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Fort Lauderdale Sexual Abuse Lawyers

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
100 SE 3rd Ave, 10th Floor
Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 33394
(754) 208-1130
Bradenton Sexual Assault Lawyers

Contact the compassionate and knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale Sexual Abuse Lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman at 833-552-7274 for a confidential consultation to discuss the details of your abuse and your options for seeking justice.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), sexual abuse is “unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent,” making children and mentally disabled adults most vulnerable.

Survivors of sexual abuse have gone through a trauma that can leave them with physical and emotional struggles for life, making it difficult to function on multiple levels.

If you or your child has survived sexual abuse, Florida law entitles you to take legal action for the trauma and losses you’ve incurred as a result of the abuse. Taking legal action in this sense means bringing a civil lawsuit against your perpetrator, which is separate from any criminal charges. An experienced Fort Lauderdale sexual abuse attorney at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, can help you file a lawsuit against the person who caused you or your child harm.

Sexual abuse remains a sensitive subject, especially for survivors, as it often elicits feelings of guilt and shame. You might be struggling with your decision to take legal action against your perpetrator. Keep in mind that holding the person who harmed you accountable for his or her actions can help you heal, and when you speak out, you protect others who may otherwise be future victims.

How Does Florida Define Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is an umbrella term that includes many sex crimes. Each state uses slightly different language in its laws to label sex crimes that fall under the category of sexual abuse. Florida law categorizes sex crimes into three broad categories: sexual battery, molestation, and exhibition. Each of these constitutes sexual abuse when committed against a minor or adult who cannot give consent.

Sexual Battery

Florida law distinguishes sexual battery from other types of sexual abuse based on whether penetration occurred. Oral, anal, and vaginal penetration each fall under the category of sexual battery, whether referring to a sex organ or another object.

One of the following must exist for sexual battery to take place under Florida law:

  • The victim is incapable of resisting the perpetrator.
  • The perpetrator makes a credible threat of force or violence.
  • The perpetrator makes a credible threat against the victim or others.
  • The perpetrator gives drugs to a victim or knows that another drugged the victim with a narcotic, anesthetic, or any other substance that impairs the mental or physical capacities of a person.
  • The perpetrator knows that the victim has a mental health issue and likely cannot understand the nature of a sexual act.
  • The perpetrator performs sexual acts when the victim is unconscious or sleeping.
  • The offender drugs a victim or knows that someone else gave the victim a narcotic, anesthetic, or other substance that mentally or physically impairs the victim.
  • The perpetrator holds a position of power over the victim, such as correctional officers, police officers, etc.
  • The victim is under age 18, which is Florida’s legal age of consent.

Molestation

Florida law defines lewd or lascivious molestation, informally referred to as sexual touching, as intentional sexual contact with a minor’s breasts, genitals, or buttocks. Unlike sexual battery, sexual abuse that involves molestation is only against the law when the victim is under age 16. Molestation can also occur when a perpetrator forces or coerces a minor to touch sex organs, buttocks, or the genital area, and it can also occur when clothed.

Exhibition

Often referred to as indecent exposure, exhibition occurs when a perpetrator exposes his or her genitals to another or masturbates in front of them. Florida law also includes the simulation of sexual acts, sadomasochistic abuse, and sexual bestiality as exhibition.

How to Know if Someone You Love Was Sexually Abused

If you suspect your child, a teen, or someone else that you care about has suffered sexual abuse, or is currently being abused, you need to look for common warning signs. Below is a broad overview of sexual abuse warning signs for different age groups based on criteria from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), one of the largest resources for sexual abuse survivors in the United States.

Sexual Abuse in Children

  • Contraction of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • Blood or bruises in the genital or anal area
  • Fresh blood or bloodstains on clothing or bed sheets
  • Overt and age-inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Bedwetting, thumb sucking, and other new behaviors
  • Nighttime separation anxiety and hesitation to be alone with specific people
  • Refusal to take a bath and remove clothes

Sexual Abuse in Teens

  • Contraction of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • Evidence of an eating disorder, such as refusing to eat or bingeing and purging
  • Unexplained bruises and wounds
  • Symptoms of depression, such as sadness, sleep difficulties, and social withdrawal
  • Anxiety and excessive worry
  • Poor grades in school
  • Changes in personal hygiene and grooming habits
  • Self-harm and talk of suicide
  • Use and abuse of controlled substances

Sexual Abuse in Young Adults

  • Contraction of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • Low self-worth and self-esteem
  • Symptoms of depression, such as sadness, sleep difficulties, and social withdrawal
  • Self-harm and talk of suicide
  • Anxiety and excessive worry
  • Avoiding certain people and particular places
  • Increased use of controlled substances

Reporting Sexual Abuse in Florida

Individuals who have experienced sexual abuse or are currently being abused need to speak about their trauma with a trained professional. While local resources are available in the Fort Lauderdale area, some prefer the anonymity of a national resource. RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Line has professionals available around-the-clock at 800-656-HOPE(4673) and online at online.rainn.org.

If you are in immediate danger related to sexual abuse or know someone who is, call 911 as soon as possible, so emergency response teams can help you.

