Sexual abuse can be devastating for not only the victim but also any and all loved ones involved. If you or a loved one experienced abuse, you may be feeling anger, sadness, or hopelessness. Sexual harassment is a serious crime, and the perpetrator may be facing long periods of jail time. Survivors of sexual assault have the legal right to file a civil lawsuit with the help of a Kansas City injury lawyer against their perpetrator to pay for damages. Though a criminal may face jail time, fines, and other sanctions, a civil suit provides a valuable recourse for survivors and their families. At the Wendt Law Firm, P.C. our team of Kansas City sexual abuse lawyers understand the sensitive nature of these suits and will work relentlessly as your advocate.
What Damages are Available in Sexual Assault Claims?
The types and the exact amount of compensation that an abuse survivor can collect will vary widely based on the circumstances surrounding the case. There are two legal theories that help guide sexual abuse cases – those pertain to assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. No matter which legal theory your case follows, you may be able to collect the following types of damages:
Economic damages provide compensation for the tangible costs of your experience. This includes things like medical bills, any lost wages from missed work, and the cost of any counseling or therapy.
General damages provide monetary compensation for the intangible losses of sexual abuse. Examples include pain, suffering, emotional distress, and any loss in life quality.
Depending on the nature of the offense, you may be able to collect punitive damages, which punish the defendant for wrongdoing and “make an example” of him or her.
Because of the egregious nature of sexual abuse, juries often award high damages to the plaintiff. Unfortunately, many insurance policies exclude intentional acts from their coverage, so the number of damages may be limited to the amount of a perpetrator’s personal assets.
Options for Third-Party Suits
In this case, filing a third-party lawsuit may be the best option for a sexual abuse survivor seeking compensation. For example, if an incident occurred at a business or a school, these entities may be liable for failing to provide adequate supervision or security.
Filing a Lawsuit for Abuse from Religious Clergy
The Catholic Church has faced allegations of child sexual abuse for years throughout the United States, and the recent Pennsylvania grand jury investigation into these allegations has compelled many survivors of child sexual assaults in the Kansas City region to come forward with their own personal accounts of victimization at the hands of religious officials and members of the clergy. Local attorneys have reported more than 230 priests and clergy members in the Kansas City, MO, Kansas City, KC, and St. Louis area who have committed child sexual abuse in the past. So far, these allegations have only led to only a few arrests and disciplinary action against one area bishop.
Findings from the Pennsylvania Investigation
The Pennsylvania Catholic Church sex abuse scandal involves six of the state’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses in which church leaders covered up sexual abuse from more than 300 priests spanning more than 70 years. The investigation uncovered more than 1,000 victims throughout Pennsylvania and internal church documents that proved the effort to cover up these allegations was a more pressing concern for church officials than the rights and safety of victims. Two of the priests named in the Pennsylvania investigation had previously lived in the Kansas City area prior to preaching in Pennsylvania dioceses.
Childhood sexual abuse typically involves long-term abuse that involves grooming, or “preparing” a child for abuse and the abuse itself. Some survivors recall single incidents while others endured abuse for months or years. The people who have come forward with their stories face a difficult road in the pursuit of accountability. Some of the survivors kept their stories secret for years, a common occurrence among sexual assault survivors. Many children who experience sexual assault also face threats from their abusers if they tell anyone about what is happening, and this, unfortunately, compels some survivors to remain silent and for abusive persons to remain in positions of power and influence.
Rights of Sexual Abuse Survivors from Religious Clergy
The Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse allegations is insufficient for many survivors. Instead of rites of forgiveness and appeals to survivors to forgive their abusers and move on with their lives, many survivors of childhood sexual assault want to see true accountability. Pope Francis issued an official statement from the Vatican in which he admitted the church’s response to these allegations was unacceptable.
One issue facing many survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy members is states’ statutes of limitations for filing legal action for sexual abuse. In Missouri, no statute of limitations on forcible rape exists, and there is a two-year statute of limitations for other sexual offenses. However, for sexual offenses involving a minor, the victim has 30 years from his or her 18th birthday to take legal action. For survivors of sexual assault in the Kansas City area, the best course of action is to contact a KC sexual abuse attorney as soon as possible to determine whether your claim meets the statute of limitations.
Justice for Sexual Abuse Survivors from Religious Clergy
If you or a loved one suffered any type of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest or clergy member, it’s important to report the incident to the police as soon as possible to start a record of the incident. The police will investigate to the best of their ability and compile evidence. The claimant should work closely with investigators and secure legal representation as soon as possible for the best chances of a successful claim. Claimants should also retain copies of all medical paperwork or other documentation related to the incident.
It is possible for an abuser to face civil actions from sexual abuse survivors as well as criminal prosecution from the state. Evidence used in one case can influence the other. Your attorney can advise you as to the elements of your claim that hinge on a criminal trial and the types of compensation you could expect from a civil suit. In most cases, the damages a jury awards in a case involving childhood sexual assault are extensive, due to the heinous nature of these offenses and the high likelihood of these incidents causing permanent trauma.
What Challenges Do Sexual Abuse Victims Face?
As a survivor of sexual abuse, some say the hardest part is just beginning. Besides having to deal with the initial processing of what has occurred, sexual abuse victims face a variety of challenges when it comes to moving forward in their lives. In addition to healing physically from any injuries that stemmed from their sexual abuse, they will need to work on themselves emotionally as well. Both emotional and physical challenges can have short and long-term effects, resulting in years of therapy, medication, and learning to interact socially with their peers.
How Can I Take a Sexual Abuse Case to Court in Kansas City?
Proving a defendant is liable for damages is simpler if there are criminal charges. In certain cases, you may be able to use criminal trial evidence to aid in your personal injury claim. However, even if there is no criminal charge or a defendant escaped conviction, you may be able to prove liability in civil court. The standard of proof is lower in civil cases than in criminal trials. To win a civil trial, your Kansas City injury attorneys must only prove that it was “more likely than not” that the defendant committed sexual abuse.
What is the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Sexual Abuse Case?
Within the justice system, civil and criminal sexual abuse cases are classified differently. In a criminal case, the focus is on the sexual abuser. The case is handled by a prosecuting attorney, with the purpose of criminal courts is to protect society as a whole. Through a criminal sexual abuse case, the results of the proceedings can involve fines and prison sentences.
If the case is handled by a civil court, their main focus is on helping the victim. The cases are handled by civil attorneys and their job is to obtain compensation for the victims through damages they occurred through the sexual assault such as depression, loss of self-esteem, lost income, and more.
Your Next Steps: Contacting a Kansas City Sexual Abuse Attorney
Sexual abuse is a very serious offense, and the trauma of the experience may last a long time. A personal injury lawsuit can help a survivor of sexual abuse gain monetary compensation for harm, which they can use for counseling, therapy, or to pay for other expenses.