As more and more cases of child sexual abuse and sexual assault make headlines, victims have gotten the courage to take action. You may be here because:
- You or a loved one was sexually assaulted or abused as a child
- You're curious about your legal options
- You want accountability from the enablers of the abuse or assault
Our experienced attorneys focus on helping survivors of sexual crimes in civil court.
The organizations, businesses, and individuals that fail to protect others from sexual abuse deserve to be held accountable.
"Thank you." Brian and his team handled our case professionally and with speed.
- Meet Our Experienced Attorneys
- Statute Of Limitations Reform Empowers Victims
- Filing A Private Civil Lawsuit
- Arizona Criminal Laws On Sexual Abuse & Assault
Were you or a loved one sexually assaulted or abused in Arizona? Our dedicated personal injury attorneys are here to help. You are not alone. We believe you, and we believe your voice should be heard. No matter how it feels at times, help is available. Recovery is possible, and justice is within reach. We believe you deserve to be supported during this trying time. Our attorneys understand the painful emotions raised by sexual assault and sexual abuse. You may still be struggling to deal with feelings of shock and anger, shame and grief. These are natural reactions to a terrible trauma.
Your Rights As A Survivor Of Sexual Violence In Arizona
You did nothing wrong. You did not deserve what happened to you. You were violated. Maybe it was someone you trusted, a doctor or teacher. Perhaps it was a friend, family member or acquaintance. Sexual assault and sexual abuse most often come from the places we'd least expect it to - those closest to us. Whoever abused or assaulted you, know that this was not your fault. Also know that recovery is possible. Your life need not be defined by what happened to you. You can move past this. Our attorneys have seen it happen hundreds of times. Taking justice into your own hands is often the first step.
Thanks to Arizona's long tradition of civil common law, you and your loved ones have powerful legal options, both inside and outside of the criminal justice system. Working with criminal prosecutors to bring your abuser to justice is one thing, but civil action may also be possible. If you or a loved one were assaulted or abused, you may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit, both against your direct abuser and any additional third-party defendants who enabled the abuse to occur through negligence. In a private civil lawsuit, you can pursue valuable financial compensation to support your recovery.
Meet Our Experienced Attorneys
AbuseGuardian.com is sponsored by a nationwide network of dedicated sexual assault and sexual abuse attorneys who have devoted their careers to protecting the rights of survivors. You can trust that our lawyers have your best interests at heart. We work for you and no one else. Our job is to ensure that your rights are promoted through the civil justice system; we have no other goals. Our payment structure is designed to reflect these facts. Our attorneys offer their services on a contingency-fee basis. We only get paid when you do. In brief, you owe us nothing until we secure compensation in your case.
We stop at nothing to ensure that our clients' rights are protected. Over nearly 90 years of combined trial experience, our attorneys have stood up to some of the largest defendants in the country. From a series of lawsuits against America's largest massage spa chain to active litigations against the Catholic Church, our lawyers aren't afraid of taking on major players who have abrogated their duty to protect customers and members from sexual assault and abuse. We get results for our clients, because it matters, whether in the courtroom or around the negotiating table.
Our Arizona Litigation Team
To pursue cases in Arizona, our national network has partnered with the dedicated attorneys at Laffey, Bucci & Kent, a firm with over 40 years of combined legal experience. The experienced attorneys at Laffey, Bucci & Kent have helped countless survivors in their pursuit of justice after sexual assault or sexual abuse, gaining a notable record of success in the process. The firm's attorneys have filed suit against numerous defendants over their decades of experience, including both major and minor players. From private religious boarding schools and nursing homes to the Catholic Church, the lawyers at Laffey, Bucci & Kent are devoted to the work of holding sexual abusers accountable, along with the institutions and organizations that enable abuse and assault to occur.
The firm's sexual misconduct litigation team is led by Brian Kent, Esq., a former prosecutor for the Sex Crimes Unit in the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office in Pennsylvania. In his role as a sex crimes prosecutor, Brian gained invaluable insights into the criminal justice system, as he worked every day to ensure that dangerous sexual predators were brought to justice. Since entering private practice, Brian has continued his work in prosecuting sexual abusers with a renewed focus on working directly with sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors. The civil justice system provides Brian with an expanded opportunity to pursue cases against negligent third-party defendants, parties who are rarely brought to justice in the criminal justice system.
Statute Of Limitations Reform Empowers Victims
Arizona's powerful tradition of civil common law empowers sexual assault and abuse survivors to pursue justice on their own terms by filing private civil lawsuits. In a civil lawsuit, you can pursue accountability and financial compensation from the direct perpetrators of abuse and third-party institutions and organizations that facilitate assault and abuse through their own carelessness. In fact, Arizona's legislature has made it easier than ever to pursue justice.
