Non-recent sexual abuse, sometimes referred to as “historical sexual abuse,” pertains to incidents that occurred in the past—oftentimes during the victim’s childhood. Many survivors silently carry the burden of what happened for many years before deciding to come forward. When they do decide to come forward, many choose to seek financial redress, as compensation for victims of historical sexual abuse is possible through civil court.
If you are a victim of historical sexual abuse, you may be wondering how you can recover compensation for your pain and suffering; an experienced sexual abuse attorney can help.
Why Pursue Financial Compensation for Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse can lead to a tremendous expense over the lifetime of the survivor. Adults who were abused as children may develop mental health problems, drug or alcohol dependencies, or suffer revictimization. They may have trouble holding a job, parenting, or maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. Poor overall physical health, debilitating emotional disturbances, disturbing nightmares, and deep depression are common tolls on a person’s productivity and quality of life. Each individual processes what happened in a different way, and the amount of disruption to daily life ranges considerably from person to person.
Research has illuminated the many ways rape and childhood sexual abuse costs victims:
- The average lifetime burden of childhood sexual abuse per individual is $282,734.
- Immediate medical costs associated with victims who seek care averages $2,084.
- Women sexual abuse survivors were three times more likely to drop out of high school as compared to non-abused peers.
- Sexually abused men are three times more likely to suffer a heart attack than men who were not abused.
- Workers with childhood sexual abuse (CSA) history are 20% more likely to be employed in menial or semi-skilled occupations.
- CSA victims are more than twice as likely to spend their working lives sick or disabled, earning an average of 40% less household income than their peers.
Over one year’s time, the economic impact of child sexual abuse costs the government approximately $9.3 billion in health care, child welfare, special education, violence and crime suicide, and survivor productivity losses, according to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
With the number of estimated costs associated with sexual abuse, survivors typically turn to civil court to recover compensation.
Ways to Seek Compensation for Victims of Historical Sexual Abuse
A civil lawsuit is the most common path to recovering compensation for childhood sexual abuse. As long as a claim is within the statute of limitations, a civil lawsuit can provide for a number of damages such as past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, lost quality of life, as well as an estimated amount of pain and suffering.
Another option is the California Crime Victim Compensation Program, which is a state fund that may provide up to $70,000 for permanent disability-related lost wages or up to five years of lost financial support, up to $70,000 for medical care, up to $70,000 for job retraining, up to $10,000 for mental health counseling, and up to $2,000 for relocation costs. However, the application must be filed within three years of the incident or by a minor victim’s 28th birthday. Additional filing time may be granted depending on the case. Victims may need to submit a police report or medical bills to support the claim.
What California Law Says About Seeking Damages for Abuse
Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) increases the time limit for pursuing litigation to obtain a recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual assault to 22 years from the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority. It also extends the rule of delayed discovery to within five years of the date the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by sexual assault.
The bill also allows for a window of three years for the revival of past claims that might have expired due to the statute of limitations. Also, in cases where a child becomes a victim of sexual assault as the result of an effort to cover up past assaults, AB 218 allows a court to award recovery of treble damages against the defendant who engaged in the cover-up.
How to Prove Historical Sexual Abuse
Depending on the case, it may be easier to prove historical sexual abuse in civil court and recover a settlement than to prove a defendant guilty in criminal court. In civil court, the case outcome is based on a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that the jury must believe your story is “51% or more likely” to be true. This is a much different standard of evidence than criminal courts, where the jury must be convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the events were 99% likely to have occurred.
Another point to consider is the matter of third-party liability. Civil court allows for an expanded scope of liability. This means that while the individual perpetrator is responsible for their actions, institutions that may have enabled or turned a blind eye to the sexual assault can also be proven responsible. Organizations can be held liable for their failure to conduct background checks; properly train employ; supervise; take corrective action; or report known or suspected child abuse.
Contact an Experienced Sexual Abuse Attorney
If you are a victim of sexual abuse seeking to recover compensation, an experienced attorney may be able to help. Even if the sexual abuse took place years ago, you may still be able to hold the perpetrator and any enabling parties liable in civil court. A specialized attorney will know exactly where to begin when seeking justice on your behalf.
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