The number of cases of reported sexual abuse is staggering, and many cases go unreported, making the numbers likely much higher than studies show. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that 433,648 Americans aged 12 and older are sexually assaulted or raped each year. 60,000 children are victims of “substantiated or indicated” sexual abuse.
Sexual assault is a traumatic experience for survivors. Some of the long-lasting psychological, emotional, and physical effects include depression, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and more. Beyond personal repercussions, many survivors also aren’t aware of their legal rights. This is especially common when the assailant is someone in a position of power, such as a doctor, priest, or employer.
There is nothing you want more than to bring your assailant to justice. With our experienced sexual abuse attorneys at Stark and Stark, you can defend your rights and start in your path to healing. From private settlements to lawsuits, we make sure you and your loved ones understand your rights and options. Justice is possible.
Statute of Limitations for PA Sexual Abuse and Assault
Statute of limitations is a term used to refer to regulations on how the amount of time an individual has to file legal action after an event. Statutes of limitation rules vary across the US, with each state determining its own laws.
Pennsylvania overhauled its statute of limitations on sexual abuse and assault in 2019. The new law ends any statute of limitations, in future cases, for criminal prosecution of major child sexual abuse crimes.
Current law limits it to the victim’s 50th birthday. Victims have until they turn 55 to sue. Young adults ages 18-23 have until age 30 to sue, where the previous law gave them only two years.
Police can file criminal charges up to 20 years after the crime when young adults 18-23 years old are the victims, as opposed to 12 years after the crime for victims over 17 in past law.
Institutional Sexual Abuse Cover-Ups
There have been national headlines drawing attention to sexual abuse cases and cover-ups by institutions in Pennsylvania in recent years. Stories of ongoing sexual abuse involving figures in the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, the Mormon Church, and at Penn State University have shocked readers. However, they have also given victims a platform to shine a light on these terrible situations and help end the patterns of abuse and cover-up that have taken place in these trusted institutions.
As court cases proceed, it’s likely that more victims will step forward to seek help and justice. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse in an institutional setting, you’re not alone.
Sexual Abuse and Assault FAQs
What constitutes sexual abuse and assault?
Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior occurring without explicit consent from the victim. Forms of sexual assault include but aren’t limited to:
- Rape or attempted rape
- Unwanted sexual touching or fondling
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex
Sexual abuse, on the other hand, refers to a range of activities of a sexual nature towards victims who are not able to give consent. Sexual abuse can happen to underage, elderly, disabled, or special needs individuals. These activities may be physical, emotional, or psychological. Forms of sexual abuse include but aren’t limited to:
- Unwanted sexual touching
- Sex trafficking
- Masturbation, either forced or in the presence of the victim
- Obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction
- Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to the victim’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare
Who could be liable for sexual assault?
Sexual abuse and assault can occur anywhere. We work to recover compensation for victims in a wide variety of cases, including:
Schools, group homes, and colleges: Students at all educational facilities have the right to be safe. If a school employee, teacher, or student commits a sexual assault on campus, the school or institution can be sued for negligence for allowing the harassment or assault to happen.
Property and hotel owners: We represent individuals in cases against property owners, including hotels, who have failed to protect their guests from sexual assault.
Healthcare providers: Some of the most vulnerable sexual assault and abuse victims are those in assisted living facilities and other healthcare facilities. Along with our Nursing Home Negligence practice, we represent victims of assault or rape at nursing homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation facilities.
Workplace sexual assault/harassment: No one endure unwanted sexual advances or harassment while they’re on the job. If you or a loved one were sexually harassed or assaulted at work, our attorneys can pursue civil damages and other remedies against the perpetrator and the employer.
What should I do if I or someone I love are the victim of sexual assault or abuse?
Your first action should be to make sure you are physically safe. Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) for guidance on locating an appropriate health facility that can care for survivors of sexual assault. Although receiving medical care may feel scary, it’s an important step to take in documenting the incident in case you decide to pursue legal action.
Once you are ready to report the crime, contact your local law enforcement officials. This can also be a scary process. For an overview of what you might expect or what questions you might be asked, visit RAINN.
If you choose to file legal action, your next step will be to contact an attorney experienced not just in sexual abuse or assault, but also in your state laws. Your attorney should be able to provide support and guidance in your best options for your case.
Sexual abuse and assault is a traumatizing experience, but emotional support can have a positive impact. Speaking to a trusted friend or family member has huge benefits, as does seeking counseling.
What are my legal options in my sexual abuse or assault case?
If you or someone you love has been the victim of sexual abuse or assault, you have options that will allow you to seek the justice you deserve. It’s essential to seek help from an experienced Pennsylvania attorney who is familiar with sexual abuse and assault laws.
When considering legal action, you have two types of suits you can file against your perpetrator: civil or criminal. What is the difference between the two? The amount of evidence needed to prove the crime was committed by the defendant.
Criminal sexual abuse or assault cases require evidence that proves “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the incident(s) occurred. On the other hand, in a civil case, you may be entitled to compensation even if there isn’t absolute certainty that the defendant committed the crime. Instead, courts rely on a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that the evidence presented indicates that there was at least a 50 percent chance the claims are true.
Free Consultation with Sexual Abuse Attorney in Pennsylvania
Victims of sexual abuse or assault are frequently hesitant to report the crime for a wide number of reasons, and often are reluctant to contact an attorney for legal representation for many of the same reasons.
Stark & Stark understands the stigma that comes with these crimes, and we offer compassionate legal counsel in a confidential setting. To set up a free, confidential consultation please call us at 267.907.9600 or contact us online.