Sexual abuse leaves long-lasting injuries deeper than what is physically apparent. In fact, sexual abuse victims contend with both physical and psychological issues. Many people do not realize that confidential and compassionate legal help is available to address sexual abuse cases in court.
Our team at Dolman Law Group understands the sensitive and personal nature of sexual abuse. Our Doral Sexual Abuse Attorneys offer sympathetic help and legal support for survivors of abuse and assault - including those who have been contending with abuse for years. Please call our Doral office at (727) 451-6900 today to see how we can help.
You Have a Right to File a Civil Case for Sexual Abuse
Many people do not realize they have the right to sue an individual or organization in civil court based on sexual abuse claims. The burden of proof in civil court cases is lower than for criminal court cases, so they are often easier to pursue. In addition, you need not pursue a criminal court case to secure a successful personal injury case outcome.
Victims of sexual abuse are sometimes concerned they will have to relive the details of their abuse on public display. However, working with compassionate attorneys means victims contend with as little difficulty as possible.
When you choose our firm, our lawyers will handle every step of your case so you can focus on recovery. You can heal your mind and body, trusting that your legal team is developing the best plan to protect your legal rights, personal safety, and dignity.
Understanding Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse includes a variety of physical and nonphysical actions. Sometimes, sexual abuse occurs just once. In other cases, abuse repeats over the course of many years. Many people do not even realize they experienced abuse until years later, as is common when abuse happens to young children. Common examples of abuse include:
- Inappropriate touching - Fondling and other unwanted or nonconsensual touching is inappropriate. Touching is sometimes a form of grooming, testing the waters, and building trust in potential victims.
- Rape - Sexual penetration by force or restraint is rape. Rape also occurs when one party is unable to consent to sexual contact, sometimes as a result of drug or alcohol intoxication and sometimes because one party is a minor. The age of consent in Florida is 18.
- Pornography - Using minors to create pornographic or sexual photos or videos is illegal. Distribution of the pornographic material is also a crime.
- Indecent exposure - Showing one's genitals to a nonconsenting individual or minor is abuse. Exposure may occur on the street, on public transportation, or even in a home.
- Sexual exposure - Exposing a child to sexual materials or actions is abuse. For example, two adults may not engage a child in watching them perform sexual activities.
Many people are unsure if they were victims of abuse. If you are unsure, discussing your experience with an attorney could shed light on a difficult event in your life. We want to help you understand your legal rights and options.
Doral Sexual Abuse Victims and Injuries
According to statistics compiled by the Florida Department of Health Violence and Injury Prevention Section (VIPS), roughly one in six women in the state has experienced rape or attempted rape in her life. The same researchers determined that nearly 42 percent of Florida women have been the victim of sexual violence outside of rape. About 20 percent of men in the state experienced sexual violence.
Doral itself reported 14 rapes in 2018. These numbers shed light on the prevalent but secretive nature of abuse across the state.
Many injuries associated with sexual abuse do not become apparent right away - some people do not experience the side effects of abuse until years later. Additionally, some people do not realize they have been injured by abuse. They may think the injuries they are living with are normal. Even when the physical injuries of sexual abuse have healed, trauma often remains.
Potential Harm From Sexual Abuse
Victims of abuse may face a variety of ailments that warrant professional or medical assistance. Injuries that may result from sexual abuse include:
- Sexually transmitted diseases - Sexual contact may result in sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), including herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HPV. Some diseases, like AIDS, are not curable. Seeking medical attention soon after sexual abuse allows the victim to undergo testing and treatments for these conditions.
- Pregnancy - Unwanted pregnancy comes with its own set of physical and emotional trauma. Some women opt to terminate pregnancies caused by rape, while others opt to raise the child or place him or her up for adoption. Regardless of the choice a woman makes, the decision comes with a complex network of thoughts and emotions.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder - Victims of abuse often face post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This condition may bring about flashbacks, anxiety, and extreme terror.
- Force injuries - Some victims of abuse face injuries to their genitals caused by force. Physical bruising, scraping, and cutting of the exterior and interior genitals may result from forced sexual contact. Splitting of the skin or cutting may require surgeries for proper healing. These injuries sometimes make it more difficult to urinate. In addition, some women experience abdominal pain with these injuries.
- Bruising - Bruising may result from blunt force to the genitals or any other part of the body affected by the abuse. Discoloration and pain are the most common symptoms associated with bruising.
