Sexual abuse is a substantial criminal and public health problem, with a 2010 survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that nearly one in five women and one in 71 men have been raped at some point in their lives. Attacks like these create a strain on victims as they endure both injury and trauma to their physical being and mental health. Victims may succumb to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and even suicide attempts.
Of all serious crimes, sexual assaults are the most under-reported, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Only 28% of attacks were reported in 2012, compared to 56% in 2003. Victims may feel reluctant to divulge the crimes for various reasons, such as shame, embarrassment, victim-blaming, fear of retribution from the wrongdoers or the belief that law enforcement officials will not support them. It is essential for me to ensure sex abuse victims are represented and supported so they feel like they are able to seek justice without fear or shame. In addition to these questions, see the general Sexual Abuse page for more information. If you or a loved one have been a victim of sexual assault, please contact The Law Office of Josh Lamborn, P.C. right away at 503-546-0461 or firstname.lastname@example.org so I can help you and begin protecting your rights.
What is sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse is the nonconsensual touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person or causing a person to touch the sexual or other intimate parts of the actor for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either party. Sexual abuse can include more specific criminal acts such as rape (including date rape), sodomy or sexual penetration.
Child sexual abuse includes nonconsensual touching, rape, sodomy, sexual penetration as well as sexual exploitation by using or attempting to use a child for sexual gratification. In Oregon, since minors (children under the age of 18) are unable to consent to sexual contact, child sexual abuse also includes sexual contact between an adult and a minor. Sexual abuse of children can also include using children in sexually explicit displays and distribution of child pornography.
What are the effects of sexual abuse?
This is a wide topic that could fill a website in itself. Generally, however, sexual abuse can have devastating effects on victims. Obviously, a sexual assault can result in physical injuries, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. If a victim chooses to report the abuse, he or she is often subjected to an invasive sexual assault examination, or “rape kit,” at the hospital. If the abuser is criminally prosecuted, a victim may have to share his or her extremely private and degrading experience with strangers, including police officers, medical professionals, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and jury members. Many victims understandably choose to forgo this whole process by not reporting sexual assault to authorities.
Survivors of sexual abuse experience an array of overwhelming and intense feelings. These may include feelings of fear, guilt and shame. Longterm psychological effects of sex abuse can include Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety Disorder, increased stress and depression. Survivors sometimes turn to substance abuse, suffer eating disorders and sleep disorders and may have flashbacks of the abuse. Victims of sexual abuse sometimes even resort to self-harm or commit suicide.
Not surprisingly, sexual abuse survivors often require years of therapy to learn to cope with the results of being sexually assaulted. This therapy can be extremely expensive. One of the goals of a sexual assault personal injury lawsuit is to force the abuser to pay for that therapy.
Should I call the police?
Yes. And you should call them immediately. Contacting the authorities and disclosing to a stranger that you just experienced a devastating and extremely personal event is difficult and the investigation that follows will likely make you feel worse in the short term. However, choosing to report as soon as possible is the best way to ensure your attacker is held responsible. Waiting to report can irreversibly damage your case and it can diminish your credibility. Most people think they know what they would do if they were attacked - they don't. Until it happens, you don't know what your body and mind are going to do in order to survive. If you didn't report to police right away, that is okay. Report it now. The police are the only ones who are trained to preserve evidence and properly investigate your case.
Should I sue my abuser?
The goal of most personal injury lawsuits is to compensate the victim for the abuse with a monetary payment. If the defendant is unable to pay a judgment, a lawsuit is ill-advised. Costs in a sexual abuse case often exceed tens of thousands of dollars. It is essential to have a defendant capable of covering those costs as well as a large judgment to make the case worthwhile. Since most abusers are not independently wealthy and insurance typically does not cover intentional acts, many cases will not be filed in civil court. Oftentimes, though, defendants commit their abuse while working for a company, a public body, a church, a daycare or some other entity. If that entity was negligent in hiring, training, supervising or retaining their employee, there may be a cause of action against the entity for negligence.
What is the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases?
The statute of limitations in Oregon for a civil action alleging sex abuse is two years, the same as for other personal injuries (ORS 12.110). However, a separate statute governs actions involving child abuse, including child sexual abuse. If the victim was a minor at the time of the abuse, the statute of limitations is extended until the victim reaches age 40 or if the person has not discovered the causal connection between the injury and the child abuse, nor in the exercise of reasonable care should have discovered the causal connection between the injury and the child abuse, not more than five years from the date the person discovers or in the exercise of reasonable care should have discovered the causal connection between the child abuse and the injury, whichever period is longer (ORS 12.117).
