We tend to think of sexual abuse as a crime, which of course it is. However, that does not mean that victims of sexual assault must only rely upon the criminal court system in order to seek justice. Ontario and Ajax civil courts also allow a victim of sexual abuse to obtain damages for sexual abuse, which can provide needed help for those who are seeking to cope with and try to recover from this very personal crime that can result in not just physical, but emotional trauma.
Our ajax sexual abuse injury lawyers can meet with you in Ajax for a free initial consultation. Call (416) 364-2000
What Qualifies as Sexual Abuse?
Any time there is an unwanted touching, including a sexual touching where there is no consent (or where there is consent because of fear or intimidation), it is considered a sexual battery. Of course, rape is a serious form of battery. In some cases, victims can be non-sexually battered, as a way of coercing them to consent to sexual activity. Victims of sexual battery can file a lawsuit to recover damages for any kind of unwanted touching.
However, sexual assault and sexual abuse also happen without any touching. For example, sexual gesturing, or exposing oneself can be sexual abuse. In some cases offensive words that may threaten sexual abuse may qualify a victim to obtain damages.
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Who Is Liable?
The abuser is not the only one who may be liable for sexual abuse. Where there is sexual abuse or assault by someone who is at work, such as a doctor who may be working at a hospital, a teacher working for a daycare, or a co-employee who may be working at a company, there is not only liability by the person committing the assault or abuse, but there may also be liability against the employer.
In many cases, an employer may know or have reason to know that sexual abuse is happening, yet the employer fails to do anything about it. Company policies may not provide abused employees a clear way to avoid or report abuse or may allow a general environment that allows sexual harassment to occur.
In some cases, there may be duties by companies to safeguard those in their protection from sexual abuse. Examples may be a daycare that is charged with protecting minors from sexual abuse, children in foster care, or a nursing home that is charged with protecting the elderly from sexual abuse not just by nursing home employees, but by fellow residents.
Reporting Time Limits
There is no time limit to file a lawsuit for sexual abuse. This law, which was changed in 2016 to eliminate previously existing time periods, recognizes that it can take time for victims to build the confidence needed to come forward to report abuse or assault.
Reporting sexual assault can require courage. Many victims may feel shame or embarrassment over abuse. When abuse occurs by trusted colleagues, such as religious leaders, teachers or doctors, it can be even more difficult for victims to come forward.
However, it is always best to report sexual abuse as soon as you can do so for many reasons.
First, in a trial, many defendants will blame victims for not coming forward sooner, falsely claiming that the abuse did not happen, or that it was not as bad as the victim claims, based on the amount of time it took the victim to report the assault.
Just as important, over time memories fade, documents are destroyed, and witnesses can disappear. Many sexual abuse cases are “he said/she said” cases, where witnesses or other data such as electronic data (such as emails) or video may be needed to resolve the disputed facts. Over time, memories not only fade, but electronic data can be lost or destroyed.
It is also important to try to report sexual abuse because reporting puts an employer or supervisor on notice that sexual abuse is occurring. Although an employer may be liable for sexual abuse by one of its employees regardless of knowledge, reporting abuse to a supervisor (yours or that of the abuser) will at least, hopefully, get the abusive behavior to stop.
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Identifying Sexual Abuse Victims
It can often be difficult to tell whether a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault. Young children may be unable to properly verbalize what has happened to them, just as the elderly may not be in a condition to report abuse.
Family members should look for extreme changes in mood or attitude, lack of motivation, depression, or changes in social interactions with others. For children, the truth about sexual abuse may not be disclosed unless or until the child sees a qualified therapist, trained to recognize signs of sexual abuse.
Remember that men can be victims of sexual assault, as well, although more commonly, women are victims.
Obtaining Damages for Sexual Abuse
Victims of sexual abuse can obtain damages to compensate them for their pain, suffering, anxiety, alteration in lifestyle or ability to enjoy life, and lost wages if the assault causes them to have to leave employment. Victims can also receive lost wages if the abuse causes them to lose out on a work opportunity, or the opportunity to obtain a diploma or degree. In very serious cases, punitive damages may be awarded.
Abuse survivors should discuss with their Ajax sexual abuse lawyer what to expect in a sexual abuse lawsuit. In many cases, a victim’s full name can be shielded from the public record, but many private details, such as the victim’s medical records, and of course the details of the assault or abuse itself, must be re-lived in detail. A lawyer can not only help you through this process but may also be able to recommend a mental health professional that can help you through the process of filing a lawsuit.
Call Us Today
The Ajax sexual abuse liability lawyers at Preszler Law Firm understand the difficulties that sexual abuse victims suffer and the devastation that abuse can cause to families. Our lawyers can help answer your questions and guide you through trying times. Call us today to discuss any injuries you or a loved one may have suffered as a result of sexual abuse.