyer will suggest that you either accept the settlement or go to trial.
At this stage, a judge or jury will hear arguments and supporting evidence from both sides. Sex abuse survivors are often asked to testify at the trial. A compassionate sex abuse attorney will prepare you for trial and your testimony and will argue fiercely on your behalf in order to obtain a favorable jury verdict.
If one party does not agree with the decision made in the court, they can file an appeal. If approved, an appellate court will review the lower court’s decision for discrepancies. Based on their review, they will affirm the verdict, reverse the verdict, or order a new trial.
Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations to file a sex abuse and child sex abuse civil lawsuit varies from state to state. States like California and New York, for example, have extended the statutory period under the California Child Victims Act and the New York Adult Survivors Act, respectively.
The California Child Victims Act extends the time limit to bring a sex abuse claim in California to whichever comes later—22 years after the survivor’s 18th birthday, or within five years from the date of discovery of injury resulting from the abuse. Since survivors are often unable to process their abuse until well into adulthood, the act importantly includes a lookback window for survivors to file otherwise expired child sex abuse claims before December 31, 2022.
The New York Adult Survivors Act gives survivors of adult sex abuse a lookback window to file a sex abuse claim against their abuser and any third-party enablers, regardless of the statute of limitations. New York’s lookback window begins on November 24, 2022, and ends one year later on November 23, 2023.
How Can a Sexual Abuse Lawyer Help?
Filing a lawsuit against your abuser can be stressful and challenging, but you do not have to go through the legal process alone. An experienced and compassionate sex abuse lawyer can advocate on your behalf by:
- Guiding you through the sex abuse legal process, explaining your options, and answering any questions you may have
- Investigating and gathering evidence regarding your case to determine who the liable parties are
- Obtaining expert testimony to strengthen your claim
- Advising you on whether or not to settle or go to trial
- Fighting for the maximum compensation for the damage you experienced
Survivors can seek both justice and financial compensation for the trauma experienced as a result of sex abuse and child sex abuse. A civil sex abuse lawsuit can help hold sex abusers and enabling third-parties accountable for the crimes committed. It can also help prevent further abuse from occurring in the future. If you or a loved one has been affected by sex abuse, contact a sex abuse attorney today for a free legal case review.