If your family has recently been affected by sexual assault or child sexual abuse, you're not alone. Our lawyers help families like yours seek justice. Are you struggling with questions like:
Our victims' rights attorneys serve survivors all over Pennsylvania from our law offices in Philadelphia, PA and can help you seek accountability and support after surviving a sexual crime. Contact us for your free case evaluation.
Were you or a loved one sexually abused or sexually assaulted in Pennsylvania? Our experienced attorneys can help. We understand the powerful and painful emotions that sexual abuse can leave behind. Know that you did nothing wrong. You are not to blame.
You were violated in a horrific way, but you can fight back. It's possible, thanks to Pennsylvania's strong tradition of civil common law. As a survivor in Pennsylvania, you have powerful legal rights, including the power to pursue a civil lawsuit against the parties responsible for the harm you have suffered.
In some cases, eligible survivors may be able to pursue justice by filing a private claim for financial compensation. Anger, embarrassment, depression, shame, fear - these are natural reactions to a terrible trauma. If you are still struggling to deal with these painful emotions, know that you are not alone. Support is available. While it may feel sometimes as though you have nowhere or no one to turn to, you do.
AbuseGuardian.com is sponsored by a national network of compassionate assault and sexual abuse attorneys. To pursue cases in Pennsylvania, our network has partnered with the experienced attorneys at Laffey, Bucci & Kent, a personal injury law firm based in Philadelphia.
Over 90 years of combined trial experience, the dedicated attorneys at Laffey, Bucci & Kent have helped countless sexual abuse and assault survivors pursue justice by filing private civil lawsuits. You can secure compensation, and force the responsible parties to be held accountable.
The attorneys of Laffey, Bucci & Kent have the resources and experience necessary to pursue your case with confidence. The firm's sexual assault and abuse practice team is led by firm Partner Brian Kent, Esq., a former criminal prosecutor in the Sex Crimes Unit of Montgomery County's District Attorney's Office. In that role, Brian fought every day to advance the rights of victims and prosecute dangerous offenders. He also gained invaluable experience working in the criminal justice system. Since moving to private practice, Brian's passion for protecting the rights of survivors has only grown.
Our experienced sexual abuse and assault team has helped numerous survivors find their voices after suffering a severe trauma. You have power, both inside and outside of the criminal justice system. Justice is possible.
You are not alone. At AbuseGuardian.com, our experienced attorneys believe sexual assault and abuse survivors. We believe that you have a powerful story that should be told. Far too often, survivors are bullied into silence, forced to live lives of quiet desperation as they struggle to come to terms with what happened to them. Shame and fear are common, while closure seems far away. You did nothing wrong. You did not deserve to be mistreated; no one does. No one deserves to be hurt, or used, or violated or forced to act in ways that they don't feel comfortable with. You deserve to be treated as a valuable person, filled with dignity and beauty and light.
You do not have to be defined by what happened to you. Recovery is possible, though it often takes years of difficult work and concerted action. We believe that you deserve justice. Whether or not the person who harmed you has been prosecuted, you can fight for justice on your own terms by pursuing a private civil lawsuit for compensation.
Thanks to Pennsylvania's powerful tradition of common law, survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault have a choice. If you were violated by a criminal offender, you have the power to file a civil lawsuit and demand accountability from the responsible parties. Lawsuits can be filed against both the direct perpetrator of the misconduct, as well as any organizations, individuals or institutions that facilitated the abuse through their own negligence.
Sexual assault and sexual abuse come in many forms, and can be perpetrated by any number of offenders. These horrific crimes can take place at any time, in any venue. It could be a family member, a trusted physician or a massage spa employee. It could be a nursing home worker, a daycare staff member or a priest. In most cases, sexual misconduct comes from the place we least expect, as the vast majority of these crimes are committed by someone we already know.
In any of these cases, we all agree that sexual assault and sexual abuse are horrendous violations that must be met by a swift response. We've all seen how the criminal justice system plays a critical role in responding to wrongdoing. The criminal justice system's role is to investigate and prosecute the direct perpetrators of sexual misconduct, secure convictions and incarcerate the offenders. But unfortunately, support for survivors often tends to be lacking, especially where financial compensation is concerned. The criminal justice system wasn't designed to support the victims of crime; it was created to punish offenders.
