Legal Options for Families Coping with Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a tragic and unthinkable crime. The issues surrounding child sexual abuse are not discussed much in society perhaps because the crime is so horrific.

While it may be emotionally difficult, pursuing a civil lawsuit in addition to filing criminal charges is one way these victims can address their abusers to seek justice. Florida law provides civil protections in these cases, and victims and their families in Port St. Lucie will have to address certain factors with these lawsuits.

If a victim comes forward with allegations of sexual abuse, the first step is to ensure the child’s health and safety and contact the police to make sure that a criminal investigation occurs. Once the child is safe and the police are informed of the abuse, parents may explore options for civil action against the abuser or other parties, like a daycare facility where an abuser worked.

There are many torts under which sexual abuse falls, including assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. If the predator has already been convicted of the crime, the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit can introduce that information to the judge and/or jury. Otherwise, the predator’s actions need to be established via testimony and evidence.

Is there a time limit to bring the civil lawsuit?

In cases of sexual abuse, some children may feel guilty because the predator is someone the family trusted or because they don’t understand the abuse. Some may feel scared because the predator may threaten the child. As a result, some children may not come forward immediately to tell a trusted adult about the abuse. Thus, parents may worry that a statute of limitations has passed, and they cannot take civil action against the abuser.

In Florida, there was a statute of limitations for civil actions on sexual battery of minors; however, in 2010, the legislature rewrote statute. The old statute of limitations required victims of child sexual abuse pursue civil action by age 22. Currently, according to Florida Statute §95.11(9), if an incident would not have been bared on July 1, 2010, there is no statute of limitations. So, if a six-year-old child was abused in 2000, there is no statute of limitations because that child would only be 16 on July 1, 2010. A six-year-old abused in 1980 would have passed the statute of limitations.

What to Expect From a Civil Lawsuit Addressing Child Sexual Abuse

Civil lawsuits have an element of reducing a victim’s personal privacy, which needs to be considered in any abuse case. While there are ways to seal court records and enter into non-disclosure agreements with opposing parties, some medical records and other private information has to be disclosed to the opposing party in order to establish damages and liability through evidence. A victim may have to confront his or her abuser in court, which can be challenging.

Parents in the Florida area can talk to an attorney at Chalik & Chalik about their options for taking civil action against the perpetrator. Contact our office at (855) 529-0269 to schedule a consultation to review the details of your case.