What to Do if You Believe You Were Sexually Abused

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Civil claims for sexual abuse can be extremely complicated. Evidence is hard to come by, and many plaintiffs wait years before coming forward with their claims. If you believe you were sexually abused, talk to an attorney and the police right away.

If you were sexually abused, report it to the police immediately. Depending on your state, the statute of limitations might be close at hand or years away. Either way, report the abuse as soon as you can. Your attorney can help you gather evidence to prove your claims and get fair compensation. If you were unable to report the abuse for a long time, you might still have a strong case. An attorney can help you file a claim even if the abuse happened years ago. In some cases, individuals are named as defendants. In many others, entities or organizations like schools and religious groups are named. Your damages should reflect the money you spent on things like medical care or therapy in addition to your immense psychological trauma.

Contact our sexual abuse lawyers for a free review of your claims by calling The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586.

Why You Need to Report Sexual Abuse as Soon as Possible

Instances of sexual abuse should be reported to the police immediately, if possible. The evidence needed to prove sexual abuse or assault often disappears over time. The authorities rely on things like DNA evidence found on the victim’s body to incriminate the defendant. Such evidence is also very valuable in civil claims for sexual abuse.

You should also report the abuse so the police can investigate and possibly find more evidence. The police can act fast to search the premises where the abuse happened, collect additional evidence, and take samples for DNA analysis.

Unfortunately, many victims of sexual abuse wait a long time before coming forward with their claims. Victims cite various reasons for waiting. Many feel deeply ashamed of what happened and are afraid of further humiliation. Others are afraid they will not be believed and instead be socially ostracized. Still, others fear retaliation from their abuser. If it has been a long time since the abuse, our sexual abuse lawyers can help you report the abuse to the police and figure out your next legal steps.

Many people wait to report abuse because they were young children when the abuse happened. Abusers often threaten their young victims into silence. In some cases, abused children tell their parents or other family members but are not believed and punished for supposedly lying. It might be years until the truth finally comes out.

When You Should Begin a Civil Claim Related to Sexual Abuse

While it is important to report sexual abuse sooner rather than later, what many potential plaintiffs might not realize is that there is a specific deadline on when they must file a civil lawsuit. This deadline may vary based on many different factors and circumstances. Talk to an attorney about your situation to determine your precise deadline.

Statute of Limitations

The deadline for a civil lawsuit is often called the statute of limitations. Different types of claims tend to adhere to different statutes of limitations. Additionally, these statutes vary by state. For example, in Alabama, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims is found under Ala. Code § 6-2-34(1) and allows plaintiffs only 6 years to file claims.

In the State of Maryland, recent legislation abolished the statute of limitations for certain types of sexual abuse claims. The Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023 repealed statutes of limitations and repose for certain sexual abuse cases, meaning victims may bring a case at any time, regardless of how much time has passed.

It is critical that you meet with a lawyer from your state to discuss the statute of limitations that applies to your case. While many states recognize that sexual abuse victims need lots of time to come forward, others impose harshly restrictive deadlines.

Deadlines for Adults and Children

Many states differentiate between cases involving children and adult victims. Typically, children are given more time to file for several reasons. First, children are more easily manipulated by abusers and other adults in their lives, and they have a much harder time coming forward with their claims. Second, even when abused children do come forward, they usually cannot take legal action on their own. They often must wait until adulthood before they can even speak to a lawyer.

For example, Pennsylvania makes a major distinction between adults and children when it comes to the statute of limitations for sexual abuse. According to 42 Pa.C.S. § 5533(b)(2)(i), plaintiffs who were abused when they were minors have until they are 55 years old to file their claims. According to 42 Pa.C.S. § 5533(b)(2)(i.1), adult victims who were at least 18 but younger than 24 when they were abused have until the age of 30 to file their claims in court. Adults aged 24 or older who were abused have a mere 2 years to file their claims.

Changes in the Law in Your State

The laws surrounding civil sexual abuse claims are often hotly debated among lawmakers, and many states have enacted very recent changes in their laws. As mentioned above, Maryland abolished its statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse claims, opening the door for many victims to come forward. Other states have enacted similar laws.

In New York, the Child Victims Act was passed to give victims of childhood sexual abuse longer to get civil claims into court. They have until age 55, as opposed to the previous deadline of age 23.

Keep in mind that not all states are updating their laws. Some states have tried and failed to pass this kind of progressive legislation. Talk to your lawyer to make sure of what your deadline is.

