Sexual Abuse of Children

HOW TO TAKE ACTION

Little girl watering plants

If you suspect your child was abused, the abuse needs to be reported to DHS and law enforcement. You do not need to investigate it, there are professional child abuse investigators who can do that job. These entities should investigate and may engage the criminal legal system to take action.Many victims find the criminal legal system frustrating. The goal of a criminal case is to punish those guilty of a crime. The system has protection for the rights of the criminal, but there are only limited protections for the rights of the victim. In a criminal case, the victim is considered a witness and not a party. This means they have limited input into the outcome of the case. However, that is not the only legal remedy available for the survivor.
Our society has a dual legal system – criminal and civil. A civil lawsuit is very different than the criminal process. The key difference between these two types of cases is the outcome.

  • In a criminal case, the outcome is punishment of the perpetrator.
  • In a civil case, the outcome is restitution to the victim, usually, financial compensation.

The District Attorney who pursues the criminal case is unlikely to explain to victims that they have legal rights in the civil system, what those rights are and how to enforce those legal rights in civil court.

At Koller Trial Law, we sue sexual predators and those who enable sexual predators to commit their crimes. Even if the perpetrator is not criminally held responsible, they can be held financially responsible. While no damage award can undo the debilitating effects of such abuse, pursuing compensation can aid in the recovery process.

In some cases of child sex abuse, the creation of images or photos is another element of the abuse. Child pornography is a crime. It also can give rise to a civil lawsuit. Federal and state law makes child pornography a crime. But it also gives victims the ability to pursue and hold accountable the perpetrators of this crime. Creators, distributors and possessors of child pornography can be held liable and required to pay money damages.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

A victim may sue the criminal perpetrator but may also sue any person or organization that enabled the criminal.

Possible types of people and organizations who may be sued include:

  • Perpetrator
  • Perpetrator’s estate
  • Perpetrator’s family
  • Daycares
  • Teachers
  • Schools
  • Coaches
  • Pastors and priests
  • Churches
  • Sports clubs
  • Youth clubs such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
  • Family members
  • Group homes
  • Medical providers
  • Medical Facilities

As far as damages, there are a number of types that can be raised, including medical expenses, emotional distress, lost wages, physical injury, punitive damages, and others.

State laws often put a time limit on when cases must be filed. Each state has a different set of statute of limitations laws. Many states have restrictive laws which limit a victim’s ability to file criminal charges and/or a civil lawsuit.However, many states have begun to amend these laws, and some have passed special laws that revive previously time-barred cases. If you would like to discuss the statute of limitations laws in your sex abuse case, please contact our office immediately.

HOW CASES WORK

Children walking to school

Before we file a lawsuit for you, we will talk about your goals and desires. We will also thoroughly investigate your claim and collect evidence to support your case.

Due to the nature of these cases, we often recommend therapy for the victim. This helps the victim process what has happened to them and gain the strength to confront abusers and enablers through a lawsuit.

When the victim, their family and the lawyer are prepared, a civil lawsuit is filed in court.

The civil legal system provides mechanisms to gain information about what happened and how it was allowed to happen. This process is often very beneficial to the victim because they gain new understanding about what happened to them.

While some civil cases are heard by a jury, many more are settled out of court. Unlike the criminal system, in the civil case the victim decides whether they wish to settle. Competent legal advice can help the victim understand their options.

Under the law, when a person wins a civil case, they are entitled to money damages. This may include the cost of medical care including counseling and the mental anguish that comes from the abuse, among other things. For child victims, money from a civil case is placed in a court supervised trust account. The child’s money is preserved for the child’s benefit.

A WORD ABOUT PRIVACY

Victims have widely varying feelings about publicly sharing their stories. Some are so filled with shame and humiliation that they never come forward at all. Others want to bring public shame on the perpetrator and so they will seek media attention to shine a light on the conduct of the abuser and enabler.

There are ways to allow victims to make choices about privacy within the context of a civil case. Children’s cases are always filed using only the child’s initials rather than their name. But in some cases, even the adult’s name may be kept secret and the lawsuit filed using fictitious names to protect a victim’s privacy. Both choices have pros and cons that can be discussed with your lawyer.

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