Sexual abuse is an unimaginably traumatic violation of a person’s physical and emotional integrity. Survivors of sexual abuse deserve justice and compensation for the harm done to them. At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, our mission is to help survivors seek that legal accountability in the manner they choose.
Coming forward to reveal a history of sexual abuse takes tremendous courage. In the past, survivors of sexual abuse—particularly of abuse that occurred in childhood—have faced legal obstacles to obtaining justice and compensation. As calls to hold abusers accountable have grown, however, more and more states have passed legislation to make it easier to take civil and criminal legal action against abusers and against anyone who facilitated abuse, even if it occurred long ago.
A nationwide reckoning for past sexual abuses has begun to take hold. Sexual abuse by members of the clergy, especially within the Roman Catholic Church, has received a significant amount of attention. But members of the clergy are hardly the only adults whose time has come to face justice for their past violations of children and young people. Organizations as wide-ranging as United States Gymnastics, the Boy Scouts, private schools, and at least one large collegiate football program, have also had no choice but to confront tragic histories of sexual misconduct by people placed in positions of authority. Outside of organizations, reports of sexual abuses by powerful men against younger, less powerful people, often minors, also continue to emerge.
If you have questions about seeking justice and compensation from an abuser or an organization that allowed sexual abuse against you to occur, even if the abuse happened long ago, then the compassionate, dedicated attorneys at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman want to help you find answers. Contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, both based in Florida and representing clients across the United States, are affiliated law firms that represent people harmed by the wrongful acts of others. We dedicate a portion of our practice to representing survivors of sexual abuse, particularly abuse that occurred during childhood, who have had the courage to step forward and seek accountability from their abusers and those who turned a blind eye to abuse. Anyone who has the fortitude to tell the painful story of their abuse deserves the best legal representation available. That is what our attorneys aim to provide.
Our affiliated firms have a well-established track record of recovering millions of dollars for our clients. Of course, we cannot guarantee results in any specific case. But we can promise that our attorneys will leave no stone unturned, and no path unexplored, when it comes to asserting our clients’ rights to compensation and other relief. We practice personal injury law with an emphasis on the “personal”; we provide personalized service to our clients and invest our full personal strength in every representation. When our clients need help making their voices heard, we are not afraid to stand up to the largest institutions and most powerful individuals to make sure no one is above the law.
New Legal Options for Survivors of Sexual Abuse
According to advocates for sexual abuse survivors, it is common for survivors to wait years, even decades, to reveal a history of sexual abuse. Coming to terms with abuse and telling someone else about it often means overcoming emotional barriers and reliving extremely painful memories. Historically, the long and difficult process of stepping forward with allegations of sexual abuse has often taken longer than the criminal and civil statute of limitations for bringing abusers to justice, meaning that survivors find their paths blocked from seeking accountability through the courts.
Fortunately, legislators have begun to take a more compassionate and realistic view of the trauma of sexual abuse, and have begun moving to pass legislation that expands statutes of limitation for sexual abuse crimes and civil cases, and even to “revive” cases that have otherwise expired under existing limitations rules.
The child advocacy organization ChildUSA reports that an increasing number of states have taken steps to enable prosecutors to bring criminal charges against abusers who perpetrated their crimes decades ago. Many of those states have also made it easier for survivors to seek justice through claims for money damages and other forms of relief against not just perpetrators of abuse, but also institutions and entities that facilitated the abuse.
These long-overdue revisions to sexual abuse laws give prosecutors and survivors powerful new tools to combat sexual misconduct and to pursue accountability. The easing of statutes of limitations on civil suits and the “revival” of some cases are especially significant because many instances of sexual abuse occurred so long ago that it is often difficult for prosecutors to prove those crimes “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In contrast, the burden of proof on survivors for seeking monetary compensation and other forms of relief is typically less difficult to meet. So, even if a prosecutor cannot prove the crimes occurred, survivors can often still win a civil judgment.
Because the state laws on criminal and civil statutes of limitation for sexual abuse claims continue to evolve, survivors should retain legal counsel that keeps close tabs on new developments. At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, we expect that the new laws will embolden many survivors of sexual abuse to step forward and finally tell their stories.
Holding Abusers and Institutions Accountable
There is no “single” reason survivors of sexual abuse decide to confront their abusers and those who facilitated them in court. Some want closure. Others seek a measure of justice. Many (if not all) want to help prevent sexual abuse from harming others.