Due to its single-minded focus, the criminal justice system often falls short in providing concrete assistance to survivors. This is the power of the civil justice system, an alternative justice system in which survivors are allowed to tell their own stories and pursue justice on their own terms. The civil justice system provides survivors with another option. If you're looking for a strong network of support, someone to stand beside you through thick and thin, you'll find it by reaching out to a committed civil attorney.
Our attorneys have seen it happen over and over. A sexual assault or sexual abuse survivor comes to our offices, hoping to pursue justice against the parties responsible for the misconduct. Many feel as though they were used by the criminal justice system, treated as glorified pieces of evidence. Now, they're looking to take control over their legal futures, searching for a venue in which they can tell their stories, without having to contest with the whims of a criminal prosecutor.
We offer these people hope. It's an unfortunate fact of our current legal system that the criminal justice system is not designed to support these survivors. The criminal justice system's goal is to hold criminal offenders accountable to society at large, not to individual victims. While this is necessary work, and many survivors are helped when the offender is convicted, this system doesn't put victims at the heart of the matter. Tragically, victims often become an afterthought. The civil justice system reverses this equation. As a survivor of sexual assault or sexual abuse, your story becomes the center of attention. The civil justice system's goal is to hold criminal offenders and the organizations that enabled them accountable to you, not to society as a whole. This is your venue, where justice becomes personal. In a very real sense, you, as the plaintiff, become the only person that matters.
Pennsylvania's powerful criminal code holds criminal offenders liable for their misconduct. These laws were crafted by legislatures over the course of decades to seek responsibility and impose punishments against offenders. But there is also a separate set of laws, codes of conduct and liability that have developed over the course of centuries. This is the civil legal code, a body of rules under which survivors of violence can hold their abusers accountable for financial compensation.
As we've already discussed, Pennsylvania law allows survivors to file civil lawsuits against both direct perpetrators of abuse and organizations or institutions that facilitated the wrongdoing through negligence. While these claims, for obvious reasons, are closely linked, in large part because they arise from the same act or acts of sexual abuse or sexual assault, they rely on separate legal theories contained in Pennsylvania's history of civil law.
Pennsylvania's body of common law sets out various causes of action - legitimate reasons to file suit against someone else. In most cases, lawsuits filed against the direct perpetrators of sex crimes will rely on three different legal theories, all of which are recognized by Pennsylvania's courts:
These three causes of action are often referred to as intentional torts, because, unlike negligence, they require by definition a finding of intent on the part of the offender. In each case, the offender intended to inflict harm on the victim, rather than having made a mistake or error that resulted in harm unintentionally, as in many cases of negligence. When survivors file suit to pursue compensation from the crime's direct perpetrator, the intentional torts of assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress generally serve as the basis of the claim. In most cases, you'll see these three torts come together, as a package of three separate but co-occurring claims against the offender.
In addition to filing suit against individual offenders, Pennsylvania's strong body of civil law also allows survivors and their loved ones to pursue justice against the institutions or organizations that facilitate sexual abuse and sexual assault, either by concealing allegations, protecting offenders or failing to prevent sex crimes in the first place.
While direct offenders are the ones who actually perpetrate wrongdoing, many forms of misconduct are enabled by larger organizations or institutions that failed to prevent the abuse. Some institutions look the other way, ignoring sexual abuse and empowering dangerous predators to abuse additional unsuspecting victims. Other organizations take a more active approach, working to conceal crimes from the authorities.
One has only to think of the Catholic Church in this regard. This is an organization that, for almost a century, has consistently worked to protect dangerous predators by concealing sexual abuse cases from secular authorities. Behind each case of clergy abuse stands the Catholic Church and its decades-long secret policy of silencing victims, protecting child molesters and deceiving the public.
This, again, is the power of the civil justice system. The criminal justice system will never hold the Catholic Church accountable for its policies. The best the criminal justice system can do is to prosecute individual priests for having committed a sex crime. It usually can't touch Catholic parishes, or bishops who oversaw priests who sexually abused children.
In the civil justice system, these lawsuits become possible, and these nuanced stories of negligence and failure can be told. Needless to say, the behavior of the Catholic Church over the past decades has been unacceptable. No one should work to protect sexual abusers from justice, but the Catholic Church has done so for years. Thankfully, a new wave of public pressure is forcing the Catholic Church to take account for its actions.
