Victims who are considering filing a lawsuit for sexual abuse or molestation in Pennsylvania or New Jersey often want to know whether their cases will be successful. Aside from the legal issues that can sink a case, like the statute of limitations, one of the most critical aspects of a case is credibility, i.e., whether the victim can be believed.
Credibility – It’s All in the Details
Lawsuits for sex abuse or molestation are often fought (and won) over credibility. The victim’s word must be believed. What helps a victim’s credibility is remembering specific details. Sometimes, victims of sex abuse have hazy memories about the abuse, which is absolutely understandable. However, this certainly does not help the case.
Victims should be able to recall specific details, such as dates/times or other details like where the abuse occurred, whether others were present before, during or after the abuse, etc. In one high profile child molestation case in Delaware, the abuse occurred in 1975. The victim remembered the exact date of the abuse because it was the same date as the 1975 Super Bowl game involving a famous win by the Cowboys over the Vikings.
Corroboration of Details
When specific details can be corroborated by others, the victim’s word is more likely to be believed. For example, a priest abuses a child over the course of many months. The abuse always takes place in the priest’s apartment or on overnight field trips, in hotels. The victim recalls specific details about the priest’s apartment, like the color of the rug in the living room or the kind of liquor the priest liked to drink. The victim also recalls details about the hotel rooms including the layouts of the rooms.
During the investigation, witnesses are located who corroborate some of the details. A neighbor states that he had seen the priest drink the specific type of liquor. A hotel manager corroborates that the priest did in fact stay in a room and also corroborates the layout of the room.
Credibility – When Stories Change
One issue that certainly affects credibility is whether the victim’s recollection of the events changes over time. A victim whose recollection changes is likely to lose the case. Using the same example above, the victim gives a statement to detectives about the abuse having occurred in the priest’s apartment and at hotels. After the case is filed, the victim testifies that the abuse never occurred in the apartment or hotel rooms, and instead, always occurred in a church office. Without any plausible or reasonable explanation, the change in this important detail, where the abuse occurred, would probably sink the case.
These types of lawsuits often boil down to credibility of the victim and other witnesses. Therefore, anyone who was sexually abused or assaulted in PA or NJ and would like to file a civil lawsuit must be aware of the importance of credibility.
Pennsylvania & New Jersey Sex Abuse Victims’ Lawyers
Our law firm handles sex abuse and assault lawsuits in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call for a free consultation.
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