The exception to the above rule is if the lawsuit includes allegations against a public body, such as a public school, TriMet or the Department of Human Services. A statute called the Oregon Tort Claims Act (OTCA) applies in lawsuits against public bodies. This statute requires a claimant to give notice of their sexual abuse claim to the public body they plan to sue within 180 days of the event. Additionally, the OTCA has an exclusive two-year statute of limitations. Child sexual abuse victims who fail to give notice of their intent to sue a public body or fail to file their lawsuit within two years lose their right to recover from that public body. However, they still may be able to sue the individual abuser.
What are some of my rights as a sexual abuse victim?
- Oregon law requires that a hospital providing care to a woman who is a sexual assault victim must offer her unbiased, medically and factually accurate written and oral information regarding emergency contraception, as well as the option to receive emergency contraception at the hospital. The hospital may charge the victim for this service, however.
- Oregon law requires some individuals or entities to help victims of sexual assault. For example, the victim’s employer might be required to allow the victim to take time off from work to attend a criminal proceeding for his or her case. The employer might also have to allow time off if the person is a victim of domestic violence or stalking. The victim’s parent might be able to take time off to receive help from law enforcement and/or an attorney, medical treatment, counseling, victims’ services or to move to a different residence or make one’s home safer.
- The state may not deny a victim of sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking unemployment benefits if the victim has no reasonable alternative other than leaving work to protect the victim or minor child.
- A victim of sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking may terminate a rental agreement with 14 days of notice if he or she does so within 90 days of the crime. Alternatively, the victim may require his or her landlord to change the locks on the victim’s residence.
- The Sexual Assault Victims’ Emergency Medical Response Fund has been providing victims in Oregon with medical assessments since 2003. This fund offers medical care and medications, if needed, to every sexual assault victim in the state, regardless of his or her ability to pay. The fund was modified in 2007 to cover every victim, even if he or she chooses to not report the crime to law enforcement or at the time of the incident. These assessments also cover children ages 18 and under, including instances in which abuse has been alleged.
- A victim shall be issued a victim identification number and provided with a registry identification number of the registered sex offender who committed the crime against him or her.
Are debts arising from sexual abuse dischargeable in bankruptcy?
No. Debts arising from “willful and malicious injury” by the debtor are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. In car accidents or other negligence lawsuits, individuals who have limited assets may shield themselves by declaring bankruptcy. Sex abusers do not have this option. However, they must have sufficient assets to make the sexual abuse lawsuit worthwhile.
What can I do to prevent my child from being abused?
Fortunately, the vast majority of kids are spared the horror of abuse. While there are more sex offenders and pedophiles walking our streets than you would really care to know, the good news is it is highly unlikely that your child will be targeted by one of them. In fact, most sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone known by the child. A neighbor, teacher, daycare worker or relative is more likely to violate your trust than a stranger. With this information, what kinds of things are most effective in preventing abuse?
There are no easy, step-by-step instructions for preventing abuse. However, beyond using common sense and being vigilant when arranging for someone to supervise your child, there are a few things that can be done to help keep your child safe from abuse:
Talk to your children about sexuality and sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms. Talking freely and directly about sexuality can help reduce the shame or embarrassment associated with the topic. It also teaches children it is okay to talk to you when they have questions and that these things don’t need to be “secret.” Abusers will oftentimes tell a child the abuse is a secret. Let your children know if someone is touching them or talking to them in ways that make them uncomfortable, it shouldn’t stay a secret. Your children should know they will not get in trouble for telling you this kind of secret, either. Don’t try to put all this information into one big “talk” about sex, though; talking about sexuality and sexual abuse should be routine conversations.
- Teach your children the names of body parts so they have the vocabulary to ask questions and express concerns about being touched inappropriately. Teach your children that some parts of their body are private and other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to touch them to provide care. If someone does need to touch your children in those private areas, a parent or trusted caregiver should be there. All children should be told that if someone tries to touch their private areas or wants to look at them, or if someone tries to show them their own private parts, they should be able to say "no" to touches that make them uncomfortable and to tell you or another trusted adult as soon as possible.
- Be generally involved and interested in your children’s life and activities. Ask your children about the people they go to school with or play with. If they are involved in sports, go to games and practices. Get to know the other parents and coaches. If your children are involved in after-school activities or daycare, ask them what they did during the day. Talk about the media. If your children watch a lot of television or play video games, watch or play with them. Many TV shows (e.g., CSI or Law and Order) show sexual violence of different kinds. Some video games (e.g., Grand Theft Auto) allow the user to engage in sexual violence. Use examples from TV or games that you have watched or played together to start up conversations about sexuality and sexual abuse.
- Know the other adults with whom your children might talk. Children sometimes feel like they can't talk to their parents, so make it a point to know the other trusted adults in your children’s lives.
- Be available. Be sure to follow-up with your children. If they come to you with concerns or questions, make time to talk. When you empower them to say “no” to unwanted touch and teach them they can come to you with questions and concerns, you take critical steps to preventing child sexual abuse.