A recent grand jury report commissioned by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office has revealed the extent of sexual abuse within Pennsylvania churches, allowing the public an unflinching look into the way dozens of Catholic bishops and other church leaders have concealed misconduct cases over the years and throwing the Church into a renewed crisis. At the same time, hundreds of survivors for the first time are stepping into the open to pursue justice.
The push for renewed litigation against the Catholic Church is alive and well, and many states, including Pennsylvania, are even now considering new laws that would support survivors in their fight for accountability. Of course, criminal prosecutors across the nation are playing an essential role in these efforts, creating task forces on clergy sexual abuse to investigate and prosecute cases wherever possible. But much of this valuable work is taking place through the civil justice system, where survivors and their families have the right to file private civil lawsuits against the Church, bishops, deacons and individual priests.
The legal theory of negligence serves as the basis for the majority of sexual abuse and sexual assault lawsuits, at least when these claims involve a third-party defendant, some organization or individual distinct from the crime's direct perpetrator. At its core, negligence refers to the careless or reckless disregard for the safety and wellbeing of others.
Negligence requires duty. The concept of negligence recognizes that some people owe others a duty of care, an obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent the suffering of harm. Doctors, for example, owe their patients a duty to follow recognized standards of medical care, as well as a duty to provide care in a professional and courteous manner. Summer camps, as another example, owe campers and their families a duty to prevent harm, including the harm of sexual abuse.
Most businesses have a duty to prevent sexual abuse from occurring insofar as they can. And any business that works with young children has an obvious obligation to prevent the occurrence of abuse. Think of a daycare center that cares for dozens of children on a daily basis. Ethically and legally, child care centers owe children and families an obligation to provide adequate care to children. An aspect of this obligation is to take all reasonable steps to prevent child abuse from taking place.
The childcare center can fulfill its duty to provide sufficient care in any number of ways. Perhaps security cameras are installed in childcare areas to monitor employee interactions with the children. In most cases, thorough background checks should be performed for all new hires to filter out applicants with a history of sex crimes. Maybe a policy is implemented that no staff member can be alone with the children without a supervisor present.
What happens, then, when a case of sexual abuse takes place at the daycare center? Needless to say, the proper authorities should be called in to investigate the situation, identify the offender and pursue a prosecution. But beyond these efforts of the criminal justice system, parents also have the option to reach out to an experienced sexual abuse attorney.
Child sexual abuse is not inevitable, especially in an institutional setting such as a daycare center. Through concerted investigation, the civil attorney may learn that one of the daycare center's policies to prevent misconduct failed in this case, allowing the offender to gain unfettered access to a young victim. The examples of negligence are myriad in this case. Maybe the facility failed to perform an adequate background check of the perpetrator, missing a prior conviction. Perhaps the facility failed to monitor security camera footage, missing out on video evidence of the abuse taking place. Or another employee failed to report her suspicions to a manager, allowing the offender to victimize further children.
These would all be examples of negligence. The daycare center failed to uphold its obligation to provide adequate care to the children under its charge, allowing sexual abuse to occur due to a mistake or error.
Negligence comes in many forms. It can be a mistake, or an error, a failure to perform an action with sufficient care or a concerted attempt to conceal a sexual abuse case. In any event, when negligence lies at the core of a sexual assault or abuse case, survivors and their families gain the right to pursue financial compensation from the negligent organization.
Hundreds of thousands of organizations and establishments across the country owe their members, guests, customers, visitors and residents a duty to prevent sexual assault and sexual abuse.
Schools both public and private owe students a duty to reduce the risk of misconduct by implementing and maintaining rigorous policies against assault and abuse, as do colleges and universities. Massage spas owe their customers an obligation to prevent assault by screening potential workers prior to their hiring and responding appropriately to sexual abuse allegations when they are leveled.
In the same vein, hotels, motels and apartment buildings owe their visitors and residents an obligation to provide adequate security against criminal offenders. Doctors owe their patients a duty to provide medical care with professionalism. This list could go on forever. The upshot, however, is that all of these individuals and organizations owe their participants a basic duty to protect against sex crimes of any form. Sex crimes have devastating effects on victims which can last a lifetime. These traumatic experiences can cause a variety of physical, mental, and emotional damages. It’s important for our laws to reflect the serious and destructive nature of these crimes.
