Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts
Sexual abuse and assault can be incredibly traumatic and leave long-lasting scars, most of which are not visible. Understanding what happened to you and how wrong it was can take time, and it can take even longer to come forward and seek justice for what happened.
If you are considering a lawsuit against an individual or an institution for sexual abuse, our attorneys will work to help you. We represent sexual abuse survivors and fight to get them compensation for what happened to them through lawsuits and settlements that empower them to move forward with their lives.
For your free case evaluation, call our attorneys for victims of sexual abuse today at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586.
Understanding What Constitutes Sexual Abuse in Erie, PA
The first step in seeking justice for what happened to you is recognizing it. In many cases, grooming tactics and the young age of many abuse victims prevent them from understanding that what happened to them was wrong. There are also often power dynamics involved.
It is important to understand that the term “sexual abuse” is very broad, and you can seek financial compensation and file lawsuits for a wide range of behaviors. While criminal law definitions include many different specific definitions for specific conduct, civil lawsuits can be filed for any unwanted or offensive touching. This includes all sexual touching over or under the clothing, plus any more violative conduct. Even a lot of seemingly “voluntary” conduct is performed under duress or threats, and these kinds of situations also qualify as sexual abuse and assault.
If you have any doubts about whether what happened to you meets the legal definition of sexual assault or sexual abuse, our attorneys for victims of sexual abuse can analyze your case and help make that determination for you. From there, we can help you understand your options.
Seeking Justice for Sexual Abuse Victims in Erie, PA
Seeking justice for many sexual abuse survivors means reporting what happened to the police and seeking criminal charges against the abuser. While this can help justice be served in the traditional sense, it can also be a difficult process for the victim and often results in no compensation. However, victims can also file a separate civil lawsuit against the abuser and potentially the institution involved in their abuse. This can result in monetary payments to the victim.
The criminal justice system is designed to punish offenders rather than help victims. As such, the abuser might go to jail for what they did, but you might not get compensation for the pain and suffering, the mental health visits, or the medical care you needed because of your abuse.
In a civil lawsuit, you can seek financial compensation for all of the damages you faced because of the abuse. If a teacher, priest, scout leader, or other individual linked to an institution abused you, you might also receive compensation from the institution that allowed the abuse to occur or even covered up the abuse.
The burden of proof is also lower in civil cases. This means that in cases where your evidence might not be strong enough for a criminal conviction, it might still succeed in a civil lawsuit. Another factor to consider is that in criminal cases, you might be put on the stand and questioned about what happened, potentially re-retraumatizing you as you relive the facts. In a civil case, we might be able to push for a settlement that protects you from having to testify, and if we do need to go to court, we can help to present the facts on our terms rather than the prosecutor’s terms.
Proving Sexual Abuse Claims Against Individuals and Institutions in Erie, PA
As mentioned, many sexual abuse claims are filed against both the individual abuser and the institution that allowed the abuse. Proving what they did wrong and why they are at fault is sometimes complex.
Your testimony will be the primary piece of evidence in your case. Your own recollections about what happened to you will provide the main facts of the case and allegations against the abuser. Other witnesses or individuals who knew about the abuse can also testify. There may also be quite useful testimony from people that you told about the abuse when it happened, as this helps prove you did not make up the story later.
Evidence to use against an institution might fall more into the category of “hard evidence.” This could include records of reports made to the institution, orders to cover up abuse, employment records, transfer records, and other proof that the institution knew about or should have known about what was happening and taken steps to stop it.
If there is both information that the abuse actually occurred and information about the institution’s negligence, then you could be in a strong position to win your claim. As discussed above, the “burden of proof” in a civil case is lower than the burden of proof in a criminal case. This means that you do not need to prove your case “beyond a reasonable doubt” but can instead prove it “by a preponderance of the evidence,” which is a friendlier standard for plaintiffs.
No matter how much proof you have, you cannot win a claim if you file it too late. Make sure to speak with a lawyer about when your case needs to be filed so that you do not miss the opportunity to sue.
Call Our Attorney for Sexual Abuse Victims in Erie, PA Today
If you need help with your potential case, call (814) 826-3586 for your free case assessment with the attorneys for victims of sexual abuse from The Law Office of Andrew Shubin.