Gathering Evidence After Being Sexually Abused

If you believe you have been sexually abused, it is imperative that you and your attorney begin gathering evidence as soon as possible. If you report the abuse right after it happens, you are in the best position to get strong evidence to build a claim. If you waited several years or more before coming forward with your claims, it may be harder to find evidence, but not necessarily impossible.

If you were abused very recently, you should contact the police and get to a hospital. If you have injuries, doctors can provide treatment. A rape kit might also be used to find DNA evidence that might match the defendant. This kind of evidence is extremely hard to refute, and DNA evidence is often considered among the strongest kinds of evidence.

If some time has passed since you were sexually abused, searching for DNA evidence on your person might not be helpful. Even so, there are other avenues to explore. If other people knew about the abuse, they might testify as witnesses. It is not unusual for an abuser to victimize multiple people, and other victims might testify about what they know.

Your testimony is of the utmost importance. It is not unusual for abusers to keep their actions secret and private, meaning there are no other witnesses and very little evidence. As such, the victim’s testimony might be some of the strongest evidence in their case. Juries may be very moved by testimony from the plaintiff. Do not underestimate the power of your own story.

What to Do if You Were Sexually Abused a Long Time Ago?

As you probably already know, it is very hard for victims of sexual abuse to come forward with their claims and report the abuse to the authorities. Many victims are unsure if they can sue for abuse that happened many years ago. Even if you waited years before talking about the abuse, you can still sue if your claim is still within the statute of limitations.

If you were sexually abused a long time ago, the first thing you should do is contact an attorney. They can guide you through what to do next. Handling sexual abuse claims years after the abuse happened is not uncommon, but it is often different than handling cases of more recent abuse.

Your attorney can help you report the abuse to the police. In many cases, the police will file a report, but there might not be enough evidence to warrant an arrest. However, many plaintiffs are surprised to find that the police find enough probable cause to arrest the abuser, and criminal charges might follow.

Next, Check the statute of limitations on your claim. As discussed earlier, the statute of limitations may vary based on what state you live in and how old you were when the abuse occurred. To make matters more complicated, many victims are abused multiple times over a long period of time. The deadline to file your case should begin on the date of the most recent incident of abuse.

Identifying the People and Parties Responsible for the Sexual Abuse

After speaking with our sexual abuse attorneys and the police about the abuse, we can work to determine who should held responsible for the abuse. Many plaintiffs tend to focus on holding the individual who abused them accountable. While this is important, there might be other parties involved.

Often, victims of childhood sexual abuse are abused at school. Not only can they sue the person who abused them, but they might also sue the school where the abuse happened. Suing a school can be a bit complicated. While suing a private school is largely similar to suing any other private entity or person, suing a public school is different. Public schools are considered governmental entities, and certain immunities might protect them.

If you want to sue a public school, an attorney can help you check your state’s Tort Claims Act or other laws regarding how governmental entities may be sued. Some states might not allow lawsuits against schools unless very special circumstances are present.

In many states, plaintiffs must provide advanced notice of their civil claims to the school or the governing authorities that oversee the school. If notice is not provided, the whole claim might be in jeopardy.

Keeping Track of Your Damages if You Believe You Are the Victim of Sexual Abuse

When filing a civil claim for sexual abuse, we need to provide the court with details about your damages and what kind of compensation you deserve. The court may award compensatory damages for economic and non-economic injuries.

Economic costs in sexual abuse cases are not normally the focus of a plaintiff’s claims for damages, but they might still be significant. For example, you can claim the costs of medical and mental health treatment after the abuse.

Non-economic damages revolve around your painful personal experiences, including those that might not have taken a direct financial toll on your life. For example, you may claim psychological distress, emotional turmoil, and the pain of enduring mental health conditions brought on by the abuse, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Calling a Lawyer for Help When You Believe You Were Sexually Abused

It is important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible if you believe you have been the victim of sexual abuse. Your attorney can help you evaluate the situation, including how much time has passed since the abuse, and determine your legal options.

A key element of your case that your lawyer can help you with is evidence. One of the biggest hurdles in sex abuse cases is finding evidence. Abusers often take measures to hide and cover up evidence. If plaintiffs wait several years before coming forward, additional evidence might be lost. An experienced attorney can help you identify existing evidence and get it before it is gone. An attorney should also know how to build a strong case with few pieces of evidence.

Many plaintiffs are worried about having to get in contact with defendants. These are people the plaintiffs probably hope never to see again. Your lawyer can be your main point of contact for everything. Any communication between you and the defendant goes through your lawyer.

Call Our Sexual Abuse Lawyers for Help Getting Your Case Started

Contact our sexual abuse lawyers for a free review of your claims by calling The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586.


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