Pittsburgh Sexual Assault Attorneys
Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Legal Assistance
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), one American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. They also state that only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.
Young people are most at risk. Statistics show that most victims are under the age of 30, with ages 12-34 being most at risk for rape and sexual assault. Although women are most at risk in general, men and boys are also affected. RAINN notes that as of 1998, nearly three million men in the U.S. had been victims of attempted or completed rape.
The consequences are dire. Victims of sexual assault are likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for weeks, months and even years after the incident. They are also more likely to suffer from problems at school or work, to be at risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and to suffer from drug dependency and addiction.
The criminal court system is designed to punish the perpetrators, but criminal prosecution won’t provide compensation for the victim’s injuries. Extensive financial resources may be needed to adequately treat the victim’s physical and emotional injuries.
Victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault do have another recourse–civil lawsuits. A number of civil suits have been filed in the wake of recent sexual abuse tragedies, including those that occurred within the Catholic Church, at colleges and universities, on the job, or in health care facilities. When successful, sexual abuse lawsuits can hold negligent parties accountable and provide needed resources for victims.
Chaffin Luhana Pittsburgh sexual abuse lawyers are investigating cases in which victims were sexually assaulted, abused, or harassed, to help victims find justice and recover the damages they deserve.
Criminal vs. Civil Pittsburgh Sexual Assault Lawsuits
Whether the defendant is found guilty or not, victims may want to consider a civil lawsuit. Whereas a criminal case may result in jail time, probation, and other actions against the perpetrator, a civil lawsuit is the victim’s only way to gain monetary compensation for their injuries.
When a sexual assault occurs, the criminal court is available to punish the perpetrator. These cases can be extremely difficult for the victim, as they may be required to testify, and may have to relive their traumatic experience in front of strangers. Though they can tell their story, the outcome is largely out of their hands. The jury must determine whether there is enough proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict the defendant for the crime.
A civil case doesn’t determine whether the offender was guilty or innocent, but, rather, whether the perpetrator is liable for the injuries sustained by the victim. The victim has more control in a civil lawsuit, as they decide whether to sue in the first place, and whether to accept a settlement or go to trial.
The burden of proof in a civil suit is also different from that in a criminal case. In a civil case, the jury must decide whether the defendant committed the wrong based on the “preponderance of the evidence”. In other words, the plaintiff must prove that there is a 51 percent or higher chance that the defendant was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries—that it is “more likely than not” that the defendant committed the alleged act.
Even if the perpetrator is found “not guilty” in a criminal lawsuit, the victim may still prevail in a civil lawsuit, because of the difference between the burdens of proof.
Who is Liable for Pittsburgh Sexual Assault Claims?
A victim of sexual violence, rape, assault, or harassment may sue the perpetrator of those acts, but they or they may also be able to sue other parties that were involved, or that should have done more to protect the victim. Other parties may include:
- The victim’s employer, when the assault was work-related
- The school or university where the assault took place
- An employer who failed to properly screen or monitor the perpetrator
- A landlord or innkeeper who failed to implement standard safety precautions
- Government entities that refused to act in response to the victim’s complaints
- Hospitals or medical centers that failed to protect the safety of their patients
Statute of Limitations In Pennsylvania
When considering whether to file a sexual assault lawsuit, it is important to take into consideration your state’s statute of limitations. You have a limited time in which you can file your case before you will no longer be eligible to do so. It is important to consult a Pittsburgh sexual assault attorney as soon as possible.
Those seeking to file a claim for sexual harassment, for example, according to the EEOC, have about 180 days from the date of harassment, though this can vary from state to state. Some states extend that time to 300 days or a year from the last incident of harassment. Other states have statutes in place that a time limit of 2 or 3 years to file a sexual harassment claim. Those who try to file after the time allowed by their state will not be able to recover damages.
Those seeking to file sexual assault or abuse cases also have a limited amount of time to do so. Each state has its own time limit, which is typically two or three years.
Extensions are usually given for cases of child sex abuse, with limitations beginning once the child reaches the age of majority. Children don’t understand what truly happened to them until they mature. Emotional and psychological trauma, sometimes accompanied by memory repression, can delay the discovery of the injury. So, most states have adopted extensions specifically for cases of sexual abuse in children.
