In San Bernardino and the surrounding areas, sexual abuse and assault occur more than many residents realize. There has been a social stigma surrounding sexual abuse and assault that keeps the victim from speaking up in some circumstances. Organizations across California are working to change this, but unfortunately, it is not occurring fast enough.
Statistics show that as few as one in five victims report cases of sexual assault. These victims often don’t seek out the help they need. When a victim doesn’t report a crime, the chance to identify the perpetrator and bring them to justice begins to disappear. This allows the perpetrator to commit the act again without detection.
What are victims of these crimes supposed to do when they feel like they can’t speak up? Experienced personal injury lawyers handle cases of sexual abuse and assault in San Bernardino. These lawyers make liable parties accountable through monetary compensation to the victim in these cases.
Impact of Sexual Abuse and Assault
Often used interchangeably, the terms sexual abuse and assault are not the same. Sexual abuse, by definition, occurs when the act is committed against a vulnerable population. Vulnerable populations are children, the elderly, and those who are disabled – populations who cannot give their consent to sexual activities. Sexual assault occurs when one adult forces another adult to nonconsensual sexual acts.
When sexual abuse or assault occurs, the impact it has on a victim does not disappear. These victims end up with long-term effects that may influence every aspect of their lives. These are the effects that a victim may have to deal with for the rest of their life:
- Anxiety – trauma can trigger problems with anxiety. Nearly 30% of adults who have experienced sexual abuse as a child or assault as an adult will suffer from anxiety from the traumatic event. The common symptoms of anxiety include a constant feeling of dread, nervousness, excessive worrying, restlessness, agitation, and fatigue. Anxiety can be managed with mental health professionals and medication.
- Depression – often found in tandem with anxiety, depression is another mental health condition that victims may encounter after traumatic events such as sexual abuse and assault. Often categorized as a prolonged sense of sadness or hopelessness, other defining characteristics of depression may be seen. Depression symptoms include fatigue, trouble sleeping, irritability, sudden weight loss/gain, difficulty concentrating, and increased death/suicide thoughts.
- PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder is not only found in veterans of war but victims of abuse and assault. PTSD is a normal reaction to a traumatic event that takes place in a person’s life. PTSD is characterized by symptoms that favor anxiety and depression but also include intense and recurrent flashbacks of the traumatic event. Many victims avoid situations, scenarios, places, and people who may trigger PTSD and the response of “fight or flight.”
- Drugs, alcohol, self-harm – as a coping mechanism, victims of sexual abuse or assault may turn to drugs, alcohol, or self-harm as a means of getting through the trauma. In fact, victims of sexual trauma are ten times more likely to use drugs and alcohol than the general public. There are high rates of suicide and attempted suicide among victims of sexually violent crimes.
Understanding the California Statute of Limitations
In civil cases, California imposes a statute of limitations. These statutes of limitation say how long a person has to file a civil lawsuit. The amount of time that someone has to file a lawsuit varies based on the offense. In California, victims who were minors at the time of the abuse have up to 22 years to report the crime and file the lawsuit. Adults have a window of 10 years to file a lawsuit. If you are unsure if you have a civil case, seeking consultation from an experienced lawyer who works on sexual abuse and assault cases can clarify any confusion you may have.
What are Civil Claims in Sexual Abuse and Assault Cases?
Civil lawsuits do not result in incarceration or punishments as criminal cases do. Civil lawsuits seek out economic and non-economic damages in the form of monetary compensation. Economic damages are those monetary damages that can be measured in the case. Examples of economic damages include medical bills that result from the abuse or assault, continued therapy, mental health services, lost wages, and more. A quantifiable amount can be determined when looking to recover economic damages. Non-economic damages cannot be measured as easily. In many circumstances, the use of witnesses helps to establish the need for non-economic damages. Pain, suffering, and emotional stress are damages sought for non-economic reasons.
Liability in Civil Cases
Personal injury lawyers who handle sexual abuse and assault cases must prove the defendant liable in the case. These cases require the preponderance of guilt, unlike criminal cases that must prove guilt without the benefit of a doubt. Winning a civil case does not guarantee winning a civil case, and vice versa.
Civil cases are not just limited to the perpetrator. Liability expands to anyone who had a duty to keep the victim safe but breached that duty when the abuse or assault happened. An example of these types of liable parties include schools, daycares, nursing facilities, and any place where the victim should have been safe but was placed in the hands of the offender. Proving these parties liable requires an investigation that may result in the party knowing that the offender had a history or other reports of sexual abuse or assault on their record.
The Boy Scouts of America are a prime example of a party who is liable, not just an offender. Evidence has been produced dating back decades that the organization was aware of sexual abuse among the ranks but turned a blind eye to the situation. They are now facing multiple lawsuits, including class-action cases against them. The organization has since filed bankruptcy as a result of the number of civil lawsuits against them.
In San Bernardino, personal injury lawyers who are experienced in handling sexual abuse and assault cases know how to find the evidence needed to prove liability. Proving liability means that they must show negligence, in any form, that the party is guilty of.
The process of proving the negligence requires:
- Showing that the party had a duty to the victim (keeping them safe)
- They breached this duty (knowingly allowed abuse or assault to happen)
- The injury was sustained as a result of their negligence (economic and non-economic damages)
In situations like this, it isn’t the perpetrator who is required to pay out the damages, but the liable party. Universities, such as the University of California, have paid out settlements to patients of doctors who have sexually assaulted patients. Even though criminal charges are pending against these doctors, civil lawsuits are filed to compensate victims. A lot of larger profile organizations will settle with victims before it makes it to a jury trial.
TorkLaw and San Bernardino Sexual Abuse and Assault Cases
Finding a personal injury legal professional in San Bernardino who handles sexual abuse and assault cases can be complicated. Not every legal firm announces that they handle cases. Due to the delicate nature of cases, many do not handle lawsuits pertaining to these violent sexual acts.
TorkLaw is your solution in San Bernardino when seeking to file civil charges against a liable party in sexual abuse and assault cases. All of our legal professionals are trained and experienced in handling these sensitive and delicate cases. Our goal is to make victims feel safe, not on trial. Statistically speaking, when someone comes forward to file a lawsuit against an aggressor, they should be praised, not made to feel at fault.
At TorkLaw, we know what it means for a victim to step forward. From consultation to compensation, our experts keep victims protected during every step of the process, meaning that the process is thoroughly explained and free of surprises. We also do not require payment before we win your case. TorkLaw works on a contingency basis – we don’t get paid until your case wins.
If you or a loved one has been victim to sexual abuse or assault, TorkLaw is here to bring the liable party to justice. We seek the compensation that you deserve to help with the economic and non-economic damages sustained as a result of the abuse or assault. Our law offices provide potential clients with FREE and confidential case consultations. We are available by phone at 888.845.9696 or through our online contact form.
Sexual abuse and assault don’t happen on a schedule. TorkLaw is available 24/7, not just during “normal business hours.” Our widespread availability as a practice allows us to handle cases such as sexual abuse and assault in San Bernardino and the surrounding areas. We want to help reduce the amount of violence that is occurring in our backyard, and we are here to assist the victims who come forward.
Call us today if you would like to discuss your case – FREE and confidential case consultations are available to protect you until you are ready to take a step toward compensatory justice.