Central Coast Child Abuse Attorney Serving San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Monterey
There is little in this world that offends the sensibilities of most people more than the sexual molestation of a child. Exploiting the innocence of a vulnerable minor is a heinous crime, and as such should be punished with as much time in prison as the law allows. But what about the victim? Prison time may prevent the sexual offender from violating more children, but it does little to help the innocent victim. Childhood sexual abuse often has a profound deleterious effect on a victim’s ability to function as an adult, especially in regard to sexual relationships, but also in a more general way because of anxiety, depression, and the inability to trust others. Call an experienced San Luis Obispo child abuse attorney immediately if you know a victim.
Criminal vs. Civil
Unfortunately, these cases are hard to prove in the criminal justice system. In many cases the child victim is intimidated into remaining silent, and as time passes, evidence disappears. Or it may be a matter of one child’s word against the word of a seemingly credible adult abuser. Those who victimize children are often respected members of the community who work with children as a means of gaining access to them. They are often personable, even charming, and may appear to genuinely care for children. That’s how they entice their victims.
And many victims repress the painful memory of the abuse, only to recall it much later when psychological or sexual problems begin to surface in adulthood.
A criminal conviction requires “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” a high standard that may be especially difficult to meet for a crime that occurred behind closed doors.
There is a possibility for a victim to recover financial compensation in the civil court system that will allow him or her to afford the therapeutic services needed to live a full life after a childhood of sexual abuse. This can add a more meaningful form of justice for the victim whose molester is in prison, or it can give recourse to a victim who can’t meet the difficult standard of proof for a criminal conviction, but who has enough evidence to meet the civil standard,” a preponderance of the evidence.”
In California, the statute of limitations for bringing a civil action for sexual abuse or molestation of a child extends to eight years from the victim’s 18th birthday or three years from the time the abuse is discovered, usually in therapy.
Who’s to Blame?
Child molestation cases can be extremely difficult. The actual abuser may not be the only target of a civil action. Most molestation cases occur in schools, daycares, sports teams, churches, or youth programs, where the administrators or owners have a legal duty to protect the children in their care. When an institution, government entity, or business fails to protect the children they are charged to care for, and a child is sexually abused, especially if the abuse is discovered and concealed, that entity may be liable for the victim’s damages. A case in point is the abuse scandals that have shaken the Roman Catholic Church.
If a public school or government institution is involved, the case becomes even more complicated, because the government must be put on notice of the claim before a lawsuit can be filed.
Getting the Help You Need for Yourself or Your Child
If you are an adult who has just learned of your abuse during childhood, or if you are a parent of a child who has been sexually molested, the police should be informed. But it may be too late or too difficult to prove. In addition, you should hire a specialized San Luis Obispo personal injury lawyer, who will make a civil claim on your behalf to attempt to recover monetary damages.
Potential Civil Damages
The compensatory damages you are entitled to pursue are similar to those in other personal injury legal actions. They include economic damages, which include the cost of any medical treatment and psychotherapy, along with non-economic damages, which include mental anguish, pain, physical and psychological suffering, and loss of the ability to form lasting relationships or to enjoy your life.
You may also be able to recover punitive damages. These are meant to punish the abuser or the company, school, or other institution that negligently allowed the abuse to occur, serving as a deterrent to this heinous criminal behavior in the future.
Legal Counsel in Central California
Attorney Jude Basile is a compassionate personal injury attorney with offices in San Luis Obispo who is passionate about making sexual predators who target children, and the institutions and business that protect them, pay for their transgressions. This top-rated, award-winning lawyer has practiced law in the area since 1985 and has a sterling reputation for legal excellence and the sensitive handling of these difficult cases. He serves clients across the Central Coast of California, in cities including San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and Santa Barbara. If you or a family member are a victim of sexual molestation or abuse, call now. If you wait you could lose your right to compensation.