Sexual abuse survivors have endured unfathomable violations of their physical and emotional integrity. They deserve to have the legal system work for them to hold their abusers, and anyone who facilitated abuse, accountable. The committed, compassionate attorneys at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman make it our mission to assist survivors seeking justice and compensation under Florida law.
It takes enormous strength and fortitude for a survivor to share a history of sexual abuse. Artificial, unjust hurdles in the legal system only compounded the challenges survivors face, especially when they seek justice for abuse that occurred years ago. Fortunately, the tide may finally have begun to turn. New legislation pending in the Florida legislature, if passed and signed into law, may make it easier for survivors to step forward and hold their abusers and those who enabled the abuse to account.
It’s about time. Since the early 2000s, the nation has begun to acknowledge the scourge of sex abuse in all of its varied forms. We can no longer ignore sex abuse and misconduct within church organizations, such as the Roman Catholic Church. We cannot turn another blind eye to adults preying on children and young adults under the tacit protection of organizations that are supposed to serve, not harm, children and young people, such as United States Gymnastics, the Boy Scouts, private schools, and at least one large collegiate football program. We will not tolerate sexual misconduct by another powerful individual against a less-powerful subordinate. It is high time organizations and individuals answer for past wrongs.
The lawyers at Sibley Dolman and Dolman want to help. In Florida, if you want to learn about seeking justice, accountability, and compensation from a sexual abuser or someone who enabled abuse against you or a loved one, then contact us to schedule a free, confidential consultation with a member of our team of experienced, compassionate, sexual abuse injury attorneys.
About Our Law Firms
Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman are affiliated, Florida-based law firms that exclusively represent victims of accidental or intentional personal injuries. We treat all of our clients with the utmost respect and dignity, and take particular care to do so when a client summons the courage and willpower to ask us for help in confronting a sexual abuser or someone who enabled abuse. Our mission is to commit the full measure of our experience, resources, and know-how to advise, guide, and fight on behalf of these brave survivors; but always while putting their own priorities first.
Our firms have a combined track record of recovering tens of millions of dollars on our clients’ behalf. To be sure, we can never guarantee how a case will turn out. We can only promise to give clients who seek our assistance that we will work tirelessly on their behalf, that we will give them clear, plain-spoken legal advice, and that we will always make their best interests our guiding star. Survivors of Florida sex abuse deserve nothing less than the best legal advice and guidance available; that is what our teams strive to deliver.
Florida Statutes of Limitation for Sex Abuse Legal Actions
As advocates for sexual abuse survivors have observed, it often takes survivors years to come forward with revelations about past sex abuse, and for good reason. Confronting a history of sex abuse requires surmounting emotional hurdles and delving into excruciating memories. Unfortunately, the legal system has historically exacted a cost on those survivors.
Statutes of limitations—the laws that set a time-limit on taking legal action for a past harm—have imposed unrealistically narrow restrictions on the amount of time a survivor has to step forward and seek justice through legal means. Many survivors, in the past, have found their paths to accountability and compensation blocked by laws that ignored the length of time it takes for survivors to process their trauma.
Here is some good news, though: Slowly but surely, state legislatures around the country have started to amend laws to preserve the rights of sex abuse survivors for much more realistic amounts of time, opening up avenues for prosecutors to bring criminal charges against abusers and, in some cases, for survivors themselves to seek money damages from abusers and anyone who facilitated abuse.
Florida has lagged behind the more forward-thinking states, with a set of criminal statutes of limitation that the Miami Herald recently referred to as a “byzantine … patchwork system” that varies depending on the nature of the crime and the age of the survivor. The civil statute of limitations, which sets the time-window within which a survivor must bring a case for money damages, is a little better, but not much.
Currently, the statute of limitations in Florida for seeking compensation for sex abuse is:
Within seven years after the age of majority, or within four years after the injured person leaves the dependency of the abuser, or within four years from the time of discovery by the injured party of both the injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the abuse, whichever occurs later; and
No time limit, when the claim relates to sexual battery of a person under age 16, provided the claim had not already expired under the existing statute of limitation law as of January 1, 2010.
Two bills now working their way through the Florida legislature may change those time limits, however. According to the Herald, one such bill would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution in cases of sexual battery against a person under age 18. The other bill would “eliminate the statute of limitations entirely for any civil cases brought by victims of sexual assault, as well as other sexual crimes.”
As of this writing, both bills had been referred to legislative committees. Should they become law, Florida would join other states in giving survivors of sex abuse the tools they need and rightly deserve to hold their abusers and enablers of abuse accountable.