Thanks to new changes in Arizona state law, thousands more sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors have been given a second shot at justice. A recent bill signed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Monday, May 27, 2019 has extended the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes. Hotly opposed by prominent sexual abuse defendants including the Catholic Church, the bill also opens an 18-month "window of justice," during which survivors who were previously barred from filing suit due to the state's old statute of limitations may revive their cases in court.
What Is The New Statute Of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is a state law that restricts the amount of time plaintiffs have to file their lawsuits. Arizona's previous statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases was severely limited, providing survivors only until their 20th birthday to pursue a case. Arizona legislators have extended the statute of limitations by 10 years. Under the state's new law, survivors of child sexual abuse will be granted until their 30th birthday to file suit. In other words, if you were sexually abused as a minor, you have up to 12 years from the date you turn 18 to pursue your lawsuit, either against the direct perpetrator of abuse or a third-party defendant, such as a school or church, that enabled the abuse to occur through its own negligence.
"Window Of Justice" Opens Opportunity For Historical Sexual Abuse Cases
But the bill's most momentous change may come in the form of a "window of justice." Like California before it, Arizona has chosen to open a temporary window of time for sexual abuse survivors whose compensation claims were barred by the state's previous statute of limitations. The new window will be open for 18 months. As written, the bill provides these time-barred plaintiffs until December 31, 2020 to file a new lawsuit for financial compensation. These claims will be subjected to a higher burden of proof and survivors will not be allowed to push the courts for punitive damages, but the fact remains that thousands of Arizona survivors who were once barred from filing suit have been granted a second chance at justice.
Is More Change On The Way?
Sexual abuse advocates say these historic changes to Arizona state law are only the beginning. Arizona's new statute of limitations was a result of major compromises from both liberal and conservative sides of the political spectrum. Governor Doug Ducey has called the bill "an important first step to providing victims of child sexual abuse with the safety, healing and justice they deserve." And prominent members of Arizona's state legislature, including Republican Senator Paul Boyer have committed themselves publicly to extending the statute of limitations further. In an interview with KTAR News, Boyer said, "there's still more work to be done," noting that, on average, sexual abuse survivors come forward at the age of 48.
Taking Advantage Of Your New Rights
Even so, these momentous changes to state law pose a series of important questions to every sexual abuse survivor in Arizona. Were you sexually abused as a child? Did the abuse occur decades ago? Were you once barred from filing suit by Arizona's old 20-year statute of limitations? Things are about to change. Thanks to the "window of justice," you now have a critical choice to make. For the next 18 months, you have another opportunity to pursue financial compensation. This is the time to pursue justice; after December 31, 2020, you will again lose the right to file suit.
When California passed a similar law in 2000, the state's window of justice resulted in over $1 billion in financial settlements from the Catholic Church. It's likely that Arizona's Catholic establishment is preparing for a similar outcome today. So are hundreds of schools and daycare centers and summer camps and pediatricians. The only question is whether you, as a sexual abuse survivor, will be part of Arizona's new push for justice. Will you take advantage of Arizona's new statute of limitations? Will you participate in the window of justice, regaining your right to pursue financial compensation? Needless to say, these are questions that you will have to answer for yourself. Filing suit is not a decision to be taken lightly. It takes time and hard work and dedication, but when you are ready, our experienced attorneys will be here to help. We've already gained significant experience with similar "window of justice" laws in New York and New Jersey. Our attorneys are now positioned to take advantage of Arizona's window of justice.
Filing A Private Civil Lawsuit
For far too long, sexual assault and sexual abuse survivors have been silenced, intimidated either directly or indirectly to struggle through the ongoing battle for recovery in the shadows. Shame and fear are frequent reminders that society is not the kind and welcoming place we once believed it to be, but a world in which predators lurk among our friends, acquaintances and trusted professionals. For many, closure feels close to impossible. But things can be different. In reality, you have a powerful voice and you can raise it in the name of change. We believe that your story needs to be told.
You are not a victim. You are a survivor, someone who has faced great hardships and come out the other side. It may still hurt, every day. You may feel as though you will never be able to get past what happened to you, but your abuse does not define your life. What defines your life is how you respond. What do you do now, now that your dignity has been violated? We want to tell you about your options in pursuing justice.
