One of the most difficult challenges confronting sexual abuse survivors is facing the reality of what’s happened. Reporting an assault to the police, deciding to press charges, testifying in court – these steps toward justice may seem more like ways to reopen wounds than restore some balance to the world.
Sex Abuse Victims Deserve An Advocate
At Laffey, Bucci & Kent, we believe that sex offenders should be punished to the full extent of the law, and that entails criminal prosecution. But America’s criminal justice system was not intended to support the survivors of sex abuse. In most cases, it fails them.
Our sexual assault lawyers are devoted to protecting the best interests of abuse victims. We believe that for many survivors, filing a personal injury lawsuit can make up for some of the failings endemic to criminal justice.
Criminal prosecution makes little effort to compensate survivors, most of whom experience the physical and psychological effects of violent trauma long after an assault. Our goal is to protect the dignity, safety and on-going security of every client, with individual attention and compassion.
Meet Our Team Of Trusted Abuse Attorneys
In over 90 years of combined trial experience, the personal injury lawyers at Laffey, Bucci & Kent have helped numerous abuse survivors secure the compensation they deserve. In every case, we employ rigorous investigation standards that leave no stone unturned.
The firm’s sexual assault practice is led by Partner Brian Kent, Esq. After graduating with his law degree from Philadelphia’s Temple University, Brian served as a criminal prosecutor in the Sex Crimes Unit of Montgomery County’s District Attorney’s Office. In that position, he fought tirelessly to protect the rights of sexual abuse victims, and gained invaluable experience inside the criminal justice system. He brings this unique knowledge to bear on every civil sex assault case Laffey, Bucci & Kent takes on.
What Kind Of Lawyer Handles Sexual Assault?
District attorneys (and teams of assistant or deputy district attorneys) handle federal criminal cases against abusers. They represent the government, not survivors. State’s attorneys handle state criminal cases against offenders. They represent the state, not survivors.
Personal injury (or “trial”) lawyers represent survivors of sexual abuse in the civil court system. Trial attorneys can file lawsuits on behalf of victims against either abusers or “third parties,” like an apartment owner whose negligence allowed an assault to occur.
Can I Sue The Person Who Assaulted Me Or My Loved One?
Survivors of sexual assault, including rape and childhood sexual abuse, have every right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the abuser and any third-parties whose negligence may have contributed to the crime.
This is true whether or not the abuser was criminally prosecuted. Survivors can win civil lawsuits even if the offender was acquitted of criminal charges, although a legal theory called “collateral estoppel” may make it easier to win a civil suit after someone has been convicted for the same crimes.
Civil and criminal cases are very different. For one, they have different “burdens of proof.” In a criminal case, the state has to prove that the accused committed a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This requires a lot of proof, and it’s more rigorous than the standard in personal injury trials. In a civil case, survivors have to prove that it’s “more likely than not” they were harmed by the defendant. Effectively, this means that civil juries don’t need to be as confident of a person’s liability as they have to be in a criminal case.
What Can I Do To Press Charges?
After reporting an assault to the police, victims are usually asked if they want to “press charges.” Pressing charges is essentially a request to proceed with the investigation.
While state prosecutors make the ultimate decision of whether to press charges for sexual abuse, few criminal investigations proceed without the participation of a survivor. Criminal prosecutors can decide not to press charges if they feel unable to prove an accused person’s guilt, and the testimony of a victim is usually their cornerstone evidence.
For survivors, this entire process can be terrifying. Sexual abuse is almost always family violence. When it’s not, most survivors are at least acquainted with the victimizer. But without making a report and demanding further investigation, it’s unlikely that an offender will face any legal consequences.
Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation bears this difficulty out. Of every 100 rapes, only 3 are ultimately passed on to criminal prosecutors. Less than 1% of rapes result in an arrest.
How Do I Get A Restraining Order?
Half of all sexual assaults occur within 1 mile of a victim’s home or in their home, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
There’s no way to feel safe if the person who raped you sleeps in the same bedroom. It may be difficult to leave, but you need to get out of there. Every person has the right to at least that much safety. Go to a friend or relative’s house, and bring your children if you have any.
Now consider getting a restraining order, a legal document that instructs sex offenders to stay away from their victims or suffer criminal punishments. We urge you to contact a sexual assault lawyer who can help outline the process for securing a protective order where you live, or refer you to local counsel who can help.
