Sexual Abuse: Getting Justice Through the Civil Court System

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Victims of sexual abuse face a difficult future. Most are scarred from the encounter with the perpetrator. They suffer from anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and social isolation. Some drop out from school, resign from work, or move to another house just to avoid seeing their abuser again.

Rarely do abuse victims get the help they need to rebuild their lives. Indeed, many find it hard to find a person who would even listen and believe what they have to say. All of these factors make it difficult for them to pursue a criminal case against their abuser. However, there is another way to obtain justice for sexual abuse: a civil suit.

Burden of Proof

It is hard to get a conviction in criminal cases because of the high standard applied by the court. You would have to prove beyond a  reasonable doubt that the person is guilty of the charges. Any kind of doubt is resolved in favor of the defendant.

Even if you think you have strong evidence, a skillful lawyer can poke holes and plant seeds of doubt that could lead to an acquittal. In civil suits involving sexual abuse in Chicago or elsewhere, the standard is not as high. You would only need to convince the court that the defendant is more likely than not to have committed the deeds.

Role of the Victim

Criminal cases are controlled by the state. The state is the one that is prosecuting the defendant and calling the shots regarding strategy. The victim may have very little input in something that has a massive effect on her or his life. If the state prosecutor is not convinced, then the case is finished before it even starts.

Civil cases, on the other hand, place control in the hands of the victim. Victims can initiate the filing if they want to. They can make big decisions regarding the flow of the trial or the settlement.

Determination of Liability

A criminal procedure is interested in proving innocence or guilt. A civil suit is aimed at finding out whether there is liability for the damages resulting from the crime. For instance, a sexually abused woman might have suffered from physical injuries during an altercation with the offender. The medical expenses and ongoing rehabilitation treatment costs must be reimbursed.

If there were missed opportunities or uncollected income as a result of the abuse, then these may be awarded, as well. The mental and emotional trauma cannot be ignored, either. The court will determine the appropriate monetary award based on the facts.

Rebuilding vs Punishment

The end goal of the civil suit is not to punish the offender, although an adverse ruling could result in a big financial blow. The real focus of the suit is the survivor’s welfare.

Given the traumatic nature of the crime, the effects on the life of an abused individual could be immense. It can be extremely difficult to move on even if they want to. The ordeal could have left them unable to study or keep a stable job.

The monetary damages can help them rebuild their lives as they heal. Some survivors don’t even ask for much. They simply want to hold the offender accountable for their actions in a public forum and show everyone that they were telling the truth.

Risks of a Civil Suit

Victims must also be aware of the risks that come with this type of legal action. A win is more likely, but it is not guaranteed. If they lose, they might have to pay for the legal fees of the offender.

They must also think of how they will pay their own injury lawyer. Those with little funds should find someone who will agree to get a percentage of the monetary damages, such that a loss means they don’t have to pay anything. A civil case may also force them to reveal details that they could have otherwise kept in a criminal case.

Consult a lawyer for more information and advice.