The Two Justice Systems
In Arizona, there are two separate paths toward pursing justice against the people and institutions responsible for your abuse - the civil justice system and the criminal justice system. Thankfully, these options are not mutually-exclusive. You can press criminal charges against the direct perpetrator of abuse, while also filing a private civil lawsuit against them and any additional third-party defendants who enabled the abuse to occur. In some cases, these two processes work hand-in-hand, as evidence from a criminal trial can occasionally be introduced into civil proceedings. With that being said, many civil suits are postponed until criminal proceedings have been completed, which allows civil plaintiffs to benefit from the fact of a criminal conviction.
In the criminal justice system, prosecutors pursue charges against the direct perpetrators of abuse, holding priests, teachers, sports coaches and other abusers accountable for their misconduct. In most cases, the institutions and organizations who sponsor these individuals are left untouched by a criminal prosecution. Prosecutors don't usually file criminal charges against the Catholic Church, even though the institution has for decades protected dangerous sexual predators and concealed abuse cases from the authorities. Instead, prosecutors go after individual offenders, the priests who actually abuse children.
How The Civil Justice System Is Different
The civil justice system is very different. In a criminal case, defendants are held accountable to society as a whole, punished for having violated societal codes of conduct. In many ways, the criminal justice system is more about society than it is about individuals who are harmed. It should come as no surprise, then, that many abuse survivors feel used or re-abused by the criminal justice process. We hear many complaints of how abuse survivors feel as though they were treated as glorified pieces of evidence, not human beings worthy of dignity and respect, by criminal prosecutors.
The civil justice system turns this equation on its head. Civil lawsuits are filed on behalf of individual survivors, not society as a whole. Your lawsuit is your's and your's alone; it's about you, your story, and no one else. This is your fight for justice. In a private civil lawsuit, you can pursue personal justice, along with valuable financial compensation to support your recovery. There's a reason these are private lawsuits. It's about you, as the plaintiff.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, our criminal justice system today is not designed to support survivors through their recovery. Things are better now than they once were, but it remains true that the criminal justice system in most cases is aimed at punishing criminal offenders, not providing survivors with the support they so deserve. In criminal prosecutions, survivors are a means to the end of criminal conviction, as physical evidence is a means to an end.
This is not to say that criminal prosecution is not a valuable avenue for seeking closure. Many sexual abuse survivors are greatly helped by participating in a criminal prosecution. Criminal convictions mean something very important. But the fact remains that supports for survivors can be lacking. In particular, the question of financial compensation for survivors is often overlooked by prosecutors. The civil justice system is where this necessary support becomes a reality. In a private lawsuit, you can pursue compensation and justice on your own terms, without worrying about satisfying a prosecutor. You are the only person whose satisfaction matters to us. As civil attorneys, we work for you, and no one else.
The Civil Code For Sex Crimes
Arizona's powerful criminal code holds the direct perpetrators of sexual abuse and sexual assault accountable for their crimes. The state's criminal laws have been crafted over the course of a century by generations of lawmakers, with a twin purpose: to determine liability for objectionable acts and impose punishments on offenders of the legal code. But Arizona is also home to a separate body of laws, ones that hold irrespective of the criminal justice system. This code, the civil justice code, determines how we must act amongst ourselves in civil life.
Arizona's civil laws lay out basic truths about human interaction in a civilized society. We should not touch other people when they don't want us to. We should never put another person in a position where they fear imminent harm. We should never intentionally inflict emotional distress on another person. We should never abuse a child. These rules are embodied in Arizona's civil code, an enormous body of guidelines crafted over the course of centuries through court decisions and legal scholarship. The civil code developed organically over time, both in England and the United States, unlike the criminal justice system, which was explicitly designed with a purpose by Arizona's legislature.
In Arizona, the state's civil code outlines various causes of action - legitimate reasons to sue someone else for financial compensation. Four become relevant in cases of child sexual abuse and sexual assault, but the appropriate causes of action in your case depends on who you intend to sue. In suing the direct perpetrator of abuse or assault, your case will rely on the three torts of assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Cases filed against a third-party defendant, on the other hand, such as a church or school, are premised in the legal theory of negligence.
In most cases, sexual abuse and assault lawsuits filed against first-party criminal offenders rely on what are known as intentional torts. As their name implies, intentional torts are types of wrongdoing that require a finding of intention, i.e. the defendant intended to cause the alleged form of harm. A finding of recklessness, as when a defendant acts with a callous and extreme disregard for the consequences of their actions, is often sufficient to satisfy this condition. The requirement for intention or recklessness distinguishes intentional torts from negligence.
