Sexual Abuse Claims
Sexual Abuse Claims: Unlike Other Personal Injury
Attorney Paul Aiken says, “Sexual abuse claims are unlike any other personal injury claims.” People who are victims of sexual abuse, obviously have difficulty dealing with this, easily, with strangers, with law enforcement, with attorneys with anyone. More often than not they’ve been dealing with these issues for a long, long time – but Massachusetts, and a lot of other States in the United States have figured out that because these are different kinds of cases, the ability of these victims to deal with their pain and their suffering should be treated differently. Massachusetts gives sexual abuse victims more time to come forward to deal with the trauma they’ve suffered, often times from an early age.
Massachusetts Statute Affords Extra Time for Sexual Abuse Claims
In Massachusetts the civil statute of limitations for people who are victims as a minor, is 35 years, or, 7 years from the time they became aware that they were harmed by this sexual abuse. Much of this came about as an offshoot of the sexual abuse claims that occurred in Massachusetts quite some time ago. Fortunately the legislature in Massachusetts and throughout the entire country realized these victims’ circumstances differ significantly from other personal injury victims involved in cases like automobile accidents, medical malpractice or slip and fall accidents. These are victims who cannot come forward as easily as those victims can – they need to be treated differently. And therefore, we have the benefit of affording more time to victims of sexual abuse, both adults and minors. And, unlike the criminal process there is no corroboration needed in a civil case; meaning, if it’s a ‘he said she said’ situation, that’s ok.
What Happens When A Victim Decides To Come Forward?
We have a unique and specific process to counsel our clients on what happens when they decide to come forward because, it’s not easy. When we get calls from people who have painstakingly decided to talk about their cases, some of the preliminary questions asked include:
- Do you have a support system;
- Do you have a therapist;
- Do you have family members or friends who know, and/or:
- Are you doing this by yourself.
It’s extremely important that people have the ability to do this in their own time, in a way that’s going to be cathartic to them, and most importantly will allow them to become empowered; because after all, the process should be an empowering one. We’ve found that people have different reasons for coming out against a perpetrator. It could be for financial reasons or it could be justice that they’re seeking but more often than not, they’re looking for some type of closure. And closure is extremely important in these kinds of cases. Depending upon what their motivation is, whether it’s financial, justice or otherwise, we’ll determine what direction they should go.
Massachusetts Criminal Statue of Limitations for Sexual Abuse
Just as the civil law gives victims of sexual abuse 35 years to deal with trying to resolve the pain that has been inflicted upon them over the years, the criminal process allows more time as well. The Massachusetts criminal courts give 27 years from the time of the incident if you were abused as a minor. If it’s a long, long time there might be some need for the criminal process to require some corroboration. There is no corroboration needed in a civil case. If it’s a ‘he said she said’ situation, that’s ok. Not so necessarily in the criminal process. But when I get calls from people who want to talk about their cases, and they’re trying to decide whether they should go forward, it’s important for me to understand, and it’s important for them to understand, what it is that they’re looking for. And once we know that we can help them direct their energy and their efforts in a proper way.
No Eye Witnesses: Your Word is Enough and On Your Own Terms
It’s important for people who are coming forward to address sexual abuse understand there is no necessity to have eye witnesses. Sometimes in the criminal process there is, but in civil cases, ‘your word is enough’.
If you’ve been to a therapist, there may be a need for the therapist to help out in the process. The most important point for people who are thinking about addressing and focusing on the abuse that they have suffered in the past, is that it should be done ‘on your own terms’. It needs to be something that they are comfortable with and it doesn’t necessarily require full blown litigation, nor does it require discussion with a district attorney (DA) or testifying in court. Those things aren’t necessary all the time.
Many times when victims come forward, it may be a situation when there is a family member, clergy, a professional or friend of the family involved. Let it be known that more often than not, these individuals are aware of what they did. And when they’re put on notice that the victim is now coming forward looking to regain some sense of identity, some sense of self, by bringing this forward after all these years, often times these cases can be resolved relatively quickly. There’s no guarantee of course, but, the important thing is that the victim understands that this is something they want and feel is important to do, and that they have the support of people who will help them get through this. Because if that’s happening, whether it’s through the criminal process or the civil process, then the end game is some form of closure and will ultimately be worthwhile.
Honor. Courage. Closure. Empowerment.
It’s crucial to point out that now more than ever, this is a time when victims of sexual abuse, especially victims who are or were minors, are recognized and honored as people who are courageous for coming forward. And as a result, most of these individuals for whom we’ve represented, have found success in resolving their disputes, achieving closure, and empowering themselves to move on with their life. Because ultimately that’s what they’re trying to do, that’s what we are trying to do, to allow these individuals who have suffered enough to be able to achieve some sense of closure, some sense of empowerment, some of sense of moving forward. And it’s been our experience, that once the real effort has been made to come forward, the rest of it, is often times, easier.
We Will Help You as Much as Possible
It’s also important for people dealing with sexual abuse claims understand that we, as personal injury attorneys, don’t charge any money up front, we take these cases on a contingency; similar to an automobile claim or any other personal injury accident, we aim to recover funds from the plaintiff (the individual who we are pursuing your claim against). Obviously it’s important to find out whether that individual(s) has any assets but if so and if we are successful, we would be paid from those proceeds. You owe us nothing right away, we pay for the costs. Most importantly, these clients should only focus on finding an expert sexual abuse attorney to try to help. That’s what we do at Aiken and Aiken; it’s our desire is to help as much as possible without asking for any financial investment from the victim.