What Happens If Someone Violates A Restraining Order?
Legally, someone who violates a restraining order is considered “in contempt of court.” That means they violated, purposefully disobeyed, the court’s order and can be arrested, put in jail or charged with a criminal misdemeanor or felony. Contact the police immediately whenever a restraining order is violated.
Is It Too Late To Sue?
Every area of civil law comes with a “statute of limitations,” a law that creates a time limit for filing lawsuits. File after the statute is up and the case will be thrown out of court immediately. To complicate the matter, these deadlines vary widely from state to state.
In your research, make sure not to confuse the civil and criminal statute of limitations in your state. The former applies to filing personal injury lawsuits, while the latter governs only criminal charges for sexual abuse.
Statutes Of Limitations For Criminal Charges
In many states, there’s no criminal statute of limitations on violent sexual offenses committed against minors. Some states give survivors a set number of years after they reach the age of majority (between 18 and 21, depending on the state) to press criminal charges. For adults who were sexually assaulted, criminal statutes of limitations differ substantially, both depending on state and the nature of the crime, so you’ll have to research the specific law that holds for your situation.
For a full list of criminal sex abuse statutes of limitations, organized by state, visit the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Statutes Of Limitations For Civil Sex Offender Lawsuits
Most states have recognized that sexual abuse during childhood causes a wide range of psychological reactions, many of which prevent survivors from realizing the nature or severity of what’s happened to them until long after any actual assault.
In these cases, the civil statute of limitations is usually “tolled,” stopped or extended to allow victims the time necessary to come to terms with their abuse and decide on a proper course of action. Effectively, these “delayed discovery” rules extend the statute of limitations to account for repressed memories and emotional trauma. With that being said, note that the rules will be different from state to state, and some places (like Alabama) have far stricter deadlines.
We suggest checking the complete list of sex abuse civil statutes of limitations at the National Conference of State Legislatures to find your state. Be aware that those time limits only apply for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Civil cases involving adult victims of sexual assault are more restricted. Each state has its own sex crime laws, which you can find here, but the statutes generally range from 1 to 6 years after the date of assault. Fewer states have “delayed discovery” rules to toll the statute of limitations for adult survivors, but some do.
Who You Sue Matters
The civil statute of limitations may also change depending on who you sue. Each state will have one statute that applies if you’re filing suit against an offender, and another statute that will apply to cases filed against “third parties,” like businesses where inadequate security led to an assault. Generally, these third party “premises liability” lawsuits are governed by a 2 year statute of limitations, but again there’s a lot of variation in this area of the law.
Finally, in some states, the criminal charges filed against a sex offender determine how long survivors have to file a civil lawsuit.
How Much Will A Sexual Assault Lawyer Cost?
We’re not in the business of becoming a burden. We believe justice should be open to all, regardless of personal circumstances, and understand that sexual abuse often comes with its own set of financial pressures. That’s why our sexual offense attorneys always offer representation on a contingency-fee basis: until we win, you don’t pay.
Learning more about your legal options comes at no charge. Contact our lawyers today and you’ll receive a completely confidential consultation for free.
Justice For Abuse Survivors: Breaking News
By Brian Kent
April 14, 2017- Undocumented Workers Sexually Abused By Hotel Boss
A lawsuit has been filed against Hilton Charlotte University Place hotel, by six undocumented housekeepers. The housekeepers allege that they suffered a decade of sexual assaults by a boss who would threaten them with deportation if they complained. This lawsuit is a risk for these women who have been living and working for years in the United States without the correct documentation. The women stated that they would be trapped in the bedrooms and bathrooms they were cleaning at the time, and their supervisor would come from behind and inappropriately grope them. They were threatened with termination, having their hours cut or being reported to immigration authorities if they reported the assaults. Their complaints were ignored or dismissed when they reported to another superior.
March 29, 2017- Retired Olympic Gymnasts Testify To Congress About Sexual Abuse Allegations
In a hearing on protecting young athletes from sexual abuse, three retired star gymnasts have testified to a senate committee of being sexually abused by USA Gymnastics officials. The hearing was due to a bill that is set to reshape sex-abuse reporting guidelines in Olympic sports. The bill calls for organizations that oversee Olympic sports to act immediately and report sex-abuse allegations to law enforcement or child welfare authorities. This bill comes about after a sex abuse scandal led to the resignation of USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny. Click here for more information about the women’s testimonies.
