Many people see sexual assault or abuse as a solely criminal matter, but these wrongful acts may also be classified as “intentional torts,” a type of personal injury claim. In addition to pursuing criminal charges to penalize the perpetrator, a victim may also file a civil case for sexual battery, assault and battery, or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Typically, civil lawsuits are meant to compensate the victim and his or her family for damages incurred, but in cases of sexual assault or abuse, a civil suit may provide victims a sense of justice when criminal prosecution is not pursued, or not successful. One reason is that the burden of proof is lower in civil court; rather than needing proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the plaintiff only needs to persuade the judge or jury that the claim is more likely to be true than not.
Types of Sexual Assault/Abuse Civil Cases
Child sexual abuse by clergy, teacher, or leader of an organization
Patient sexual abuse by doctor, nurse, staff at a hospital or nursing home
Sexual assault or harassment in the workplace
Sexual assault on campus
Statutes of Limitations for Sexual Assault Cases
In most states, there are statutes of limitations on how long a lawsuit may be filed after an assault.
In terms of civil law, if you were over 18 at the time of the sexual assault, you have two years to file a civil claim in California.
If you were a child when the assault occurred, you may file a claim for civil damages up to eight years after you reach the “age of majority” – so for most people, age 26 – or, within three years of the time you discover that your psychological injury was caused by the sexual abuse, whichever period expires later. (In terms of criminal cases, new California law eliminates the statute of limitations on rape altogether, when the sexual assaults took place after January 1, 2017, regardless of the age of the victim.)
All statutes of limitations on sex crimes vary from state to state, so if you are considering filing such a lawsuit, you may want to call an attorney to help clarify your rights.
At TorkLaw, we are committed to helping victims of sexual misconduct find justice. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, assault, or harassment, we will advocate for you and fight for your right to treated with respect. Call us at (888) 845-9696 today for a FREE consultation.