As we mentioned earlier, sexual abuse and sexual assault lawsuits are generally based in three intentional torts:
- Assault - While many of us think colloquially of an "assault" as an attack on someone else, the term has a different technical meaning in Arizona's civil code. In the civil law, "assault" refers to any gesture, statement or action that makes a victim fear the imminent threat of harm. Assault, then, is about the threat of physical harm, not the physical harm itself. It can be a whispered threat or a raised fist, as long as a reasonable person in a similar situation would be made to fear imminent physical harm from the gesture, action or statement.
- Battery - In Arizona's civil code, "battery" is equivalent to what most of us consider to be an assault. These are actions of physical force that result in bodily harm. To be even more specific, battery refers to the intentional touching of another person in an offensive or harmful manner, without the other person's consent.
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress - Our third tort is self-explanatory. The tort holds when a defendant acts in an intentional or reckless manner in order to cause emotional distress to the victim. While linked to the tort of assault conceptually, intentional infliction of emotional distress usually requires a higher burden of proof.
It should be fairly obvious that most cases of sexual abuse and sexual assault satisfy the requirements to constitute both assault and battery. In some cases, the third intentional tort, intentional infliction of emotional distress, can also be used against a defendant, although proving this tort in court can be somewhat complicated.
The intentional torts we described above don't usually apply to cases filed against third-party defendants - the Church that concealed abuse or the school that allowed a dangerous predator to work around children. In contrast to first-party defendant lawsuits, third-party suits rely on the theory of negligence, a doctrine at the base of most personal injury lawsuits. Negligence doesn't care about intention; it cares about duty. Negligence acknowledges that certain people and institutions owe others a duty to act with appropriate care. Schools, for example, owe students and parents a simple duty to screen job applicants based on their criminal history, in hopes of filtering out people who have committed sexual offenses in the past. Negligence is what happens when these duties are violated - when the school fails to screen a job applicant, allowing a dangerous predator to gain access to schoolchildren.
Criminal Laws On Sexual Misconduct
If you or a loved one has recently become a victim of sexual assault or abuse, you may be curious about Arizona’s sexual assault laws. Arizona has sixteen state laws used to prosecute those who commit sexual assault and sex-related crimes.
For victims and survivors, seeing their abuser or assaulter brought to justice is a vital part of the healing process. Of course, prosecuting sexual offenders also benefits society as a whole by taking dangerous predators off the streets.
Child Abuse Laws In Arizona
Survivors should also be aware of how the civil courts can help them. A civil sexual abuse lawsuit can provide support in ways criminal courts cannot, such as:
- Holding perpetrators accountable when they're not convicted
- Holding third parties liable for enabling abuse
- Providing financial support for personal and economic damages related to abuse
Founding partner Brian Kent began his career as a criminal prosecutor, but decided to make a change specialize in civil sexual abuse cases so he could do more to help victims. From Tucson and Phoenix to Flagstaff and Tempe, our Arizona sexual abuse victims' lawyers can help you learn more about both sides of the process in a free consultation.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse, there are programs in Arizona that can help. Need help now? Reach out to a rape crisis center in your area to access counseling and legal services. To find a comprehensive list of Arizona's rape crisis centers, visit the University of Arizona's Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Program.
In the Tucson area, the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault is an excellent resource for rape and sexual assault survivors. Contact the Center now to receive 24-hour crisis intervention, legal advocacy and referrals to other services. You can reach their trained counselors at any time by calling (520) 327-1171.
State Laws For Child Sexual Abuse
Arizona takes sexual crimes against children extremely seriously, as you can see by the numerous laws against these crimes:
Molestation Of Child Under 15
If an adult makes any type of sexual contact with a child under 15, he or she can be charged with a Class 2 felony in Arizona. The punishment varies depending on the age of the offender and the victim: If the child is under 15 years old, the punishment is five years in prison; if the offender is at least 18 or tried as an adult and the child was age 12 or younger, the offender may be sentenced to a maximum sentence of life in prison and is ineligible for release until he or she has served 35 years; if the offender is at least 18 or tried as an adult and the victim is between ages 12-14, the presumptive sentence is 20 years.
Luring Of A Minor For Sexual Exploitation
Anyone who offers or solicits sexual contact with another person who he or she knows or has reason to know is a minor may be charged with luring of a minor for sexual exploitation – a Class 3 felony in Arizona punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison.
Aggravated Luring Of A Minor For Sexual Exploitation
This charge is similar to the previous one but involves the use of an electronic communication device (such as a computer or cell phone) to either transmit visual depiction of sexually explicit images or to offer or solicit sexual conduct with a minor.
