Child and adult sex abuse, rape, and misconduct cases are complex - both legally and emotionally. At our firm, you will find a caring group of attorneys who fight to help sexual abuse survivors regain their voices after an unspeakable trauma. Survivors of sex abuse need to have their voices heard after a crime has been committed against themselves or a loved one. Our team is made up of:
Trust us to handle your case. We will not let you down. Our only goal is to help you find the strength that already lies inside. Our lawyers know this area of the law and are here to help. We believe you, and we believe your story must be told. The civil justice system is an opportunity to start the recovery process.
Sex assault shatters lives. Being victimized unlocks a powerful range of emotions, from pain and fear to shame and embarrassment. You don't need to be defined by these emotions. Whatever your circumstances, know that this wasn't your fault. In fact, you can fight back and find your voice again. Whether you are a victim looking for a sex trafficking lawyer, or are helping a loved one, we are here for you.
No one would deny that dangerous offenders should be punished. But our current legal system seems more interested in doling out punishments than supporting victims as they attempt to rebuild after an unforgivable violation. Every day, the American criminal justice system fails the very people it should be protecting. When crimes are prosecuted, even those involving sexual misconduct, survivors are left by the wayside, or worse, treated as pieces of evidence in the investigation. Survivors need an advocate who truly works in their best interests. When the government fails, families who have been devastated by sexual abuse turn to a different form of justice: the civil court system and experienced sex abuse lawyers.
AbuseGuardian.com is sponsored by a national network of sexual abuse and assault attorneys, legal professionals devoted to ensuring that the rights of survivors are protected. To find resources specific to your state, click one of the links below:
At Abuse Guardian, 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.
One of the most difficult challenges confronting sexual abuse survivors is facing the reality of what has happened to you. Sexual assault and abuse bring forth a wide and difficult range of emotions, including pain, anger, depression, and, in some cases, even shame. 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.
Our sexual assault lawyers are devoted to protecting the best interests of abuse victims. We believe that for many survivors, filing a personal injury claim can make up for some of the failings endemic to criminal justice.
You are not alone. Stepping forward is difficult, but it's not impossible. It can be extremely empowering to find the strength within you. We've devoted our lives to helping survivors just like you find their voices and make a change in the world. It's time to raise your voice.
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.
If you're looking for answers, we've provided a list of some of the most common questions survivors have. Remember that while finding answers is useful, no one should have to fight this battle alone. We believe, and we're prepared to fight for you in whatever way we can. Don't be afraid to seek out the help you need through support groups, friends, family, and a victims' rights attorney with experience in these matters.
The legal definition of sexual assault varies from state to state. But generally, sexual assault is defined as any form of unwanted touching or contact of a sexual nature. This includes everything from someone intentionally brushing up against you on a crowded subway to forced penetration with the use of a deadly weapon. Remember that any type of touching which you did not consent to may be considered assault. Also, keep in mind that the victim is never to blame for an assault. There is no good reason for another person to violate your boundaries.
Anyone can be the victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse. Although a large majority of rape victims are women, a CDC study found that 1 in 71 men in the US has been the victim of rape or attempted rape. However, these crimes are underreported for victims of all genders.
Men may hesitate to report because of a stigma associated with male rape victims or the common misconception that men cannot be raped. Women may fear that they won't be believed or that their attacker will retaliate against them. In either case, know that the police and those close to you are on your side.
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 claims on behalf of victims against either abusers or "third parties," like an apartment owner whose negligence allowed an assault to occur or a Church leader who hid allegations of sexual abuse from the authorities. Civil attorneys shine a light on survivors' voices, putting them in control of their own cases. We give a voice to the voiceless, while providing compassionate protection, a shoulder to cry on and a helping hand to guide them. Since sexual assault is a sensitive issue, we fully understand that confidentiality is a priority for many survivors. Everything you tell us will be protected by an attorney/client privilege, ensuring that your story is kept with the utmost confidence.
Every area of civil law comes with a "statute of limitations," a law that creates a time limit for filing. 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 latter governs only criminal charges for sexual abuse.
