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Sexual Abuse and Assault

Common questions regarding Sexual Abuse and Assault injury claims as detailed by an injury lawyer. For other frequently asked questions consult with the Preszler Injury Lawyers FAQ page.

No survivor of sexual assault should worry about not having enough evidence to come forward.  We routinely take on cases where our clients have never reported their assault to the police. The only evidence we need to prove a civil sexual assault claim is our client’s story of what happened.  

In fact, it is rare for cases of historic abuse to hinge on hard evidence, such as witness testimonies or formal reports. Instead, sexual abuse claims are decided by weighing all of the evidence on a balance of probabilities.  Your evidence and testimony count.
There is no statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims in the Province of Ontario. That means that, no matter how far in the past your abuse took place, you could still be eligible to pursue a civil claim against the person who perpetrated the crime, or the organization responsible for fostering the relationship between victim and perpetrator so that the crime could occur (depending on the circumstances of the case).   

We are often retained by people in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s who were assaulted as children.  Even if your abuser is no longer living, you may be able to pursue civil action against their employer, the institution that introduced you to your abuser, or any other responsible party. 

The law recognizes that survivors of sexual assault often do not report their assaults for years or even decades after it happened. The law recognizes that survivors of sexual assault deserve justice and fairness no matter when the assault took place.
In a typical case, you will never see the defendant. Civil sexual assault lawsuits are generally handled by insurance companies and the defendant has little involvement in the process, if any.   

If the perpetrator is involved in the lawsuit, you will not have direct interaction with him or her.  Fortunately, most sexual abuse cases are settled during a process called Mediation. Throughout this process, an impartial mediator will conduct meetings privately with all parties involved in the claim in order to negotiate a settlement. Since these meetings are conducted privately, plaintiffs pursuing a sexual abuse claim and their lawyers will not necessarily need to interact with the person accused of committing abuse face-to-face.
If a settlement negotiation cannot be reached during Mediation, you, the defendant or defendants, and your respective lawyers will be required to attend a pre-trial before a judge, during which the judge will act as a quasi-mediator in order to help facilitate settlement.  

If the case proceeds to trial, evidence will be presented before a judge or jury. You will most likely be required to share your story on the witness stand and will be subject to cross-examination from the accused’s or institution’s legal representation. Witnesses, various experts on damages, and others may be called upon to present evidence and face cross-examination.  

Once the evidence has been presented and lawyers for both sides have presented their arguments, the judge or jury will determine the case’s outcome as well as the amount of damages the defendant may be required to pay you.
We tell all clients that they will only be asked to tell the story when they are ready to do so; there is no rush. We do not even need to know the full details of our clients’ stories before we take on their claim. We only need to know if there was sexual touching of some nature.   

Talking about your experience can be emotionally challenging, but it can also be an empowering component of the healing process. Our sexual abuse lawyers appreciate how difficult it can be to talk about this painful subject matter in detail, but we provide a compassionate, safe environment in which you will feel comfortable speaking freely about the abuse to which you were subjected.  

Generally, you will need to tell your story at least once before the claim settles. The insurance company will need to understand what happened in order to know how much compensation is fair. We work with clients to ensure they are ready and comfortable to tell their story beforehand.  

Your lawyer may suggest that you undergo medical assessments from experts who can determine how the trauma you suffered has impacted your overall quality of life, your ability to earn income, etc. Being open and truthful about your experience during these evaluations can be therapeutic and could help strengthen your case.
We can apply to the court to ask for your name to be kept anonymous in court documents. In many cases, we can also settle the claim confidentially without starting a lawsuit.
Many occurrences of sexual abuse arise as a result of the involvement of certain institutions.  In many cases, the actual abuser is either deceased, cannot be located, or does not have any assets to compensate the victim.  Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to pursue compensation directly from the organization or institution that introduced you to the abuser.    

Most institutions also have insurance to compensate survivors of sexual assault.  If the assault happened in connection with an institution (such as a church, school, company, Boy/Girl Scouts troop, or other organization), then it does not matter if the person who assaulted our client has any assets. We might be able to seek compensation from the institution itself or their insurance policy.
There is no standard length of time for how long civil actions can take before settlements are determined. However, most sexual abuse claims take between 2-4 years before reaching a resolution.
After reporting a crime to the police, the victim can choose to pursue criminal charges, provided the police believe that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with charging the accused.  During criminal proceedings, the Crown, on behalf of the government, will present evidence in an attempt to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a sexual assault. Because of this high burden of proof, if the evidence does not implicitly prove the defendant’s guilt, they may face no punishment.

While criminal charges are pursued by the Crown, civil actions are initiated by the plaintiff themself.  Civil actions are determined by weighing a balance of probabilities, which is a lower standard than the criminal standard of proof (i.e., beyond a reasonable doubt). That means it is up to the judge or jury to determine which party is more likely to have provided a credible and reliable account of the story. Owing to this lower burden of proof, it is generally easier to prove an abuser’s guilt or liability by pursuing civil action.
Yes. Criminal proceedings determine whether the perpetrator’s liberty should be taken away by the government.  Civil actions determine fair compensation for their victims, specifically. Both can be pursued simultaneously.   Even if the perpetrator is acquitted of criminal charges, a civil action can still be successful.
A criminal trial focuses on proving that the defendant was guilty of sexual assault. If so, they may be punished through the criminal justice system. The Crown prosecutor retains full control of the entire proceeding.   
A civil sexual assault case involves negotiating fair compensation for survivors. We generally also seek written letters of apology from the institution. We want our clients to be in control of the process with our guidance.
There is no limitation. A claim may be started anytime.
There is no set amount for how much compensation can or will be awarded to the victim of sexual abuse. However, working with a lawyer, you may be able to determine the total amount of economic damages you have incurred as a direct result of your abuse—including lost wages, reduced earning capacity, medical expenses, psychological treatment, etc.—as well as the non-economic damages that impact your overall quality of life (e.g., pain and suffering) in order to pursue the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled.
If a member of your immediate family was the victim of sexual abuse and lost their life as a result, you may be entitled to pursue a claim against the perpetrator. To learn more, schedule a free initial consultation with our sexual abuse lawyers.
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