If you or someone you love has recently become the victim of a sexual crime, you may be wondering how your state's laws might influence the prosecution of your offender. We've provided summaries of Pennsylvania's sexual assault laws in the section below, but remember that these laws often change.
You should also be aware that the criminal justice system mainly focuses on the prosecution of predators. These courts often do little to nothing for the victims of crimes, besides offering the comfort of taking a dangerous predator off the streets.
In order to hold complicit third parties liable (such as organizations who attempted to cover up the crime or failed to run hiring background checks) and secure financial support for the personal and financial difficulties your family is facing, it's often necessary to file a civil lawsuit.
From Philadelphia and Allentown to Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, our experienced civil attorneys help sexual assault and abuse survivors step forward and share their stories with confidence. You can find more information about how we can help in a free, confidential legal consultation today.
Laws regarding sexual abuse vary from state to state. In Pennsylvania, sex crimes are classified into ten categories:
According to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues Title 18, Chapter 31, Sections 3125: Aggravated indecent assault occurs when a person “engages in penetration, however slight, of the genitals or anus of a complainant with a part of the person’s body for any purpose other than good faith medical, hygienic or law enforcement procedures.”
These charges can either be first-degree or second-degree felonies, depending on the age of the victim. First-degree charges are applied to cases with victims under 13 years old and may involve:
When these forms of misconduct involve an adult victim, a second-degree felony is the most likely charge. Statutory charges may also be levied in consensual cases if the victim is under 16 years old and there is an age difference of four or more years with the perpetrator.
First-degree felony cases are punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. Second-degree felonies carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and also up to $25,000 in fines.
Sexual relations with immediate relatives are illegal in Pennsylvania, according to incest laws. According to the state, incest occurs when a person “knowingly marries or cohabits or has sexual intercourse with an ancestor or descendant, a brother or sister of the whole or half blood or an uncle, aunt, nephew or niece of the whole blood.”
Incest is a second-degree felony.
Indecent assault involves sexual contact without consent, including contact with bodily fluids such as semen, urine, and feces. This crime can either be classified as a third-degree felony or a first or second-degree misdemeanor, depending on specific circumstances. Indecent assault charges can also be enforced as statutory charges if the victim gave consent but is under the age of 16 and the offender is at least four years older than the victim.
These cases involve institutional authority figures engaging in sexual contact with an inmate, detainee, patient, or resident. Employees in the following workplaces can be charged with institutional sexual assault:
These crimes are third-degree felonies and carry a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
IDSI charges are similar to rape, but are applied to a broader range of sexual acts. A predator may be charged with IDSI for crimes involving:
Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse is a first-degree felony.
Under Pennsylvania law, rape is a first-degree felony defined as sexual intercourse without consent. There are several situations in which a victim may be unable to give consent, including:
In Pennsylvania, child sex abuse can be charged as either a third-degree or second-degree felony. The more serious second-degree charges are reserved for repeat offenders and those who have produced photos or videos of the abuse. These charges also can be applied in a statutory sense if the victim is younger than the age of consent (16 years old) and 4 or more years younger than the perpetrator.
Sexual assault occurs when a predator engages in sexual contact with a victim without the victim’s consent. Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not every sexual assault is considered rape. Rape usually involves the use of force or a threat of the use of force. Sexual assault charges may be applied to any case of unwanted sexual contact.
This is a second-degree felony which involves child sex trafficking. This charge may be applied against anyone who solicits child sexual abuse for another person.
In Pennsylvania, statutory sexual assault charges involve cases of consensual sexual contact between an adult and someone under the age of 16. These can either be first or second-degree felonies, depending on circumstances.
A first-degree charge will be levied if the victim is under 16 years old and the offender is 11 or more years older. All other cases of statutory sexual assault fall under second-degree felony charges.
There are exceptions if the victim and the young person are married to each other.
In Pennsylvania, offenders who are convicted of sexual offenses must register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
If you or a loved one has recently been victimized in a sexual crime, we understand the pain your family is going through. Although it may be difficult, we encourage you to report the crime to the police so that the offender can be held responsible in a court of law. While criminal penalties are important for gaining closure, a guilty verdict can only do so much for victims. These crimes cause physical and mental injuries which require medical and psychiatric care. A sex abuse lawsuit can help provide the compensation victims need while they’re attempting to move on from such a traumatic event.
