Victims of sexual violence often struggle to get justice. Police departments don’t generally know how to handle such cases effectively, and only a tiny percentage of scenarios involving sexual abuse or sexual assault ever see justice in the criminal courts.
Difficulty gathering evidence and unfortunate bias both within society and within the legal system can make it very hard even for survivors to get justice. In some cases, when the criminal courts fail to penalize an offender and acknowledge harm done to the survivors, it may be necessary to bring in professional help to take the matter to civil court. It can even be helpful to pursue civil remedies even when justice is done in criminal court, as criminal recourse doesn’t directly benefit survivors in specific ways that civil recourse can.
One of the lawyers at our firm, Zachary Stewart, recently filed a civil claim related to a sexual abuse scandal that victimized at least one middle school student. How can a lawsuit potentially help those sexually assaulted or abused by those in positions of authority?
Lawsuits can inspire consequences
In a very tragic case handled by Mr. Stewart, a young woman had been abused by an adult who was both a teacher and a coach at the middle school she attended. She worked as a teacher’s aide in his classroom, which gave him authority over and access to engage inappropriate conduct. The accused teacher has since entered a guilty plea to sexual abuse charges. This teacher engaged in extensive grooming and reportedly also kept a list of the students he found most attractive. By pursuing a lawsuit, the student survivor who is now an adult can draw attention to the crimes committed by this teacher so that he cannot continue to victimize others.
Any publicity that the case receives may also give other students who have endured similar abuse the courage to step forward and make their experiences known as well. Finally, by taking the matter to civil court, it may be possible to create consequences both for the perpetrator and those who ignored or facilitated his abuse. The case names a school administrator who was present at the time of one of the incidents the survivor experienced, as well as the school board which failed to take appropriate action, as defendants in the suit.
How civil lawsuits can help survivors
A civil claim filed by a survivor of sexual assault will also be beneficial to society by drawing attention to a predator and compelling institutions to engage in better safeguarding practices. Such claims can also help to compensate the survivors by awarding them financial compensation.
The funds secured in a successful lawsuit related to sexual abuse could help cover medical and counseling costs of the survivor and also offset lifetime lost earning potential which often accompanies severe trauma. Realizing that criminal court isn’t the only way to seek justice can give survivors of sexual abuse another opportunity to stop the person who hurt them from doing the same to someone else later.