For individuals who are victims of sexual abuse, understanding the law and how civil and criminal cases differ is an important step on the road to recovery. While the law surrounding sexual abuse is designed to protect victims, it is also complicated. Securing protection requires the ability to navigate the complex legal procedures involved and varies from state to state.
This article provides an overview of the legal issues involved in securing protection and obtaining financial compensation as a victim of sexual abuse in Oregon or Washington. If you need help immediately, you should call 911. If you have questions and would like to discuss your situation in confidence, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a complimentary consultation.
Understanding Your Rights as a Sexual Abuse Victim in Oregon or Washington
The Statutory Definitions of Sexual Abuse Are Relevant, But Not Dispositive
If you look at Oregon’s sexual abuse laws, you will quickly be overwhelmed. Oregon law defines numerous different sex-related offenses in a variety of different categories, with offenses ranging from fourth-degree to first-degree crimes. It is a similar situation in Washington, with the law prohibiting various classifications of rape, sexual misconduct, indecent liberties, and other sexual offenses.
However, regardless of the statutory language in your state, if you are a victim of sexual abuse, the law protects you. Between all of the various criminal offenses, essentially all forms of sexual abuse are covered. Furthermore, even in circumstances where they could potentially be a question as to the attacker’s criminal culpability, the standards for obtaining a protective order and for pursuing a civil claim are lower than those for prosecutors seeking a conviction in criminal court.
Criminal Prosecution Versus a Civil Claim for Damages
The distinction between criminal cases and civil cases is an important one. While criminal cases focus on punishing illegal conduct, civil cases provide a source of financial compensation to victims of sexual abuse. The financial and non-financial costs of being sexually abused can be substantial. As a victim, filing a civil claim can be essential to moving on with as few long-term consequences as possible.
Unlike criminal cases, which are handled by prosecutors who work for the government, in order to recover damages, you will need to file a civil claim, personally. You do not have to wait for the criminal case to run its course; in fact, you should not do so. It is important to act promptly, and your first step should be to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney who has experience representing victims of sexual abuse. An experienced attorney will be able to explain your legal options, seek protection in court if necessary, and pursue a civil claim for damages on your behalf.
Identifying the Defendant(s) for a Civil Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
While seeking financial compensation for the immediate and long-term effects of sexual abuse can involve filing a lawsuit against the perpetrator, many cases will involve claims against third parties. These claims are typically based on the law of negligence, and they often involve allegations that the defendant failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the assault. For example, potential defendants in sexual abuse lawsuits may include:
- Employers – Unwanted touching and other forms of sexual assault and sexual abuse in the workplace are not acceptable under any circumstances. If you were assaulted or abused by a superior or coworker, your employer may be liable.
- Property Owners – Property owners that fail to provide adequate security for patrons and guests can be held responsible for sexual assaults occurring on their premises.
- Businesses – Businesses can be held liable for providing inadequate security and other failures that put individuals in dangerous circumstances.
- Government Entities – From prisons and detention centers to government office buildings, if a sexual assault occurs on government property, the government may be responsible.
- Academic Institutions – Colleges and universities may be liable for sexual assaults occurring on campus, at fraternity and sorority houses, and at other locations. School boards and other governing bodies may be liable for sexual abuse of students and staff at public and private schools. However, some insurance policies have exclusions for sexual abuse.
These entities will usually have insurance that covers sexual abuse claims, and securing compensation is often a matter of dealing with insurance companies. However, going to court is a possibility. If this is what it takes to secure compensation in your case, your attorney can use all available legal means to protect your privacy to the greatest extent possible.
Seeking Financial Compensation for Sexual Abuse
Regardless of who holds legal responsibility, as a victim of sexual abuse, you are entitled to seek full compensation for your losses. This includes direct out-of-pocket costs such as medical bills; other financial losses such as loss of income; and non-financial losses such as pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. While securing financial compensation may or may not be one of your priorities right now, due to the potential for ongoing financial losses and enduring mental trauma, it is important to assert your legal rights. Taking legal action promptly will provide you with the best chance to recover just compensation, and speaking with an attorney will ensure that you know what you need to do in order to maximize your recovery.
As a victim of sexual abuse, you face a difficult road ahead – but help is available. Asserting your legal rights is the only way to ensure that the consequences are no greater than necessary. If you live in Oregon or Washington and are a victim of sexual abuse, we invite you to contact us for a free and confidential consultation.
Speak with an Attorney at D’Amore Law Group in Confidence
Our attorneys represent sexual abuse victims throughout Oregon and Washington. If you have been sexually abused, we can help you. To speak with one of our experienced attorneys about your legal rights, please call us today or tell us how to reach you online and we will arrange your free initial consultation as soon as possible.