Pennsylvania's strong tradition of civil common law allows sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors to file lawsuits against responsible parties. But a law known as the statute of limitations could dramatically impact your ability to file suit. The statute of limitations serves as a legal time limit, counting down the amount of time you have to pursue your lawsuit. Complying with the statute of limitations is absolutely essential. If you try to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations has run out, your case will be dismissed from court without a second thought. As a result, it's critical to contact an experienced Pennsylvania attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your legal rights are protected.
Pennsylvania law actually sets out two different relevant civil statutes of limitation, one for the sexual assault of adult victims and a second for childhood sexual abuse.
For cases of child sexual abuse, wherein the victim was a minor at the time of the crime, Pennsylvania's civil statute of limitations provides survivors with up to 12 years from their 18th birthday to file suit. In other words, most survivors of childhood sexual abuse have until their 30th birthday to pursue a civil lawsuit.
Note, however, that this law may change in the coming months. Thanks to the recent Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, Pennsylvania's legislators are currently considering a new law that would dramatically extend the statute of limitations, providing survivors with even more time. The proposed legislation would also open a temporary window in which survivors would be able to file suit over cases of historical abuse that were previously barred by the statute of limitations. Needless to say, these would be momentous changes to Pennsylvania state law.
For victims of sexual assault who were violated as adults, Pennsylvania's current statute of limitations is two years, beginning on the date of the assault or misconduct. Obviously, this is a very short time limit for something as major as filing a lawsuit.
If you or a loved one have survived a sexual assault, you may be wondering what your legal rights are. Our legal team is here to answer all of your questions and support you during this time.
What many survivors don't realize is that in addition to the criminal charges that they can bring against their assailant, they may also be able to file a civil lawsuit. This form of lawsuit is designed to provide the plaintiff with monetary compensation for the losses they have sustained.
We at Abuse Guardian understand that no amount of money can ever change the horror that you have lived through, however, it can help to pay for the care that is needed in the future, both physical and emotional. Even after all the physical damage has healed, many victims suffer from PTSD, depression, and anxiety and while therapy and medications may help, these treatments are not inexpensive.
To learn more about our law firm, how we can help you, and your legal options, contact us today.
Our law firm believes that all sexual assault survivors, whether they be children or adults, deserve to be compensated for the terrible experience they have endured. While victims may feel a great sense of relief through pursuing criminal charges, in many cases they can also file a civil lawsuit.
Civil lawsuits are filed against negligent parties. To most plaintiffs surprise, a negligent party doesn't always mean the person or persons who caused them harm - although it can. In some cases, a third party's actions contributed to the circumstances which led to the attack. For example, if the victim was attacked in a parking garage and it is found that there was inadequate security in that garage, it may be possible to file a lawsuit against the property owners or the managers of the garage for failing to provide a safe environment.
Our team fully reviews every case to determine who is considered negligent. Then, we pursue justice on our client's behalf and if a carefully negotiated settlement isn't an option, we present the matter before a judge and jury.
Children come into this world trusting that the adults in their lives will take care of them and protect them. Sadly, some of the adults they come into contact with do not have their best interests at heart and hurt them in the worst ways imaginable.
Our legal team abhors all sexual assault including child abuse. We make it our mission to hold the parties whose negligence resulted in harm to a child responsible for what they have done. Through a child sex abuse lawsuit, the victim and their loved ones have the opportunity to regain compensation which will help them to pay for their medical care and emotional care. You can be sure that we will do everything in our power to make sure you and your child get what you need. Contact us now to learn more.
Pennsylvania is home to a wealth of free legal resources for sexual assault and abuse survivors. Below, you'll find a selection of these resources, along with helpful information on how each organization can help. Every organization in our list provides their services free of charge.
Date: April 30, 2020, at 9:30 PM
Registration: Email [email protected]
Description: In this webinar, the experienced sexual assault attorneys at our Philadelphia, PA law office, will discuss the types of sex crimes that permit a criminal lawsuit. Our legal team understands this area of law very well and will answer any questions individuals may have. This webinar will be held by Google Hangout. To register, please email [email protected]