Will My Identity Be Made Public if I File a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Sexual abuse is incredibly violating, and it makes sense that victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault would want to keep what happened to them private, if possible.  In cases filed against teachers, priests, employers, or public figures, victims often fear that their name could be released.  However, there are usually processes for filing anonymously and keeping your identity private.

Privacy rights can often help victims keep their sexual assault lawsuits anonymous when it comes to court records and the name on the case.  These rules are even stronger for child victims, whose names are almost never included in the lawsuit.  However, it is often up to the judge’s discretion, and judges need to weigh your privacy rights against the public’s rights to know what’s going on in court.  State and local rules may apply differently from place to place.

For help with your case, call (814) 826-3586 for a free case analysis with The Law Office of Andrew Shubin’s sexual abuse victim lawyers.

Does My Name Go on the Case if I File for Sexual Abuse?

The “name” of a court case is known as the caption.  This caption usually consists of the plaintiff’s name – the party bringing the suit – then a “v.” for “versus,” then the defendant’s name.  This name is how the case is referred to in court, in the news, and in general discussions, and it goes at the top of all documents filed with the court (typically alongside a case number).  For example, in the famous case Brown vs. Board of Education, a parent named Oliver Brown (along with other parents) sued the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.  While most court cases are not quite as famous as this, it is possible that a well-known person could end up on the defendant’s side of the caption for a sexual abuse case, and victims would be concerned about their name being attached to such a case in the news or in public.

Fortunately, you can often petition the court to keep your name confidential.  This would put some placeholder name or pseudonym at the top of the caption.  This is incredibly common in cases involving child victims, but adult victims of sensitive or personal things like sexual abuse can also seek to have their names kept private.

Instead of putting your name in the case caption, a placeholder name will usually be used instead.  This is commonly something like your initials or simply calling you “Anonymous” in the caption.  Some states might also allow names like John Doe or Jane Doe, perhaps with a number attached to differentiate between anonymous people and indicate that they are a known person.  The famous case Roe v. Wade used the pseudonym “Jane Roe” for the plaintiff in that case because of the privacy issues involved in that case.

Otherwise, “Doe” names are usually used as a placeholder for unknown parties who might not have been identified yet, such as another unknown victim or an unknown perpetrator.

When Can I File a Sexual Abuse Case Anonymously?

While many sexual assault cases will meet the standards for anonymous filing, being able to file your case anonymously or under a pseudonym is not guaranteed.  Court matters are considered public issues, and it is the public’s and the press’ right to get access to information about what is going on in court.  Generally, your sexual abuse victim lawyers will need to show the court that your interest in keeping your name private outweighs the public interest in learning about what happened.

One of the most common reasons for keeping a case anonymous is because the victim is a minor.  Courts often grant permission for anonymous filing and never even take a second look at the matter when the case involves sexual abuse of a child.

Sexual matters, such as abuse, rape, and sexual assault, are also considered important matters of privacy.  As such, these cases often weigh in favor of privacy and anonymity.

A risk of retribution is also a good reason for a court to allow you to file anonymously.  If the defendant is your employer or someone with economic or social power over you, then it might be important to keep your name private to avoid them being able to do anything to hurt you economically, physically, or otherwise.  If the defendant is a somewhat public figure with a following, your name could be kept private to avoid harassment from their fans or followers.

Defendants can sometimes argue that keeping the plaintiff’s identity anonymous would be unfair to them or that the public interest in learning your identity is too important for anonymity, and judges will weigh this claim against your need for privacy.

Can Defendants Keep Their Name Private in a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

Generally, the defendant cannot keep their name private like a plaintiff can.  Allegations against a defendant are an important public matter, and the public has an interest in knowing whether individuals are safe to be around, especially if they are public figures or people with high stations in society.  As such, defendants usually cannot have their names kept private.

What if the Defendant Figures Out Who I Am?

In many cases, defendants will be able to identify who is suing them based on the facts of the case and their memory of those events.  However, even if the defendant knows who you are, they might not be able to talk about it publicly.

First, acknowledging that they know who you are could come across as an admission that they remember the events.  This could hurt their case, and their lawyers would likely caution them against acknowledging this.  Second, the court can often issue a protective order to avoid having the defendant share your information, shame you, harass you publicly, or draw public attention to your identity.  This could constitute witness intimidation or potentially taint a jury pool in cases where a public figure is the defendant.

Can Private Court Information Be Unsealed?

In some cases, after time has passed, courts might be able to unseal hidden details.  An anonymous filing is not necessarily “sealed” through the same processes unlocked by Freedom of Information Act filings, but these requests and similar state-level requests for information might be able to get secret or anonymous details revealed.  However, odds are that if you are suing a private individual and not a public figure, no one will have any reason to seek out this information in the first place.

Call Our Sexual Abuse Victim Lawyers Today

For help with your potential case, call our sexual abuse victim lawyers at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin today at (814) 826-3586.


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