Sexual Exploitation Of A Minor
Someone can be charged with sexual exploitation of a minor if they record, film, photograph, develop, or duplicate any visual depiction of a minor engaged in an exploitive exhibition of sexual conduct. This charge is also used against people who distribute, transport, receive, sell, purchase, transmit, possess, or in any way exchange this sexually explicit material involving children. Sexual exploitation of a minor is considered a Class 2 felony in Arizona.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation Of A Minor
A person can be charged with commercial sexual exploitation of a child if they’re involved with the production of visual depictions or live acts of children engaging in sexual conduct or exploitive exhibition, which is used for financial gain. This crime is a Class 2 felony, punishable by the same rules explained under “Molestation Of Child Under 15”.
Continuous Sexual Abuse Of A Child Under 14
If an adult sexually abuses a child under 14 in at least three separate incidents within a period of three months or more, that adult can be charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child. This is a Class 2 felony in Arizona.
Public Sexual Indecency To A Minor
According to Arizona law, a person commits public sexual indecency to a minor by intentionally or knowingly engaging in any act of sexual contact, oral sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or bestiality and is reckless about whether a minor is present to witness the act. Public sexual indecency to a minor is a Class 5 felony in Arizona and punishable by 1.5 years in prison.
Sexual abuse charges can be levied in cases involving both adults and minors, and are broken into two classifications. A person can be charged with sexual abuse if they intentionally or knowingly engage in sexual contact with anyone over age 15 without their consent, or with any person under 15 years old regardless of consent if the contact only involves the female breast.
Sexual abuse against victims over age 15 is a Class 5 felony punishable by 1.5 years in prison, while a charge involving a minor is a Class 3 felony punishable by 3.5 years.
Sexual Conduct With A Minor
An adult can be charged with sexual conduct with a minor by intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sex with anyone under 18 years old. If the minor is under 15 years old, the crime will be charged as a Class 2 felony. Sexual conduct with minors 15 years old and older is a Class 6 felony punishable by one year in prison. If the minor was at least 15 years old but the adult was in a position of trust (such as a teacher, counselor, doctor, etc.) the adult will be charged with a Class 2 felony, which has much more severe punishments (See “Molestation Of A Child Under 15” for the punishment for a Class 2 felony).
State Laws Regarding Sexual Assault
Arizona’s criminal code has five different laws which deal with sexual crimes involving adults:
Anyone who intentionally or knowingly engages in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent may be found guilty of sexual assault in Arizona. This crime is a Class 2 felony: First offenses are punishable by 5.25-14 years in prison; if the crime involves force or the threat of force against the victim or two or more previous felonies, the sentence is 14-28 years; if the victim was under 12 years old, sexual assault is punishable by life in prison.
Sexual Assault Of Spouse
Sexual assault of a spouse is handled differently than other sexual assault cases in Arizona. If a person sexually assaults their spouse, the first offense is a Class 6 felony punishable by one year in prison. In subsequent offenses, the charges can be upgraded to a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Violent Sexual Assault
If a sexual assault involves the use of a deadly weapon, dangerous instrument, or the infliction of serious physical injury and a prior felony conviction for a sex offense, the offender will receive a natural life sentence in prison.
Sexual Misconduct; Behavioral Health Professionals
In Arizona, it’s illegal for a health professional, psychiatrist, or psychologist to have sexual intercourse with one of their patients or clients. This is a Class 6 felony, punishable by one year in prison.
Unlawful Sexual Conduct
Arizona has two separate laws which prohibit sexual conduct between employees of an adult or juvenile probation department and correctional employees. These employees can be charged with unlawful sexual conduct if they coerce someone to engage in sexual contact by threatening to negatively influence their supervision status or offering to positively influence their supervision status.
The penalties for this crime are more severe when minors are involved: if the minor is under 15, the employee will be charged with a Class 2 felony; if the victim is at least 15 but under 18, the employee will be charged with a Class 3 felony (punishable by 3.5 years in prison). If the victim was an adult, the employee will be charged with a Class 5 felony (punishable by 1.5 years).
How Civil Courts Help Survivors Of Sexual Assault & Abuse
Unfortunately, criminal prosecution often falls short of the full support survivors of sexual violence need. The criminal court system is primarily focused on punishing offenders, rather than directly helping victims. Sometimes, these courts fail to convict offenders which can cause even more trauma for victims. Our experienced Arizona sexual assault lawyers help survivors seek justice and get the financial support they need through the civil court system. We can help you learn more about your legal options in a free consultation.