Sexual Abuse and Assault

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse or sexual assault, call the confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 for 24/7 support.

Sexual abuse has haunted organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, YMCA, Catholic dioceses, Mormon churches, and other clergy and religious groups for decades.

Some survivors have suffered for years while perpetrators were quietly excused or even protected by their organizations. More and more, these abusers are being brought to justice.

Children are especially vulnerable to abusers. Perpetrators of abuse seek out organizations where they can get closer to children, especially in positions of power. Child survivors of sexual assault could be affected by severe post-traumatic symptoms for the rest of their lives.

The law stands behind survivors. A personal injury lawsuit can hold your abusers responsible for their actions – and compensate you to offset the harm that you suffered.

Depending on the statute of limitations where you live, you might be able to file a legal claim for sexual abuse that happened decades ago. States like California have extended the statute of limitations for these types of cases to give victims a chance to get justice.

Abusers and groups who protect bad actors should be held responsible for their actions. Sexual abuse can affect survivors for life. Institutions that shield abusers from consequences should pay for the role they played in perpetuating abuse and silencing survivors, too.

A personal injury lawsuit can help bring abusers to justice. While the law cannot undo what was done, it can help compensate survivors for their pain, suffering, and rehabilitation.

Damages Covered by Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Settlements

Institutional sexual abuse is devastating, with the potential to affect survivors for life.

The damage gets exponentially worse when this type of abuse is swept under the rug by organizations that are in a position of trust for their members. Survivors end up suffering in silence while perpetrators can continue to prey upon the vulnerable.

Personal injury lawsuits work to offset the harm suffered by injury victims as much as possible. Usually, that involves financial compensation through damages.

  • Compensatory damages cover the practical impact of the abuse you went through. That means holding the responsible party liable for your mental health bills as well as your emotional pain and suffering. It should also cover the economic impact of your experience if you were unable to sustain a career because of your trauma.

States like California also allow financial compensation as punishment for the bad actor.

  • Punitive damages punish the people for morally objectionable or reprehensible behavior. This also works to discourage the guilty party – or anyone else, for that matter – from repeating that behavior. Covering up years of sexual assault and protecting perpetrators in positions of power certainly counts as objectionable and reprehensible behavior. Especially when the right thing to do would have been to report the abuse and protect vulnerable individuals under the care of these organizations.

Institutions hold positions of trust in their communities, especially when they involve youth programs and childcare services. The courts do not take institutional sexual abuse lightly. A proper settlement could recover damages worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In 2007, the Los Angeles Catholic diocese paid hundreds of survivors $660 million and the San Diego diocese paid 114 survivors a total of $198 million in settlements. These make up the highest settlements paid by the Catholic church in the U.S.

In fact, a new California law signed in 2019 allows survivors of sexual abuse to get up to triple the damages if they can show that their assault was part of a cover-up. By some accounts, California Catholic churches have paid the most for sex abuse settlements out of any state.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Claims?

Unfortunately, there is a time limit to filing personal injury claims. This is why it’s important to talk to a lawyer about your situation as soon as possible. Even if it might not be easy to talk about.

The law around personal injury lawsuits changes by state. Organizations like the Boy Scouts (BSA) and the Catholic church extend nationwide, so a California lawsuit may look different than another lawsuit in Massachusetts or even one in neighboring Arizona.

Because survivors of sexual abuse deserve justice, and because it can be so hard for survivors to speak up about what they went through, California extended the statute of limitations for cases involving sexual assault, particularly those involving children.

The following laws were enacted in 2019 in California Assembly Bill Number 218:

  • Starting January 2020, survivors of childhood sexual abuse get a 3-year “lookback” window to file legal claims that may have otherwise passed the statute of limitations.
  • Survivors of childhood sexual abuse can file a claim up until their 40th birthday OR within 5 years of discovering their psychological injuries are linked to the abuse.

That means you may be able to file a claim even past the age of 40 if you’ve only recently established a connection between your current struggles and your childhood assault. 

Is it Too Late to Sue the Boy Scouts of America?

Not necessarily. The only way to find out for sure is to talk to a personal injury lawyer. Because of the extended statutes of limitations, you may still have a legal claim you can file.

Sexual abuse lawsuits may be filed against religious or secular organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Boys & Girls Club of America, and other children’s centers. No organization is immune – you could sue a summer camp, a private school, or even a public school.

Processing the trauma of childhood sexual abuse can take time. Hopefully, you’re also able to get mental help during this difficult time – a successful lawsuit would cover the cost of any therapy, medication, or health treatments you need as a result of the trauma you suffered.

The personal injury lawyers at Sepulveda Sanchez Law know how hard trauma can be on survivors. Our compassionate team can help you find the best path forward for you. Contact us now to talk to an experienced attorney about your case.