The statistics of sexual abuse and assault across the country are alarming. It is estimated that every 98 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, and 99% of the offenders walk free. These statistics are shocking but are the reality for survivors of these sexually violent crimes every day. In San Francisco, many different non-profit organizations are popping up to put an end to these statistics.
Sexual abuse and assault are terms that are often used interchangeably. Still, the reality is that they are two different types of violence, with two entirely different affected populations of people. Sexual abuse is a term used to describe sexual violence against vulnerable populations of people. In this definition, vulnerable populations often refer to children, elderly adults, and those who suffer from disabilities. Rather, those who cannot make the determination on their own to have consensual relations.
Sexual assault is when one adult makes sexual contact with another adult in an unwanted, non-consensual way. The contact can be in the form of touching, fondling, or penetration – all of which is unwanted and not consensual between parties. Sexual harassment can be considered a type of sexual assault.
Seeking Justice for Crimes of Sexual Abuse and Assault
As we already pointed out, many of the offenders who commit sexually violent crimes end up walking free. Not all of these offenders are brought to justice in front of a court of law. Victims (survivors) of these crimes are prone to keeping the crime a secret. When the crime is not brought forward, it is impossible to make the offender answer for their actions.
Why Do Victims Stay Silent?
Sexual abuse and assault are both traumatic events for those who experience it. In many cases, the reason a person does not come forward is because they are afraid to. Some fear that the person who committed the offense will retaliate against them in some way, making it even more dangerous for them to come forward.
Other reasons that a victim stays silent include:
- Feelings that they are to blame for the abuse or assault. Offenders will often lead the victim to believe that they were “asking” for it or that they insinuated that they wanted that attention. When this occurs, it makes the victim second-guess their position in the encounter. The doubt makes them believe that others in authority positions will doubt the validity of the claim as well.
- Fear that they will be required to relive the experience over and over again for strangers. Victims of sexual abuse and assault do not realize that those who are there to help them try to make it as easy on them as possible. From advocates who assist them through the medical examination process to special legal counsel that handles delicate situations – the goal is to make the victim feel safe, not on trial.
- Many survivors of sexually violent encounters may be embarrassed. They not only feel embarrassed that it happened but of what happened to them. These feelings often overpower their need to move forward and stop the offender from doing the same thing to another person.
- Some victims lack an understanding of what happened to them (or their shock is too intense). In terms of vulnerable populations who cannot consent to the act themselves, they often don’t understand what happened to them, or they think that it was normal because they were told so. In some situations, especially sexual assault, the victim may be so traumatized that they have not accepted that they were assaulted sexually until later on.
Criminal and Civil Lawsuits
There are two different ways to seek justice in sexual abuse and assault cases – criminal and civil. The District Attorney’s office often handles criminal charges and lawsuits against the perpetrator. When the crime is reported, and the evidence is collected, it will be up to the District Attorney to review the case to determine if there is sufficient evidence to press charges.
Once charges have been filed against the perpetrator, a judge reviews the evidence and speaks to the victim to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial. Criminal cases result in guilty and not-guilty verdicts that will result in punishments such as jail time, probation, and registering as a sexual offender.
Civil lawsuits in cases of sexual abuse and assault operate differently. In some cases, it may not be the perpetrator that is being sued, but someone else who had a duty of care that was breached. Civil lawsuits consist of monetary retribution for crimes and the injuries that were sustained. The monetary retribution can be for economic and non-economic damages.
It is important to understand that not every personal injury lawyer in San Francisco handles sexual abuse and assault cases. These cases are often extremely delicate situations, and not every lawyer is experienced enough to handle what is required. It is recommended that you inquire about the types of cases handled by these legal firms before seeking consultation.
Once you find the right legal firm to handle a civil lawsuit in a sexual abuse or assault case, they will be able to help you determine the type of damages you are entitled to. Civil cases can result in payment for (but not limited to) medical bills, therapy bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other payment deemed necessary in these cases.
When To Call A Sexual Abuse and Assault Lawyer
Even though the time immediately following sexual abuse or assault is crucial, it doesn’t mean that a case cannot be built if the crime is not reported immediately. The first step in the legal system is reporting the crime. If undergoing a medical examination for the abuse or assault, evidence can be collected that can be used to build the case.
Once the report has been filed and evidence has been collected (if applicable), the legal process can begin. After reporting the abuse or assault, it is recommended that victims speak to a lawyer, especially if they choose to file civil charges against the offender or another liable party. Liable parties may include schools, churches, daycares, elderly nursing facilities, and others who had a duty of care to protect the victim.
Seeking consultation from a reputable and experienced personal injury lawyer can help to determine the foundation of a civil case. These lawyers are experienced in handling the demands for economic and non-economic damages that pertain to sexual abuse and assault cases.
Economic and Non-Economic Damages
In civil cases, there are economic and non-economic damages that lawyers seek. Economic damages are those that are intended to help restore a person to their original condition. These often include medical payments, lost wages, and other measurable monetary amounts. Non-economic damages are ones that can’t be measured quite as easily. These are the pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-measurable payments. In most civil lawsuits, the lawyer will seek amounts for both types of damages.
To expedite economic damages, lawyers use copies of medical billing, proof of missed work, and any other rehabilitative bills that may be rendered due to the damage caused by sexual abuse or assault. For non-economic damages, witness statements may be taken, or key witnesses interviewed to determine the impact of the crime on the victim’s life.
Punitive damages are a different type of monetary compensation. The judge or jury may order punitive damages to be paid in situations to deter the defendant from committing the offense again or as a means of punishment. Punitive damages are often a lot higher than economic or non-economic payouts. They are amounts determined by the judge or jury and are required in addition to the other damages awarded to the plaintiff.
TorkLaw is San Francisco’s Experienced Legal Team
Hiring an experienced legal team to handle your civil lawsuits is crucial, but even more crucial in sexual abuse and assault cases. TorkLaw is San Francisco’s experienced legal team for these types of cases. We understand the delicate circumstances surrounding sexual abuse and assault cases, making us the number one choice in the city and surrounding communities. We are the advocates for our victims in the legal system, giving them a voice for justice.
Our legal team offers FREE, confidential case consultations to prospective clients. We handle these consultations over the phone at 888.845.9696 or online through our contact form, making it easy to initiate contact with us. In a country where every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted, we want to help those who have been victimized, allowing them to receive the compensation they deserve. We focus on gaining the economic and non-economic damages rightfully due to victims, providing justice where they may not see hope.
If you or a loved one has experienced sexual abuse or assault and need an experienced legal team, call TorkLaw now to receive your FREE and confidential case consultation. Our teams are available in San Francisco and the surrounding communities, providing an experience you can trust. Don’t let your voice go unheard. Let TorkLaw handle your lawsuit today.