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Criminal vs. Civil Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
When taking legal action as the victim of sexual abuse, it’s essential to understand the difference between a civil lawsuit and a criminal lawsuit for sexual abuse. A civil sexual abuse lawsuit is a type of personal injury claim.
The plaintiff pursues a civil case to seek monetary compensation and punitive damages to help with their healing and to cover any costs related to the abuse. It can also be a way to hold the abuser accountable in addition to any criminal penalties they receive. Because the standard of evidence is lower in civil cases, it’s often easier to hold abusers responsible — and some accountability is better than none.
If criminal charges have been brought on behalf of the plaintiff, these charges are officially brought by the State, and the case goes to criminal court in the form of a criminal trial.
A guilty verdict in a criminal case could mean fines, probation, and even prison time for the defendant.
A single plaintiff may find themselves in both civil and criminal court simultaneously for the same instance of sexual abuse or assault.
Sexual Abuse vs. Sexual Assault
It is also essential to understand the difference between sexual abuse and sexual assault. This is only a general definition; each state will define crimes differently.
Sexual abuse, which includes molestation and statutory rape, is typically understood as a sex crime against a minor or people under the age of consent. Often, this crime is not an isolated incident but occurs as part of a pattern of abuse, though a single instance is still sexual abuse and a serious crime.
The age of consent can vary in each state, ranging from 16 to 18 years old. Any sexual contact involving someone under the age of consent is sexual abuse. Abuse and assault, however, are not mutually exclusive.
Sexual assault involves unwanted physical touching regardless of the age of the victim. Rape is one form of sexual assault but certainly not the only one. If a victim is forced, threatened, or unable to consent to a sexual act, the act is sexual assault.
If a victim is under the age of consent and is forced or threatened to engage in a sexual act, the person forcing them can be charged with sexual abuse and sexual assault (and, most likely, other crimes like simple assault, too).
Reasons to File a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
Individuals will have their own reasons for choosing to take legal action against someone who sexually abused them. The following are just a few of these reasons.
Closure and Accountability
While you can never undo the damage caused by sexual abuse, you may find a sense of closure in knowing that your abuser has been held accountable for their actions.
A sexual abuse lawsuit can also help ensure that the person who harmed you cannot hurt anyone else.
As mentioned above, the standards for evidence are lessened in a civil case, so it will be easier to prove an abuser guilty in a civil case than in a criminal one.
- In a criminal case, the case must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt — meaning that the only logical explanation is that the accused committed the crime or that it is, as the supreme court has said, a “moral certainty” that the accused is guilty.
- In a civil case, the case must usually be proved by a preponderance of the evidence — meaning that it must be more likely than not that the accused is responsible for the act they’re accused of committing. This is sometimes defined as meaning only that at least 51% of the evidence points to guilt or responsibility.
In a famous example involving murder rather than sexual assault, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murder (in the criminal trial) but was found legally responsible for the deaths (in the civil trial) — he kept his freedom but was required to pay millions of dollars to his victims’ families.
Compensation and Financial Help
Experiencing sexual assault or sexual abuse can have detrimental effects on a person’s life and mental health. It can even go so far as to affect someone’s ability to work or attend school and leave someone experiencing depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Financial compensation through a sexual abuse lawsuit or civil claim can help cover some of the expenses incurred from the abuse.
Common damages claimed in sexual abuse lawsuits include:
- Medical bills for physical injuries
- Medical expenses for emotional distress and therapy
- Loss of income
- Loss of enjoyment in life
- Pain and suffering
There is a time limit on how much time you have to file a civil claim. In most states, you have 1-3 years from the incident of the sexual assault, though there are exceptions. With a free case review, you can find out if you have a case before it’s too late.
Different Types of Sexual Abuse Cases
Both child sexual abuse and sexual assault come in many forms. However, it is common to find perpetrators who are people of authority, leadership, or high esteem in the community.
Examples of sexual abuse and sexual assault cases include:
- Abuse in religious institutions: This type of abuse occurs in churches or other religious institutions, with the abuser being a clergy member.
