The Process of Filing a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit: An Expert's Perspective

As an expert in the field of sexual violence, I have seen firsthand the devastating impact that sexual abuse can have on survivors. That's why I am proud to be a part of RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country. RAINN has created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with over 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country. Our goal is to provide support and resources to survivors of sexual abuse, and one way we do that is by helping them navigate the process of filing a civil lawsuit against their abuser. When a person is sexually assaulted in Los Angeles, they have the right to seek justice through the legal system.

This includes filing a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and any other responsible party. A civil lawsuit seeks compensation (damages) for injuries, damages, and losses. In some cases, survivors of child sexual abuse may also be able to file a civil lawsuit in federal court under Code 2255, which includes human trafficking and the distribution of child pornography. This allows survivors to seek justice up to age 28 or 10 years from the date of the crime or discovery of an injury resulting from the abuse. In many cases, institutions such as churches or schools have a legal obligation to identify and prevent child abuse or other misconduct by employees or representatives.

This means that if an employee hired or supervised by these institutions later sexually abuses a child, they can be held responsible under the theory of negligent hiring or negligent supervision. For example, if a school district fails to adequately evaluate an employee who later sexually abuses a child, they may be held liable under Title 9 based on school policies that allowed the abuse to take place on campus. According to the organization National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network (RAINN), sexual assault is defined as “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the victim's explicit consent.” This type of liability is almost always civil and not criminal, meaning that while institutions may face a lawsuit in civil court, criminal charges against them are rare. However, some states have approved or are considering special statute of limitations for civil cases based on sexual assault or abuse of victims who were minors at the time of the crime. Survivors of sexual abuse may take time to come to terms with what happened to them, and may not be ready to consider their legal options until they reach adulthood. If you were an adult at the time of the sexual assault, you have two years from the date of the assault to file a civil lawsuit for damages.

Unfortunately, many victims of sexual abuse do not report the crime, so the number of lawsuits filed may not accurately reflect the prevalence of sexual abuse. It's important to note that a sexual abuse case can be tried in civil court even if no criminal charges are brought against the accused. The criminal process involves the prosecution of the offender by the state, with the possibility of imprisonment and other penalties. However, it usually does not involve monetary compensation for the victim or their family. As a survivor of sexual abuse, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the perpetrator and other third parties to recover damages. This legal obligation intersects with the standard principle of culpability that governs most civil cases involving injuries: negligence.

This means that survivors of child sexual abuse may have a range of legal arguments available to them when filing a civil lawsuit. It's important to work with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate this complex process and fight for justice on your behalf.

Ernest Carsten
Ernest Carsten

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