The attorneys at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman support survivors of sexual abuse no matter what their reasons for wanting to take legal action. Our team listens to our clients, then seeks to deliver honest, understandable legal advice that empowers survivors to make the best decisions for them, whatever legal option they choose to pursue. Those options may include:
Civil Action for Compensation
In most legal actions taken in civil court, plaintiffs seek money damages as the primary form of “relief” to compensate them for the harm done to them. Money damages are usually available as a form of relief in actions alleging past sexual abuse. We recognize, of course, that money does not erase the past. But it can help to provide survivors with the resources and support they need to confront the past.
Money damages frequently include:
- Expenses for past and ongoing mental health counseling and other therapy;
- The pain and suffering caused by the abuse;
- Damage to friendships and family relationships; and
- If available, statutory and/or punitive damages.
This is just an example of the types of damages potentially available. Every case has its own unique circumstances. At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, we guide our clients through the process of identifying all of the potential ways their history of sexual abuse has cost them so that we can seek the appropriate amount of money damages if they choose to move forward with a civil suit.
Civil Action for an Injunction
Though money damages constitute the principal means of holding abusers and institutions accountable in civil court, they are not always the sole means of “relief” survivors can seek. In a civil lawsuit, plaintiffs may also ask the court to award “injunctive relief,” another term for a court order directing someone to do something. Injunctive relief can represent a powerful tool to force abusers and those who enabled them to take long-overdue steps to help prevent future abuse.
Participation in a Criminal Prosecution
When evidence is available, prosecutors often seek to bring criminal charges against abusers and anyone who aided in abuse. Those prosecutions typically rely heavily upon the testimony of survivors who have the courage to sit on a witness stand and call their abusers to account. Though some survivors look forward to their day in court, others worry about the costs and publicity surrounding a criminal matter.
At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, we will support and give sound advice to any client who wants to participate in a criminal prosecution against an abuser. When that is the path our client chooses, we work to coordinate our client’s role in the criminal case with any civil legal action our client also wants to pursue. Our goal is to help ensure both matters succeed in their goals of achieving justice, and we have years of experience helping our clients successfully navigate the intersection of criminal and civil law.
What’s Involved in Seeking Justice for Sexual Abuse
It takes enormous strength and courage to come forward to tell a story of sexual abuse and to confront an abuser. At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, we encourage anyone considering taking legal action related to sexual abuse to build an emotional support system first, to help ensure they stay in the best possible frame of mind when weighing the (sometimes difficult) decisions that will arise during the legal process. In our experience, it can be particularly helpful for clients to have the support of a trained professional counselor or therapist.
When a sexual abuse survivor approaches our team with questions about holding an abuser or an institution accountable, our first order of business is usually to sit down with the survivor and hear their story. We aim to show compassion and respect in these meetings, even when we have to ask questions that bring back painful memories. Rest assured, however, that the first meeting with our team is always strictly confidential and free of charge. Meeting with one of our attorneys does not obligate you to move forward with any legal action if you don’t want to. Our job is to listen, to give you an initial impression of your options, and to help you find the path that’s right for you. We will never pressure you into taking legal action you’re not ready to take.
If a sexual abuse survivor decides to move forward with making legal allegations against an abuser or someone who enabled abuse, then we work closely with that client to develop a legal strategy and an appropriate “demand” for money damages and, if applicable, other forms of legal relief. The process of building a case can take a heavy emotional toll on our client (and on our attorneys). Ultimately, we strive to give our clients clear, straightforward advice about their legal options, so that they can make the decisions that best suit them.
It is the client’s decision—and only the client’s decision—whether to move forward with a legal claim alleging sexual abuse. If that is what the client chooses, then we aim to guide our client through every step of the process of making a demand on parties with potential legal liability, filing a lawsuit, negotiating a settlement, and (if it comes to it) taking the case to trial. At every stage, we make sure our client understands their options and knows they are in control.
Attorneys for Survivors of Sexual Abuse Nationwide
Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman stand ready to help anyone who has a history of sexual abuse in evaluating their legal options and choosing a path forward that suits them best. Our team treats every survivor with the compassion and respect they deserve. We never push a client into a legal strategy for which our client is not ready. When a client is ready, we do everything in our power to seek justice and compensation from anyone who did our client harm.
If you have questions about taking legal action involving an allegation of sexual abuse, then the lawyers at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman want to help you learn about your options. We have offices on both coasts of Florida, and you can also reach out to us online or by phone at 833-552-7274. Contact us today to schedule your confidential, free, no-obligation consultation.
*The above information was written and reviewed by either Attorney Matthew Dolman or another injury lawyer at the Dolman Law Group which has a combined 90 plus years of experience practicing Florida personal injury law. Matthew Dolman himself has been practicing personal injury law in Clearwater and St. Petersburg for the last fifteen (15) years. The information provided comes from extensive research and years of experience trying legal cases in courtrooms throughout Florida.
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