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The Civil Side of Sexual Abuse

When law enforcement charges someone with a criminal sex offense, you may be surprised to know that they are not technically doing it on behalf of the victim or victims. Like all crimes, sexual offenses are considered crimes against society, not against individuals — that is why they are prosecuted by the state, which imposes prison time and other punishments to protect the public from the criminal element.

Individual victims, however, often have the option of pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against the perpetrator — and this is just as true for victims of sexual abuse as it is for people injured in a car crash or a slip-and-fall accident. In these cases, of course, defendants do not go to jail. Instead, they are required to pay damages to their victims through financial awards or settlements. It may seem strange for a person subjected to the horror of sexual abuse to accept money as compensation, but that is the only recourse available in a civil suit.

A recent example is the case of 19 men who filed a $380 million civil lawsuit against a New York City high school run by Yeshiva University, claiming that school officials committed fraud by covering up years of physical and sexual abuse of students by a teacher and an administrator. Obviously, the abuse did not literally cost the men $380 million out-of-pocket — that figure is an attempt to quantify the damages the victims did suffer, including:

  • Depression, anxiety, nightmares and suicidal tendencies
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Marital and child-rearing problems
  • Employment difficulties
  • Need for counseling and medication

If you or a family member has been a victim of sexual abuse, do not be afraid to seek justice through a civil lawsuit as well as criminal charges. Ask an experienced North Carolina lawyer for victims of sexual abuse to explain how a civil action can help ease the pain of abuse.

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