- Restraint injuries - Marks left behind by ligatures, hands, or other restraining devices can be quite painful. Moreover, if the perpetrator uses restraint against the throat, the victim may experience a fracture.
- Anxiety - Victims of sexual abuse may feel intense anxiety about certain people, places, and activities. Others may have generalized anxiety, sometimes delving into panic disorder. These conditions may require therapy sessions or medication to address. For some victims, the anxiety never subsides.
- Depression - Depression may involve sadness or listlessness. The mental health condition sometimes comes with the feeling that life will never be okay again. After a traumatic event like abuse, depression may even lead to suicidal ideation.
- Other emotional harm - People who undergo sexual trauma may begin to withdraw or isolate themselves. Some victims also go on to experience eating disorders and insomnia. Mental health treatments, though expensive, are common methods of treating these conditions.
Civil Actions Involving Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse victims must keep in mind that filing a claim of sexual abuse is not a cause of action in civil court. As a result, victims should pursue claims alleging the specific instances of harm that occurred from the abuse. These may include:
- Assault - Assault includes threats of violence or attempts to harm a person.
- Battery - Battery differs from assault in that it is the intentional acting upon of a threat.
- Infliction of emotional distress - An individual inflicts emotional distress upon a victim when they behave in a way such that they want to traumatize the victim.
- False imprisonment - Holding a person down or locking them in one area is an example of false imprisonment. In the case of sexual abuse, this might include restraining the victim by holding them down.
- Negligent hiring or supervision - A company that fails to perform adequate background checks is negligent in hiring. Companies have an expectation to check out employees who will be working in fields like security or nursing.
- Premises liability - If the unsafe or defective nature of a property or business lends itself to sexual abuse, premises liability comes into play.
- Inadequate security - Hotels, hospitals, schools, and other businesses lacking security may face this claim in court.
Suing Sexual Abuse Perpetrators in Doral
Typically, the individual sued for sexual abuse is the direct abuser. An abuser may be a parent, step-parent, foster parent, sibling, relative, family friend, or babysitter. Perpetrators of abuse may even be people deemed trustworthy by society, like teachers, religious leaders, and daycare staff members.
When an Entity Is Liable for Sexual Abuse
Sometimes, a third party is legally responsible for allowing the abuse or assault to occur. Facilities, like hospitals or hotels lacking adequate security or background checks, are negligent if somebody is able to use these weaknesses to abuse a victim.
For instance, several women sued a golf resort and spa in Doral after they claimed they were assaulted during massages, as reported by CBS4. The women claimed an employee touched them sexually without consent, leaving them shocked and violated.
Victims and their parents also criticize schools for their role in perpetuating sexual abuse. Florida schools had a reported 165 cases of sexual assault and rape during a four-year period, according to one study reported by WLRN. Another report from WSVN indicates that 132 sexual incidents occurred in Miami-Dade during the 2015-2016 school year. In Broward County, that number is 480 assaults. When you consider that many instances of sexual abuse go unreported, this figure is frightening.
Victims do Not Always Know Their Abusers
Sometimes, the abuser is a stranger. Local10 reported that one man in northwest Miami-Dade County followed two teenagers to a bus stop, where he assaulted and robbed them with a firearm. In situations like this, victims may struggle with seeking personal injury cases because they do not know who assaulted them.
Again, simply because you opt not to pursue criminal prosecution does not mean you cannot push forward with a civil lawsuit. You can also discuss the process of filing a criminal claim against the perpetrator with your personal injury attorney if you determine doing so is in your best interest.
Recovering Damages for Doral Sexual Abuse Victims
Erasing the trauma of an event like sexual abuse may not be possible, but seeking financial compensation can help survivors find justice. The compensation can also cover some of the expenses associated with physical and mental recovery.
Victims of sexual abuse can recover compensation for their injuries by pursuing damages to include:
- Medical bills - These damages cover everything from emergency treatment to ongoing appointments, therapies, and medications. Sexual abuse victims may also pursue the costs of terminating a pregnancy, childbirth, and other pregnancy-related expenses. Psychological and psychiatric treatments are also possible damages.
- Pain and suffering - The physical pain a victim experiences are extreme following sexual abuse. These damages cover the physical pain felt during and after abuse.
- Emotional distress - Compensation can never take away the emotional sting of sexual abuse, but it may help by ensuring you can access mental and emotional counseling and ongoing mental health support.
