Should sexual abuse survivors consider filing a civil lawsuit?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2023 | Firm News

Every 68 seconds, someone in America faces sexual abuse. While survivors often attempt to seek justice through the criminal court system, many find that it isn’t enough to seek the peace of mind they desire.

As sexual abuse can leave survivors with lasting trauma, many deal with mental health, employment and relationship-related struggles. Whether they press criminal charges or not, survivors may find more tranquility in filing a civil lawsuit.

Criminal proceedings can force survivors to relive the trauma

Pressing charges against a sexual abuser can lead to them serving prison time. However, that’s if they’re found guilty. As criminal cases carry a high burden of proof, survivors must often take the stand and recount some of the most horrific moments of their lives. This can lead to survivors feeling vulnerable and victimized, especially if the jury finds the defendant not guilty or the case leads to a hung jury. When this happens, survivors can feel angry, violated and ashamed.

Civil lawsuits are no guarantee, but they can offer an alternative form of justice

When survivors file a civil lawsuit, they can usually choose whether or not they confront their abuser directly. In many cases, survivors who file civil lawsuits choose to go after the institution that failed to protect them from the abuse, as pursuing negligent entities can give them a better chance at seeking compensation. If the survivors receive damages, they can use them to cover mental health care or time away from work to heal from their trauma. Receiving compensation can also allow survivors to feel like they’ve held the perpetrator accountable, even if it doesn’t involve the individual perpetrator going to jail.

Civil lawsuits can also allow survivors to pursue intentional torts or wrongful acts that caused them mental or physical harm. Some of those torts include:

  • Negligent/intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • False imprisonment
  • Assault/battery

Knowing which tort to pursue in a civil sexual abuse case can be challenging. Survivors may want to speak with a professional to see which options fit their situation.

Survivors are free to pick any path they choose

No one should have to endure sexual abuse. Unfortunately, it still happens all too often. No amount of money can fully heal the wounds of manipulation and violation by a sexual predator.

When survivors come forward, it’s crucial to listen to them and help them pursue their preferred path to justice. Whether that includes a criminal trial, civil trial or both, survivors deserve to have their voices heard.