April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Please find several frequently asked questions regarding sexual abuse/assault, along with answers below.
If you are survivor of sexual abuse, do you have a viable civil claim?
Unfortunately, not all sexual abuse claims are viable civil cases. For an individual to have a viable civil sexual abuse claim, it is critical that there is a viable defendant who has the ability to compensate the victim for their injuries (mental and physical).
How do you know if there is a viable defendant for you to sue for compensation?
The defendant must have insurance for this type of incident, or have significant assets. Most corporations, non-profit organizations, and state run facilities have insurance coverage available in cases where the entity could be held negligent for their behavior. However, if the defendant is an individual not tied to one of the above, it is unlikely their actions are covered by insurance, nor do they have the assets to compensate the victim for injuries from the abuse.
- Medical and Mental Facilities – A facility where sexual abuse is perpetrated by a staff member of the facility or other residents or patients
- Facilities for Juveniles (juvenile delinquent facilities, treatment facilities, group homes) – Facility where a staff member sexually assaults a resident or a resident sexually assaults or abuses a fellow resident.
- Religious Organizations – Sexual abuse perpetrated by a member of the clergy or employee of the religious institution
- Child Care Facilities (educational institutions and day cares) – abuse perpetuated by staff against juveniles under their care
- Formalized Social Organization (Boy Scouts, Girl Scout, athletic clubs and programs) – Staff or volunteers who engage in sexual abuse of minors
- State Institutions and Organizations (child services) – Sexual abuse perpetrated by a foster parent or state run facility against a juvenile residing in facility or home
- Fraternal Organizations – Organizations which explicitly or implicitly encourage sexual abuse of members and guests of said organizations
- Institutions of Higher Education – Title IX violations and sexual abuse perpetuated by staff and faculty towards students
Possible Causes of Action
In all of these instances there may be a viable cause of action of negligence against the entity that allowed the abuse to occur. Negligent conduct in the form or hiring, retention, supervision, and failure to enforce or have in place policies and procedures to investigate complaints of abuse. Additionally, in situations where an organization covers up prior sexual abuse, there may be a separate cause of action against that entity.
How to Seek Help
Even if you do not have a viable defendant to sue, there are still ways for you to address the sexual abuse you have endured as a survivor. First and foremost, if you have been sexual abused at any time in your life in Pennsylvania you may report that abuse to the authorities in the county where your abuse occurred. Secondly, you can and should seek the help guidance of non-profit organization and medical professionals that exist to help survivors of sexual abuse.
If you have any questions about your rights as a survivor of sexual abuse please contact Carin O’Donnell, Esq. and Ryan Kilmer, Esq., who both specialize in representing survivors of sexual abuse.