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 the 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.
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 the assault. Fewer states have "delayed discovery" rules to toll the statute of limitations for adult survivors, but some do.
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" cases 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 case.
Child sexual abuse is an inappropriate physical or sexual contact between a child and an adult or older adolescent. Examples include direct sexual contact, indecent exposure of private body parts, child grooming, and the production of child pornography. This abuse causes devastating mental trauma which can stay with a child for the rest of their lives, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In roughly 90% of child sexual abuse cases, the offender is either a family member or acquaintance of the family. Many abusers seek positions of trust and authority to more easily commit their crimes, such as priests or Boy Scout leaders. It's important for parents to maintain an active role in their kid's lives and to teach them about boundaries regarding touching, private parts, and personal space.
If your child has told you about sexual abuse, or if you've picked up on the signs on your own, you may be feeling angry, frustrated, and panicked. Our deepest condolences go out to you. Even though all parents are aware of dangerous child predators, it's hard to handle the torrent of emotions you experience when your child becomes a victim.
If your family is currently dealing with this type of tragedy, try to keep the following points in mind:
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 their 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. We know that we can help you find the power inside you to step forward and fight for justice, coming to a degree of closure with what happened to you. We believe your story, and we believe it should be told.
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. No one deserves to live like this and you have the power to change your circumstances. 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. Don't blame yourself. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Sexual assault is never your fault. Every person has the right to basic 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. It's another step on the path to safety.
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.
Yes. Survivors of sexual assault, including rape and childhood sexual abuse, have every right to file 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 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. Filing is a major decision, one that you should only make after considering your options fully. We know that you have the strength inside to move forward, conquer your fears, and share your story. If you're thinking about making the courageous step of coming forward, contact one of our experienced attorneys today for a free consultation.
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.
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. Standing up to a family member, friend or someone you once trusted can seem impossible. But without making a report and demanding further investigation, it's unlikely that the 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. That's why civil litigation is so important. Most abusers never see justice through the criminal justice system. Instead, justice is more often done when individual survivors stand up and make their voices heard. Our personal injury attorneys can help you find the strength inside to make this brave choice.
If you've been sexually assaulted, you may be feeling scared, depressed, and uncertain of what to do next. But there are steps you can take to help hold your attacker responsible for their actions:
The police will investigate your claim and gather evidence of the crime. They will speak with you (or your abused child) to get your side of the story and also interview any possible witnesses. They may also set up something called a "pretext call", where they have you call your attacker from the police station and attempt to elicit a confession over the phone. This call will be recorded and can be used in court.
They may also ask you to complete a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) exam which collects forensic evidence of the crime. These exams are completely voluntary, but it would be wise to undergo one so that you have the evidence you need in a trial. If the police find enough evidence of a crime, they will arrest your attacker. If he or she is released on bail, he or she will be prohibited from contacting you or any witnesses. If they violate this order, they will be sent back to jail until the trial.
A lawsuit can help provide compensation for the variety of damages you may be facing after your assault, including:
Juries are usually sympathetic to the victims of these heinous crimes, so it's common to see very high compensation amounts for these cases. A lawsuit can also help other victims gain the courage to come forward if they've also suffered abuse from the same attacker or within the same institution. We've seen this in cases like the Bill Cosby scandal, where dozens of other victims came forward after the first claim was made.
In many cases of sexual assault and abuse, there are several parties who either covered up the crimes or did not do enough to stop the abuse. We've seen this in recent years with organizations like the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America covering up child molestation or allowing sex offenders to work with kids. Other examples include colleges, universities, and employers not taking sexual assault seriously or attempting to cover it up.
Additionally, property owners are sometimes responsible for neglecting to fix dangerous conditions which made their properties more susceptible to crime. For example, if you were assaulted in a poorly lit parking lot, the owner could face liability in a lawsuit. In many states, it's illegal not to report child sexual abuse if you suspect it. Those who see something wrong and don't say anything also bear some of the responsibility for sexual crimes.