- Lost enjoyment of life - Some people struggle to regain control and enjoyment of their lives in the months and years after the abuse. Suing a perpetrator for sexual abuse may compensate you for this pain.
- Punitive - Intentional sexual assault is often grounds for punitive damages. These are damages the judge determines as a punishment to the offender.
Navigating the Road to Recovery After Sexual Abuse
Cleveland Clinic research highlights the mental, emotional, and traumatic aftermath of sexual abuse. As a survivor of this type of abuse, you may struggle with nightmares, depression, fear, and flashbacks - all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD can cause you to struggle to cope with the memories of your abuse and with its symptoms that can make day-to-day life hard. Do not hesitate to get professional assistance and support if you:
- Were abused as a minor
- Are depressed or anxious
- Turned to drugs or alcohol to cope
- Have no support system or resources
Recovering from the trauma of sexual abuse takes time. Recovery can also mean help and support from trained professionals. A personal injury lawyer may have resources that can help you get the mental health support you need. Our team can also help you add the cost of this vital and necessary treatment to the recoverable damages you request.
A Lawyer Can Help You Resolve Your Case Without Going to Court
Facing a perpetrator of abuse in court can be difficult and challenging. It can also be brave and empowering. When our legal team represents you, we work hard to resolve your case with a favorable settlement as opposed to adding the stress and uncertainty of a trial to an already difficult ordeal.
You do not have to deal with the nuances of the settlement process on your own. As the case progresses, we will:
- Share and review every settlement offer with you
- Describe the advantages and disadvantages of each
- Advise you on when to settle and when to go to court
- Represent you through every phase of the trial, if necessary
If an appropriate settlement offer is not forthcoming, we will not hesitate to represent you in court and keep fighting for the compensation you deserve. We will also make sure you receive the mental and emotional support you need throughout the trial process.
Our Client-Centered Approach to Recovery
Our sexual abuse recovery team is committed to a whole-client approach to recovery. While we focus on holding the perpetrator or other party liable for your financial recovery, we also understand how important it is to foster physical and emotional recovery.
To ensure you have the help you need, our team will share resources about professionals and professional associations that can help you get the mental and emotional support you need. Your health and wellbeing matter, so our team works hard to make sure you can focus on yourself while we take care of everything else.
Sexual Abuse Perpetrators May Attempt to Avoid Responsibility
The individuals you pursue in court will likely make a variety of claims in an attempt to avoid liability. For example, the perpetrator may claim they were never convicted of a crime in court. However, the law does not require a criminal conviction to prove liability in civil court.
These individuals may also claim that the abuse occurred long ago, possibly violating the statute of limitations. On the other hand, a 2010 law grants minors abused before the age of 16 no statute of limitations for civil action (Florida Statutes 95.11(9)).
Still, time is of the essence in sexual abuse recovery cases. The recovery process cannot be hurried, and our team works hard to ensure you have the time you need to experience an optimal physical and mental health recovery. We help you get compensation that allows you to take your time in recovery and cope with the trauma of your situation at your own pace.
Some Entities Also Undermine These Claims
Organizations also try to get out of liability for sex abuse cases. According to reporting from Sun-Sentinel, in five lawsuits, the Palm Beach County Schools district claimed it was less liable for abuse by blaming the victims. In fact, the district claimed that four third-graders molested by their teacher were “careless and negligent” in addition to “old enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions.”
Miami-Dade County schools have also participated in this method of shirking responsibility. The schools have settled after cases of teachers having sexual relationships with students, sexual battery, sexual assault, and fondling. In some cases, the district claimed the students shared some culpability or negligence.
Sexual Abuse Attorneys in Doral Offer Compassion and Support
The goal of a civil court case is to restore the victim so that they can be as whole as possible after the lawsuit. With a compassionate and knowledgeable attorney, you can develop an effective plan for pursuing a civil court case against a sexual abuse perpetrator or negligent entity.
Our team at Dolman Law Group understands the difficult nature of speaking up about sexual abuse, and we want to give you a safe, judgment-free place to do so. Our team offers free consultations that allow you to better understand your goals for a personal injury lawsuit. Even if you have already pursued criminal charges or never intend to, you can contact our lawyers to learn more about your rights.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
8400 NW 36th St Suite 450
Doral, FL 33166