Holding Abusers and Enablers Accountable
Florida survivors of sex abuse step forward to seek justice for a variety of intensely personal reasons. Some want to confront their abusers face-to-face. Others want to put the past to rest. Many hope their efforts will prevent others from falling prey to abusers. No matter what a client’s personal reasons for seeking accountability, the teams at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman stand ready to help.
The first priority for our attorneys is to listen to survivors of sex abuse to understand their motivations and goals for coming forward. Then, we implement legal strategies to serve those motivations and achieve those goals. Depending on the circumstances, that strategy may include:
Taking Civil Action for Monetary Damages
The Florida civil legal system mostly seeks to right wrongs through the payment of money to a party who suffered harm at the hands of another. Of course, money is not a cure-all. It cannot change the past nor can it heal deep wounds. Money can, however, help survivors pay for the support they need in confronting their abusers and moving forward with their lives.
For instance, money damages in Florida sex abuse cases can pay for:
- Past and future mental health counseling;
- Pain and suffering caused by the abuse;
- Damage that a history of abuse does to personal relationships; and
- Sometimes, statutory and/or punitive damages.
These are just examples, however. Every case involving Florida sex abuse is different. The teams at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman work with each individual client to determine the full extent of harm the abuse caused, and seek to recover the maximum compensation possible.
Taking Civil Action for “Injunctive Relief”
In addition to money damages, sometimes a civil legal action involving sex abuse can seek what is known as “injunctive relief.” An “injunction” is an order by a court directing someone to do (or not to do) something. In Florida sex abuse cases, seeking a court-ordered “injunction” against an abuser or a party that enabled abuse can serve as a means of implementing changes that will prevent future sex abuse. Speaking with an experienced lawyer at Sibley Dolman or Dolman Law Group is the best way to determine if a request for “injunctive relief” is appropriate in your case.
Participating in a Criminal Prosecution
Depending upon how long ago the abuse occurred and on the availability of evidence, survivors of Florida sex abuse may also have the opportunity to participate as a witness in a criminal prosecution of their abuser. The decision whether to do so is a personal choice for each survivor. Some can’t wait for the day they can confront their abuser in a criminal courtroom. Others would rather avoid that confrontation.
The lawyers at Sibley Dolman and Dolman Law Group support survivors in whatever decision they make when it comes to participating in a criminal case. When clients choose to do so, we assist in coordinating the client’s cooperation with law enforcement and prosecutors, and work to protect the client’s rights to seek compensation through a civil court process as well.
Seeking Justice for Florida Sex Abuse
As we said at the outset, stepping forward to take legal action against an abuser or abuse-enabler takes immense courage and willpower. The teams at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman honor and support our clients who are ready to make that brave step, but we also remain mindful of our own limitations.
We encourage anyone planning to take legal action to confront past Florida sex abuse to gather a strong emotional support system around them before coming to see us. That support system will play an essential role, alongside and in close coordination with the role we play as legal advocates, to help keep our client as grounded as possible during what can be an emotionally-turbulent process.
When a Florida sex abuse survivor asks for our help, we begin by listening to the survivor’s story and asking questions to pinpoint the survivor’s motivations and goals. In every interaction with a sex abuse survivor, our team endeavors to show the utmost compassion and respect, even as we ask the sometimes emotionally-difficult questions necessary to serving our client’s interests. All of these conversations and interactions are, and will always remain, strictly confidential.
Even if, after meeting with our team for the first time, free-of-charge, you decide not to move forward with us as your legal counsel, what you tell us will always remain between us. That is our commitment to you not just as lawyers, but also as caring, compassionate human beings.
When a Florida sex abuse survivor decides, after speaking with us, to move forward with the legal process, we aim to develop a sound, practical legal strategy to achieve the survivor’s goals. Usually, that will involve making a demand for money damages to the abuser and/or any person or institution who has legal liability under Florida law for enabling or facilitating the abuse. This demand may lead to settlement discussions, or to the filing of a lawsuit, or both.
In all events, our client has the final decision-making authority on when and how to proceed. Our job as lawyers is to serve our clients’ interests, and only our clients’ interests.
Attorneys for Survivors of Florida Sex Abuse
The world has begun to wake up to the devastating toll exacted by sex abuse on our society and communities. Confronting and seeking accountability for abusers’ and enablers’ betrayals of trust and personal autonomy will likely consume the time and effort of lawyers, judges, and juries in Florida for decades to come. The teams at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman are ready to do that hard work on behalf of brave survivors of Florida sex abuse.
If you have questions about what is involved in seeking justice, accountability, and compensation for past sex abuse in Florida, the lawyers at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman can help answer them. Visit us at one of our offices on both coasts of Florida, reach out to us online, or call us at 833-552-7274 to schedule a strictly confidential, free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team.