Child sex abuse is a horrific crime committed on innocent children. Perpetrators are often people who know the child, such as: priests, neighbors, teachers, coaches, doctors, and even relatives.
Coming to grips with childhood sex abuse is an enormous hurdle. Many victims have difficulty even recalling what happened to them and most will never seek justice against the abuser. Also, many victims are unaware that they have the potential right to sue not only the abuser, but any other person or entity which negligently contributed to the abuse, for example, knowing of the abuse yet doing nothing to stop it.
Many victims ask whether filing a civil lawsuit is right for them. It is of course, a deeply personal decision. No one can make this important decision but the victim.
Here are some pros and cons of filing a civil lawsuit against the abuser and others who negligently allowed the abuse to continue:
1. Get Answers
In a civil lawsuit, the victim’s attorney has the ability to subpoena any person to a deposition and ask any questions about the abuse. This includes not only the abusing priest, but also others like bishops or other priests. In a case of abuse by a teacher, the attorney can also depose other teachers or administrators and ask what they knew and why nothing was done to stop the abuse. For many victims, hearing the answers can help provide a sense of closure and helps with the healing process.
2. Force the Abuser to Respond
A civil lawsuit forces the abuser to respond to the allegations in public. Many victims have attempted to confront their abusers, many of whom deny what happened. A civil lawsuit will force the abuser to answer not only to the victim, but also in front of attorneys, the court and eventually a jury, if the case goes to trial.
3. Prevent Further Abuse
Abusers almost always have multiple victims. Filing a lawsuit can have a deterrent effect and keep the abuser from abusing others. While victims can use initials to protect their privacy on all pleadings, abusers do not have the ability to protect their privacy in the same way. Pleadings are public records, which means that the abuser’s name and address will appear on court records.
4. Financial Recovery
Financial compensation is hardly a motivating factor for a victim of child sex abuse. Rather, justice is the motivation. However, the civil justice system is designed in such a way that a person wronged by another receives financial compensation from the wrongdoer. Civil child molestation cases are treated the same as a contract case or other personal injury case. This means that the victim could obtain financial recovery for damages such as medical and psychological treatment and pain and suffering.
1. Family Hardship
In some instances, coming forward and filing suit means disappointing members of the family. This is especially the case when the abuser was a family member. It is not an easy choice to make and victims must decide whether to seek justice, sometimes at the cost of family peace.
The reality is that the civil justice system is slow. Civil cases like priest abuse cases can take at least one to two years to resolve, once the Complaint is filed. Fortunately in some areas, like Philadelphia, the court has an expedited system which helps make cases move more quickly.
3. Discussing the Details
A victim will have to discuss the abuse on at least one occasion after the Complaint is filed. The victim will have to testify at a deposition and potentially at trial.
Before deciding to file a lawsuit, a victim should discuss the pros and cons with a trusted friend.
Related legal article: The Civil Justice System: An Overview for Victims of Child Sex Abuse
If you or a loved one has been a victim of sex abuse, contact Brian Kent, an experienced sex abuse victims’ civil lawyer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Mr. Kent handles child molestation, sexual assault, sex abuse, and priest/clergy abuse cases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He works with attorneys nationwide and can be admitted in other states to handle matters on a case by case basis. 800.220.7600
**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.