- Abuse in educational institutions: This type occurs at schools, daycare, or afterschool programs. In these cases, the abuser is usually a trusted authority figure, such as a teacher or coach.
- Abuse in nursing homes: Sadly, seniors may be at risk of sexual abuse by staff and other residents.
- Abuse in the workplace: This type of abuse occurs at work. The abuser may be an authority figure in a leadership role or a fellow employee.
- Online abuse: This type of abuse occurs over the internet and can involve exploitation over social media or the spreading of illicit pictures without consent.
- Incest: This type of abuse occurs at the hands of a trusted family member.
- Celebrity abusers: Victims of abuse by celebrities and other high-profile people, like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, are often silenced — a powerful firm can help you stand up to these parties.
Ways a Sexual Abuse Attorney Can Help
Here are some top ways a sexual abuse attorney can help with your case.
1. Hold Perpetrators Accountable
Victims are often hesitant to come forward with abuse allegations. This hesitation may be because they are charging someone with power or standing in the community or who has financial or political influence.
With sexual abuse civil lawsuits, victims of sexual abuse can sue both individuals and institutions if these parties acted negligently and protected the abuser or allowed the abuse to happen.
2. Manage Your Sexual Abuse Claim
A sexual abuse attorney can also help investigate your claim, gather evidence, and work with the courts so you can focus on healing mentally and physically. An experienced sexual abuse attorney understands the rules and procedures of filing and complying with the law so that you don’t have to concern yourself with statutes of limitations or other potential legal hurdles.
3. Fight for Compensation on Your Behalf
While nothing can take away the pain caused in the aftermath of sexual abuse, financial compensation can help to alleviate some of the associated burdens and injuries.
Let us help you find a lawyer to fight for you until justice is served and you receive the compensation you deserve.
Find a Sexual Abuse Law Firm Today
We understand how devastating it can be to experience sexual abuse and how it may seem scary or intimidating to seek help.
LawFirm.com assists victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault as they prepare to take action with a sexual abuse lawsuit against an individual or institution.
We provide information and resources, legal advice and guides, and news that could affect your case. We can also help connect you with a top-quality sexual abuse attorney in your area.
If you are ready to begin with a free consultation to determine your eligibility, simply fill out our contact form or call our hotline at (888) 726-9160 today.
FAQs About Sexual Abuse Civil Lawsuits
What is considered sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse generally refers to unwanted sexual actions or behavior that occur without a person’s consent.
Sexual abuse can include:
- Wrongful or unwanted touching
- Demanding sex
- Exposing one’s genitals to another person
- Threatening or bribing another person into sexual acts
- Rape or attempted rape
Who is eligible for a sexual abuse lawsuit?
You may be eligible to file a civil sexual assault lawsuit if you are the victim of sexual abuse, even if the abuse occurred many years ago as childhood sexual abuse. Parents can file sexual abuse lawsuits on behalf of their minor children.
Victims of sexual assault and abuse are people of all ages, genders, backgrounds, educations, and walks of life.
How much does it cost to file a sexual abuse lawsuit?
Every personal injury law firm will have its own rules and policies, but many work on a contingent-fee basis for sexual abuse cases and when working with sexual assault survivors.
A contingency basis means you will never pay any upfront, hourly, or out-of-pocket fees for legal services. Instead, your lawyer will take a percentage of the settlement once it is awarded.
What is the average sexual abuse lawsuit worth?
It is hard to talk about sexual abuse lawsuits in terms of averages because there is so much variation between the cases and the crimes committed.
At LawFirm.com, we work with some of the top sexual abuse lawyers in the nation and can connect you with one with a proven track record of successful settlements and verdicts.
Will I have to testify during my sexual abuse case?
In many instances, your sexual abuse civil suit will settle through negotiation, and your case will never have to go through the court system. This is the ideal situation.
If your case goes to court and you are uncomfortable with testifying, your law team will still do everything possible to secure the compensation you deserve.
Where can I find a sexual abuse attorney in my area?
You can find a personal injury attorney in your area through LawFirm.com, no matter where you are in the United States.
We only work with the most trusted and respected law firms and personal injury lawyers with proven success track records. Contact us today for a free case review.