Trusted Person Sexual Abuse

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Sexual Abuse Claims– Being the victim of sexual abuse or assault can be devastating. It can be even worse when the perpetrator is someone who the victims trust such as their pastors, police officers, professors, teachers, or physicians. These types of assaults can cause long-lasting trauma and PTSD in addition to any physical injuries that might also be caused. While these cases might be reported to law enforcement, the vast majority of the perpetrators will go free. According to RAINN, 995 out of 1,000 perpetrators of sexual assaults never go to prison or jail.[1] Only 627 assault and battery crimes out of 1,000 are ever reported to the police. Out of those, just 250 will lead to arrests and 41 will result in felony convictions. 

It is understandable that many victims of sexual assaults or abuse feel helpless. While a criminal charge may not be filed or result in a conviction, the victims may still be able to hold their abusers accountable for their actions by filing civil sexual abuse lawsuits. When the assaults occur at institutions such as a university or a church, there may be insurance available to compensate the victims for their economic and noneconomic losses, including the costs of ongoing therapy. Civil sex abuse claims may also be easier to prove than criminal cases because the burden of proof is not as high.

Sexual assault claims against colleges and churches

According to data from the U.S. Department of Justice, 25% of female undergraduates will be sexually assaulted by the time that they graduate with their undergraduate degrees.[2] Women are not alone, however. Men may also be sexually assaulted while they are attending universities.

Sexual attacks on campus may be perpetrated by professors, fellow students, sports trainers, coaches, and others. There have been incidents of these types of crimes perpetrated on members of college sports teams. For example, more than 50 former athletes from Ohio State University are banding together to file a lawsuit against the university for abuse that they were subjected to by a sports team physician at the university.[3] An investigative report found that the physician, Dr. Richard Strauss, abused male athletes at Ohio State from 1979 to 1997. School personnel reportedly knew about complaints of the abuse in 1979 but failed to do anything about it.

Members of sports teams are sometimes the perpetrators of campus sexual attacks. When they are, the universities for which they play may be liable, depending on the circumstances. In one illustrative case, a student who was raped in her dormitory room by a football player at Arizona State University sued the school, the coach, and the player.[4] ASU settled the case against it with the woman for $850 million in 2009. The woman’s attorney was able to uncover evidence that the player had engaged in previous sexual misconduct, and the university had destroyed important evidence and deleted emails in an attempt to cover it up. In addition to paying the large settlement, the school agreed to the appointment of a school safety officer to help prevent future attacks from occurring.

Many allegations have been made against churches for abuses perpetrated by pastors, priests, and nuns. Some of the victims have suffered lifelong trauma and have developed PTSD as a result of their assaults. Many victims require ongoing therapy to deal with what happened to them as children. These cases came to the forefront after the Department of Justice conducted an investigation in Pennsylvania into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The grand jury identified more than 300 priests that had perpetrated abuse against more than 1,000 children.[5] 

A major problem is that many of these victims are unable to file civil actions against the church for their abuse because of the expiration of the statute of limitations. There has been a movement in a number of states to expand the statutes of limitations for child sex abuse claims so that more victims can recover damages for what happened to them. Child USA, a think tank, released a list of legislation around the country to extend statutes of limitations and to pass reviver statutes to allow victims the right to file lawsuits.[6]

Both universities and churches have insurance policies that may allow the victims to recover compensation when they have been sexually abused. By filing a claim, you may be able to hold the defendants accountable for the harm that they have caused while also securing actions by the institution to implement programs to prevent similar harms to others in the future.

Sex assaults perpetrated at hospitals and doctors’ offices

People go to hospitals or their doctors’ offices because they have medical conditions or illnesses for which they need help. When people are sick or hospitalized, they are vulnerable. Unfortunately, some doctors and other hospital staff sometimes prey on people when they are at their most vulnerable, perpetrate sex assaults against them. When a doctor or other medical staff member commit sex abuse against a patient, the hospital or medical practice may be liable in a lawsuit. 

Hospitals may be vicariously liable for the wrongful conduct of their employees, including physicians and other medical staff. In the event that the doctor is an independent contractor and is not directly employed by the hospital, the hospital may still be vicariously liable. The court may look at the degree of control the hospital has over the doctor’s work to determine whether or not he or she should be considered to be an employee of the hospital for liability purposes. The hospital might also be liable for negligence if it negligently supervised, retained, or hired a doctor with a record of misconduct.

In addition to hospitals and medical practices, doctors also carry their own insurance. When sex abuse claims are filed, the victims may have a couple of sources of potential recovery from the various insurance companies that are providing coverage.

Sex abuse claims against Uber and Lyft

Ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft may potentially be liable if a driver sexually assaults a person whom the driver is transporting. While there aren’t any publicly available statistics on the number of sex assaults that have been perpetrated by drivers of Uber or Lyft, a CNN investigation revealed that at least 103 drivers for Uber have been accused of the sex abuse of passengers.[7] While both Lyft and Uber conduct background checks on their would-be drivers, CNN reports that they do them themselves through a startup company called Checkr online. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against ride-share app companies when people have been assaulted while they are riding in the vehicles. Uber and Lyft often argue that their drivers are independent contractors and not employees in an attempt to avoid liability. However, the companies end up settling many of these cases out of court for undisclosed amounts. 

Sex abuse claims against law enforcement officers and agencies

Police officers are supposed to protect the public. Unfortunately, some officers use their positions of power to sexually abuse people with whom they come into contact. When an officer commits an act of sex abuse, the victim may be afraid to come forward and report it. Many victims think that no one will believe them over the officers. 

When an officer assaults someone, the victim may file a lawsuit against the officer and the city or county for which the officer works. The law enforcement agency and city or county are vicariously liable for the actions of the officers that they employ. Cities and counties have insurance policies in place to pay damages when people prevail in lawsuits against them. 

Get help from an experienced civil sex abuse lawyer

If you have been the victim of sex abuse, you may be able to hold the perpetrator liable for the wrongs done to you by filing a claim against him or her. In addition to the perpetrator, other parties such as an institution, a law enforcement agency, or a ride-share app company may also be liable. It is important for you to consult with an experienced attorney to learn about your potential rights and the steps that you might take. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation.

Sources

[1] https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system

[2] https://www.justice.gov/archives/ovw/blog/national-campus-safety-awareness-month-changing-institutional-response-change-statistics

[3] https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2019/05/18/attorney-ex-ohio-state-football-players-sexual-abuse-victims-doctor/3722464002/

[4] https://www.espn.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=3871666

[5] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/how-a-catholic-sex-abuse-report-in-pennsylvania-echoed-around-the-u-s

[6] https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a120b962aeba581dd692cd4/t/5cd5aab2652deab8f217063c/1557506739236/~Pending+SOL+Reform+Overview+5.10.19.pdf

[7] https://money.cnn.com/2018/04/30/technology/uber-driver-sexual-assault/index.html

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