In the wake of the extensive child sexual abuse that has occurred within Catholic churches, several states have passed or are considering passing legislation that would provide an extended window of time during which victims can file lawsuits. Nonetheless, it is imperative that victims contact a Pittsburgh sexual abuse lawyer as soon as they are able in order to preserve their right to bring suit.
What is Sexual Assault, Abuse, Violence, and Harassment?
“Sexual assault,” according to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), is any “nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks the capacity to consent.” RAINN describes it as any sexual behavior that occurs without “explicit consent of the victim.” Examples of sexual assault include:
- Attempted rape
- Rape, including date rape and elder rape
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
- Unwanted kissing, rubbing, or groping
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, like oral sex or penetration
Sexual abuse, as defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), is “unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent.” The term is basically the same as “sexual assault,” and is most often used when referring to the mistreatment of children. Examples of sexual abuse may include:
- Touching a victim in a sexual manner
- Forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual manner
- Requiring the victim to look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity or media
Sexual violence is another term frequently used to describe unwanted sexual acts. It can be used interchangeably with the other two terms, but it may also refer to more violent, traumatic incidences. Examples may include:
- Sexual exploitation
- Female genital mutilation
- Human trafficking
- Systematic sexual abuse
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of employment discrimination. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is defined as: “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
Sexual harassment is a crime when it is frequent or severe, when it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, and/or when it results in the victim being demoted or having to leave the place of employment. Examples may include:
- A supervisor or person in authority requests sex, or a sexual relationship, in exchange for employment favors such as promotions or raises, or in exchange for allowing the person to continue working
- A co-worker, client, or customer engages in harassing comments and behaviors
- Demeaning or sexual photographs, jokes, or threats are allowed in the workplace
- Unwanted hugging, kissing, stroking, touching, and pressure to go on dates or to provide sexual favors
- Gender harassment, including conduct that disparages individuals based on gender
If an individual is a victim of any of these crimes, they or they may be eligible to file a civil lawsuit to recover damages.
Serious Lasting Injuries Associated with Sexual Assault / Abuse
Sexual assault results in injuries that can last for months or even years. Below are the most common long-term effects on victims.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): RAINN reports that 94 percent of women who are raped experience PTSD during the two weeks following the rape, while 30 percent report still experiencing it 9 months after the rape.
- Suicide: About a third of women who are raped contemplate suicide, and 13 percent attempt suicide.
- Illegal drug use: People who have been sexually assaulted are 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana, 6 times more likely to use cocaine, and 10 times more likely to use other major drugs.
- Pregnancy: Victims of rape are at risk of pregnancy, as the perpetrators are unlikely to wear protection.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Being raped or assaulted also increases one’s risk of suffering from an STI.
- Sexual dysfunction: Individuals who suffer from sexual violence suffer from higher levels of sexual dysfunction, including pain during intercourse (dyspareunia), erectile dysfunction, and reduced desire/arousal.
- Depression: Prolonged sadness, feelings of hopelessness, weight loss or gain, loss of energy, and other symptoms of depression are common after sexual abuse or assault.
- Problems at work/school: Victims of sexual assault typically experience problems with supervisors, teachers, professors, peers, and coworkers.
- Family/relationship problems: Victims may feel they can no longer trust family members or friends and may feel alone and like they’re lacking support.
- Emotional problems: Survivors usually continue to suffer from moderate to severe distress and other emotional issues.
- Sleep disorders: Because of the ongoing fear, stress, and trauma, victims may develop sleep disorders, or struggle with chronic insomnia.
- Eating disorders: As victims try to regain control of their lives, they may develop eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.
Forced sexual activity can also result in numerous other types of serious physical trauma, including the following potential injuries:
- Broken or dislocated bones
- Vaginal inflammation
- Vaginal or anal bleeding
- Other genital injuries
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Urinary tract infections
Sexual Assault and Abuse Lawsuits
The landscape regarding sexual abuse has shifted as more victims have come forward to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. The growing list of sexual harassment allegations, like those against powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, filed at universities, and contained within the recent grand jury report detailing child sexual abuses that took place in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses, have increased our collective awareness of the problem and made it safer for victims to pursue justice.
If you or a loved was the victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, sexual abuse, or sexual violence, you may be eligible to file a sexual assault lawsuit. Chaffin Luhana sexual assault lawyers are now investigating these cases and invites you to call today at (412)-345-8144.