February 3, 2017- Solebury School In Bucks County Uncovers Decades Of Sexual Abuse
A grand jury from Bucks County recently reported that the Solebury School outside New Hope covered up almost 50 years of sexual relationships between faculty and students. The school is known as a progressive school, however, this case highlights the child predation that was being covered up as progressive education. It was reported that the school allowed its employees to have sexual relations with students and faculty if they wanted to, there were no lines of authority. The report also detailed sexual offenses from the 1950s through 2005. The grand jury listened to testimonies from six former students who described sexual activity with faculty and staff members both on campus in cities miles away. Learn more about the sexual abuse at this school here.
January 5, 2017- Juvenile Detention Officer Arrested For Sexual Abuse
A Fayette County correctional officer has been arrested on sexual abuse charges. The 37-year-old officer was charged with the use of a minor child to produce obscene material. He has also been charged with criminal invasion of privacy and possession of child erotica. The juvenile center he worked at has relieved him of his duties until the outcome of his case is known. For more information about this case click here.
December 14, 2016- University Of Kansas Rower Faces Injustice For Reporting Rape
An ex-University of Kansas student suffered greatly for reporting her rape case. Two years ago the student who was a rower at KU states that she was raped in a football player’s dorm room after a Halloween party. She did not report the rape to university officials for almost a year. When she did finally have enough courage to report the crime, she states that she started a painful journey through a system that failed her and forever changed her. Read more here about her journey which is shared by numbers of women who have been sexually abused on college campuses.
November 25, 2016- U.S. House Speaker Sexual Abuse Lawsuit To Proceed
A former U.S. House Speaker is being sued by a sexual abuse victim stating years of pain and suffering due to the speaker’s abuse. He will continue to collect $1.8 million from the House Speaker after an Illinois judge denied the speaker’s motion to dismiss a breach-of-contract lawsuit. The plaintiff stated that the House Speaker agreed to pay him $3.5 million as compensation for decades of the pain and suffering he caused him.
October 7, 2016- Sexual Abuse Victims Offered Compensation By NY Archdiocese
An independent program has been established by the Archdiocese of New York that will allow victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy to apply for compensation from the church. Abuse claims that are decades old are also eligible for this program. The program has so far addressed the claims of roughly 200 abuse victims who have approached the archdiocese in the last four to five decades with cases involving almost 40 priests. So far, only 30 of those victims have received compensation.
September 20, 2016- Judge Gives No Prison Time For “Toddler Rapist” Teenager
An Iowa District Judge did not give a teenager who pleaded guilty to a sexual act with a 1-year-old any time behind bars. The 19-year-old who pleaded to engaging in a lascivious act with a child, which is a Class C felony, was given a 10-year suspended sentence. He will be on probation for five years and since he served jail time in 2014 he will not spend another day in custody unless there is some violation of the terms of his probation. This sentence has caused a lot of backlash online and a petition to the White House has been created seeking the judge’s removal from the bench.
August 30, 2016- USA Gymnastics Sex Abuse Files To Be Unsealed
A Georgia judge has recently ruled that sexual abuse complaint cases that were compiled by USA Gymnastics need to be released to the public. The purpose of releasing these files is to offer a look into the Olympic organization’s policies for dealing with child abuse. Former gymnasts who suffered sexual abuse are celebrating this ruling as a victory. However, the USA Gymnastics is opposing the release of the documents and plans to appeal the ruling. A motion has already been filed in a Georgia lawsuit by a former gymnast who had accused USA Gymnastics of negligence for its lack of reporting of four allegations against a coach.
March 2, 2016 – Hours Before Best Picture Win, Spotlight’s Mark Ruffalo Stands With Abuse Survivors
Spotlight, which just won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, has done a good deal in bringing childhood sexual abuse out of the shadows. The film focuses on a team of reporters at the Boston Globe who uncovered decades of sexual abuse in the city’s Catholic churches. Perhaps most important, the series of exposé reports published by the real-life team in 2002 led to hundreds of survivors coming forward.
Hours before attending the awards ceremony, actor Mark Ruffalo stood alongside survivors of childhood sexual abuse at a protest outside Los Angeles’ Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The small rally was organized by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a group that helps people victimized by clergy members move forward. Flanked by Josh Singer, director and co-writer of Spotlight, Ruffalo called “for the names of pedophile priests to be released,” according to Hollywood Reporter.