You can report the sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) by calling its central abuse hotline at 1-800-962-2873 or filing a report online. Once you file a report with DCF, its staff will immediately investigate the situation and involve law enforcement if necessary.

Remember that Florida law has strict reporting requirements for individuals who suspect the sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult or child. Medical professionals, social workers, law enforcement, bank employees, and many others must report the abuse of a vulnerable adult or child. Principals, teachers, and others who work in a school, as well as daycare providers and judges, must also file a report with DCF if they suspect a child has been sexually abused. If you are not sure if you are required to report, a sexual abuse attorney can help you determine the right course of action for your situation.

Criminal Charges for Sexual Abuse versus Civil Action

Sexual abuse survivors can legally seek justice in two ways: criminal charges and a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. These two paths are independent of one another and have vastly different judicial processes. If you have reported your abuse to the police, it’s possible you have already been through a criminal trial and provided your testimony.

If you haven’t yet reported your abuse, the state’s attorney in your county may file criminal charges against your perpetrator, as your suit may trigger a criminal investigation. In either case, the prosecutor will listen to your story and ultimately decide whether to file criminal charges; it is not your choice. The outcome of a criminal court case depends on whether the jury finds your abuser guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The civil lawsuit process is different. It is your choice to take action and the outcome of the criminal trial does not impact whether you can file a suit. In a civil lawsuit against your abuser, you seek compensation for the physical, financial, and emotional damages you have incurred as a result of sexual abuse.

The outcome of a civil trial does not include penalties like jail time or fines. The other notable difference between criminal proceedings and a lawsuit against your abuser is the standard for evidence. For jurors to rule in your favor, your attorney needs only to prove that it’s more likely than not that your abuse occurred, instead of the beyond a reasonable doubt threshold in criminal trials. This preponderance of the evidence threshold means that the jury must believe that there is a greater than 50 percent chance that your claim is true.

Our Experienced Fort Lauderdale Sexual Abuse Lawyers Can Help

Coping with the trauma of sexual abuse may prove overwhelming for survivors, regardless of age. If you are an adult survivor or parent of a survivor, you understand the challenges and may even carry common feelings of shame or guilt. If you were abused, it’s not your fault. You deserve justice and the opportunity to hold your abuser accountable for his or her actions. Taking legal action against your abuser will not undo the past, but an experienced sexual abuse attorney can help you seek justice, advocate for you, and potentially secure a settlement or jury award. Some examples of how an attorney can help include:

Investigation

Skilled lawyers investigate the circumstances of sexual abuse to uncover facts that help build a strong case against the perpetrator.

Investigative activities vary based on the facts of your case, but may include:

  • Obtaining police reports and medical records that support your case and reviewing evidence used in a criminal trial, if applicable
  • Finding and speaking with witnesses or other victims who suspected, reported, or suffered sexual abuse
  • Consulting with experts, especially doctors and psychologists who can speak about the impact of your abuse

Some sexual abuse survivors hesitate to speak out because they want to protect their identities. Reputable and seasoned attorneys go the extra mile to maintain your anonymity and keep your case confidential.

Negotiation

The outcome of a civil lawsuit against your abuser will be a verdict in favor of you, the plaintiff, or your abuser, the defendant. If the court rules in your favor, you can be awarded damages related to the losses and injuries you incurred from your abuse. However, not all sexual abuse cases go to court. For a variety of reasons, some survivors choose not to go to trial and have an attorney litigate their claims. Often, this decision has to do with the desire to remain anonymous or the desire to avoid having to relive the traumatic events through testifying in a courtroom.

Experienced attorneys have honed their negotiation skills and can help you hold your abuser financially liable for damages without litigation. If it is the right decision for your circumstances, you can avoid the courtroom and let your attorney negotiate to get the best possible settlement for your sexual abuse case.

Courtroom Advocacy and Litigation

Sometimes settlement simply is not an option for a sexual abuse case, which means an attorney must fight for his or her client in court. If your sexual abuse case needs to be litigated, your attorney will be prepared to fight for you and increase the likelihood that the court will rule in your favor. Some survivors need litigation as part of their healing process. A courtroom trial provides an opportunity for survivors to face their abusers. Your Fort Lauderdale sexual abuse attorney will discuss the best course of action for your circumstances.

Contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman Today for a Confidential Consultation

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse or if you are the parent of a survivor, you deserve to hold the abuser accountable in every way possible. Receiving compensation for injuries and losses related to the abuse does not turn back time, but it can help pay for therapy to work through the trauma and alleviate some or all debt related to abuse.

Contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman or call us at 833-552-7274 for a private consultation to determine the right course of action for your situation.

Sibley Dolman
100 SE 3rd Ave
10th Floor
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33394
(754) 208-1130

What Our Clients Have to Say:

“This firm is amazing! Very professional, they helped me with my case until the end. They were available and very flexible. Brent Sibley would answer all my calls/emails and wouldn’t hesitate on explaining all of my concerns. They represented me on my case, in which it turned out to have a successful result. Super recommend them!”

Rating: 5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Thiara Bandeira
June 2018
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