Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts
There are many pieces of evidence that go into proving a sexual abuse case. Often, you do not stand alone, and there are many other people who can step forward and use their voice to support your claim and help you get justice for what happened to you. Understanding the role of witnesses and expert testimony is important if you plan to pursue damages for sexual abuse in court.
Witnesses are permitted to testify in your favor about what they saw and experienced. In a sexual abuse case, you, as the victim, might be the most important witness. Anyone else who saw what happened to you can also testify, as can many people who can corroborate your reports and experiences at the time of the abuse. Experts are called “expert witnesses,” but they might not be eyewitnesses at all. Nevertheless, experts can be called on for testimony about many medical and scientific issues related to a sexual abuse case.
Call our sexual abuse victim lawyers at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin for a free case review by dialing (814) 826-3586.
What Witnesses Can Testify for You in a Sexual Abuse Claim?
Most injury cases will have witnesses, especially if the accident occurred during the daytime in a public place. However, sexual abuse cases often happen in private and behind closed doors, with the abusers intentionally isolating their victims and preventing witnesses. Even so, there are a few different types of witnesses who can testify and whose knowledge about what happened can help you prove your claim.
You (the Victim)
As the victim, you will essentially be the primary witness in your case. You know what happened to you; you experienced it, and you can tell the jury directly about everything you know. Our sexual abuse victim lawyers will usually request to call you as a witness in your own case, but we understand that this might not be possible.
Discussing what happened to you can result in re-traumatizing a sexual assault survivor, potentially making them relive what happened and increasing their pain. As such, we will sometimes be able to push the defendant to settle the case so that you can avoid testifying entirely or else supply evidence through other witnesses to avoid the need for you to take the stand. Sometimes victims cannot remember the events or were drugged or unconscious at the time of the abuse, making their ability to testify directly about events unlikely.
People who actually saw the assault or abuse take place can testify about what they saw happen. This is incredibly helpful information to have, especially if the witness has no prior relationship with you and testifies in total agreement with your own claims. This kind of corroboration is excellent evidence to provide in a sexual abuse claim.
Eyewitnesses can say what they saw, but they might have trouble testifying about what they thought or what they heard. Witnesses are supposed to stick to the facts, not their opinions about what happened. Additionally, statements made out of court are often considered hearsay and are not permitted in evidence. However, exceptions – such as statements by the defendant – fall outside this restriction.
Witnesses with Circumstantial Evidence
Many times, witnesses come too late or miss the actual abuse taking place. But they can nonetheless provide excellent testimony about what happened by telling the court about the circumstances surrounding your abuse.
People often use the phrase “circumstantial evidence” to dismiss evidence as weak or invalid, but this is not at all how the law treats circumstantial evidence. The phrase “circumstantial evidence” is merely used to differentiate it from direct evidence. So instead of being evidence relating the events directly, circumstantial evidence is evidence of the circumstances surrounding what happened, allowing the jury to draw conclusions for themselves about things that have little or no direct evidence.
For example, a nurse in an emergency room who performed a “rape kit” on a victim can testify about bruises, the presence of bodily fluids, and the victim’s shaken condition after the events, all of which are circumstantial evidence indicating that a rape occurred. In other situations, a witness might be a parent testifying that a child victim’s mood or attitude changed or that they noticed bruising on their child after they were alone with the abuser.
Witnesses can also include people that you told about the abuse or witnesses that saw or experienced similar circumstances or abuse from the same defendant. However, their use might be limited by the Rules of Evidence in your state.
Many sexual abuse accusations are dismissed by people claiming that the accusation came out of nowhere or that it was recently fabricated. If you told someone about the abuse when it happened, and they remember that conversation years later, that can help prove that you were not making up the claim now. However, hearsay rules might limit how we can use their testimony.
If another abuse victim was abused by the same defendant in a similar way, under similar circumstances, their testimony can help in your case, too. We can attempt to use this evidence to show that the pattern and methods match what happened in that case, making it more likely that the same person was responsible. However, we cannot usually use their testimony to prove that a defendant’s past responsibility means that they were responsible for this case, too.
Expert witnesses are called “witnesses” because they are called to the stand to testify as a witness in court, not because they necessarily witnessed the events. In most cases, expert testimony will come from someone who analyzed you or some piece of evidence after the abuse took place. Expert witnesses usually testify about some specialized knowledge or science that they understand that the court and jury might not.
For example, the medical professionals and lab techs that administered and carried out the testing on a “rape kit” might be able to testify about the evidence they obtained and explain how that scientific evidence is valid.
Experts can also include doctors, therapists, psychologists, and others who can testify about the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse or the specific effects and damages you faced in your case. For example, a child psychologist might be able to testify that the fact that after the time of the alleged childhood abuse, the fact that you withdrew and became avoidant was a potential sign that sexual abuse did indeed occur. Moreover, your current therapist or psychiatrist could testify about your current PTSD symptoms as part of the damages you experienced from the abuse.
Call Our Sexual Abuse Lawyers for Help with Your Case
For a free, confidential case evaluation, contact The Law Office of Andrew Shubin’s sexual abuse victim lawyers at (814) 826-3586 today.