Families impacted by child sexual assault may feel overwhelmed when it comes to knowing how to move forward. Victims of sexual assault have the right to pursue legal action against the alleged attacker. Even if the criminal court does not convict the attacker, the victim can pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
If your child has been the victim of sexual assault, you are not alone. The personal injury attorneys at Rochelle McCullough, LLP provide compassionate, effective legal representation for children who’ve been the victims of sexual assault for the Dallas and Hot Springs area. We are here to provide answers to your questions, help you understand your legal options, and pursue justice for your child.
What to Do If Your Child Has Been the Victim of Sexual Assault
If your child was the victim of sexual abuse or assault, you may have already filed a complaint with your local police department. If you haven’t yet reported the incident or incident, it’s important to file a police report. Taking your child to a hospital emergency room is also important.
Many hospitals have doctors and doctors who’ve received training in treating patients of sexual assault. They can help preserve important evidence and ensure your child receives the medical treatment he or she needs. Receiving support and therapy from a licensed therapist can help your child heal mentally and emotionally.
Civil vs. Criminal Lawsuit for Sexual Assault of a Minor
Understanding the difference between criminal and civil sexual assault cases is important. Perpetrators of sexual assault of minors can face civil and criminal consequences at the same time. In a criminal case, a Texas prosecutor will bring criminal charges against the defendant on behalf of Texas. Upon a criminal conviction, the defendant can receive penalties such as incarceration, fines, and the requirement to be registered as a sex offender.
When a defendant is convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, the victim generally doesn’t receive monetary compensation. However, if the victim or the victim’s family sues the perpetrator for monetary damages in civil court, the victim can recover compensation. In some cases, it is easier for a plaintiff to succeed in a civil trial if the defendant has already been convicted of a criminal act.
Who Can Sue?
Either the child or his or her legal guardian may have a right to bring a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator. The child can sue for damages caused by the physical, emotional, or other harm caused by the sexual abuse. Additionally, the child’s parents or other caregivers may be able to pursue compensation for their own emotional distress caused by the abuse.
What If the Perpetrator Wasn’t Convicted of a Sex Crime?
Even if the defendant wasn’t convicted of a sex crime, a civil plaintiff suing for the same illegal acts can still succeed in a civil lawsuit. Minors who have suffered physical injuries and severe mental anguish after being the victim of sexual assault can pursue compensation through a Texas civil court.
In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove the defendant committed a sex crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Meeting this standard is challenging. However, in a civil trial, the plaintiff only needs to prove that it is “more likely than not” that the defendant committed sexual abuse, making it easier to prove.
Who Can Be Held Liable for the Sexual Assault of a Minor?
Child victims of child molestation and forcible rape have the legal right to sue the aggressor for the economic and non-economic damages caused by the victim’s injuries. In some cases, victims may be able to sue entities and institutions that may have enabled or perpetuated the abuse, such as the following organizations:
- Medical clinics
- Community organizations
- Social clubs
- Recreational and sports clubs
For example, if a child experiences sexual abuse at the hands of a clergy member or teacher, the victim may be able to pursue a claim against the church or school, respectively. If the school or church covered up the abuse or failed to remove the clergy member from their employment, they may be liable for the victim’s injuries.
Damages Available in Child Sexual Assault Lawsuits
Through a personal injury lawsuit, you may be able to recover the following damages for your child:
- Past and future hospital bills
- Physical rehabilitation
- The cost of counseling or therapy
- Treatment for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health conditions
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
The Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault of a Minor in Texas
Processing the full effects of child sexual abuse can be a long process. Survivors may be adults before they decide to pursue a claim. Thankfully, many states, including Texas, have extended the statute of limitations, or time limit for filing a claim.
Prior to 2019, victims of child sexual abuse only allowed victims 15 years from their 18th birthday to file a civil lawsuit against the alleged perpetrator. Under a recently passed Texas law (HB 3809), child abuse victims have 30 years from their 18th birthday to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator. Speaking to an attorney as soon as possible can help you protect your child’s legal claim. If you were sexually abused as a child, your right to pursue a claim will expire when you are 48 years old.
Schedule a Complimentary Case Evaluation with a Personal Injury Attorney
Whether you are the parent of a child victim of sexual abuse or you’re an adult ready to pursue a claim for abuse that occurred during your childhood, the attorneys at Rochelle McCullough, LLP are prepared to help you. Contact us today.
Our compassionate, understanding attorneys will answer any questions and help you understand your legal options. We have a proven track record of successfully advocating for victims of child sexual abuse and will diligently pursue justice in your case.
We extend our personal injury legal services to help clients with elevator accident cases throughout Texas, including Dallas, & Fort Worth, as well as in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Committed to advocating for your rights and securing the compensation you deserve.