When a survivor finally gets a settlement check – either from the offender who hurt them, the employer who enabled the perpetrator’s abuse, or both – what does it mean? What does it symbolize? Let’s start with an elementary truth: Every survivor is different. Each recovers and heals in his or her unique way. A settlement check will inevitably mean different things to different victims. Still, based on our experience representing hundreds of abuse survivors all across the United States, while a settlement check can mean many things, almost universally, the check is both practically helpful and emotionally healing. In a nutshell, though, here’s what we HOPE it means for every single survivor: that you have beaten the odds.
- Think about the vast majority of abuse victims who never tell anyone.
- Think about those who do tell of their suffering but don’t take it any further.
- Think about those who speak up too late after the statute of limitations has expired.
- Think of those whose cases are derailed by some shrewd defense tactic that brings an abrupt and unjust end to their litigation.
So, when you finally receive a settlement check, you should understand that you have overcome many serious obstacles that most of your fellow survivors are not successful in overcoming. In nearly every case, we at Horowitz Law believe a settlement check also means that a survivor has:
- The courage to speak up. Most sexual abuse survivors carry their secrets and pain to their graves.
- The satisfaction of being believed. Tragically, sometimes even the closest relatives or friends are incapable of believing an abuse report.
- The wisdom to get legal help
(Sometimes, a survivor opts to ‘go it alone’ and try to deal with wrongdoers directly, often with disastrous results.
- The comfort of knowing you’re no longer battling alone. Reporting abuse and seeking justice are uncharted waters for most of us, but especially for those who were fondled, raped, or assaulted as youngsters. No one should try to carry this burden alone.
- The strength to endure a sometimes long and frustrating legal process. Defendants in abuse cases often use every possible maneuver they can to delay justice. Sadly, a few survivors start litigation but eventually become frustrated or exhausted by the opposition and drop their cases.
- The persistence to hang tough right up until the end. Sometimes, the toughest part of a lawsuit comes very late in the process when a survivor is almost worn out. That’s when it’s sometimes most important to summon your strength and persist.
To many survivors, a settlement check is also a clear sign that the truth is on our side and that the bad guys are afraid of us. How so? When an individual or institution that has committed or concealed child sex crimes writes a check to a victim, in essence, they are saying, “The thought of going up against a brave survivor and a savvy attorney facing tough questions in open court about our crimes and cover-ups scares us. We’d rather play it safe, avoid more embarrassment, cut a check, and be done with all this.” So, make no mistake about it; when that settlement check arrives, you may have very mixed feelings. But it’s an enormous achievement, one that can never be taken away from you and one that validates and confirms virtually everything you have said happened to you.
Finally, we at Horowitz Law urge survivors not to get distracted or demoralized by some of the legal language, the fine print, that’s usually in settlement documents. Specifically, we warn our clients that a settlement agreement will almost always include statements like ‘neither party is admitting guilt’ and ‘this agreement does not, in any way, indicate that any party is admitting wrongdoing.’
All of that is, frankly, just mumbo-jumbo and in no way, shape, or form negates your accomplishment or diminishes your truth. This ‘fine print’ is rarely read and even less rarely remembered. If, by some chance, years down the road, any of those phrases make you sad or frustrated, please remember: actions matter, not words. No matter what clauses a settlement agreement might contain, the fact is that the wrongdoers wrote you a check – belatedly, grudgingly, while still trying to pretend they’ve done nothing wrong – the check itself is proof that you fought against tough odds and came out on top.
Horowitz Law is a leading law firm representing survivors of sexual abuse and molestation because we fully dedicate ourselves to your pursuit of justice. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization, school, doctor, or any other institution sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.