04/05/2013 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Justice News Flash: Featured Column // Susan Ramsey // (press release)
With the recently breaking news concerning sexual abuse claims arising out of The Rosarian Academy School, The Palm Beach Post headline reports that the police believe that there are other possible victims of former teacher, Stephen Budd.
According to the U.S. Department of Education study “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature”, published in 2004, prevalence of sexual misconduct by school staff against students varies from 3.7 to 50.3 percent. An explanation of this wide range may be found in another statistic, which is that it is estimated that only 5 to 6 percent of child sexual abuse cases becomes known to social services or the police.
Police are encouraging survivors to come forward and speak with them. In addition to the criminal charges that are being pursued, in Florida and many other states, child sex abuse survivors have other remedies. Florida has one of the very best civil statutes of limitations regarding child sexual abuse. Florida legislators have recognized that child abuse victims are not always able to remember or discuss their abuse because of the psychological trauma it inflicts.
Recent changes to Florida law allows victims of child sex abuse to sue their abusers without any time limit. Florida’s law allows anyone who was abused while under the age of 16 to file suit against their abuser at any time.
Previously, state law required victims to file a civil lawsuit on or before his or her 22nd birthday. Now, if the abuse occurred prior to the victim’s 16th birthday, there is no statute of limitations.
The effects of sexual abuse may not surface until later in a person’s life. Rescinding the statute of limitations for those who were victimized when they were under the age of 16 gives these people more time to process these painful, agonizing experiences, and decide whether to pursue legal recourse against an abuser.
Civil cases can do two important things for a survivor; first civil cases seek financial compensation for the physical, emotional and psychological harms done to the person by the acts of the abuser. A person seeking recovery in a civil action may require financial assistances for medical care and therapeutic care and may also claim damages for the impairment of their capacity to carry on their life. If a civil action is successful, an abuser can be ordered by the court to pay monetary damages to the person harmed. If the abuser has assets from which the Court-ordered damages can be collected, money can be recovered to compensate for the harms that were caused.
In addition to seeking compensation for the harms that were done, there are other ways civil litigation can be helpful to recovery. The person bringing a claim may feel a sense of empowerment by using the legal system to prove the claim against an abuser. Bringing a claim can also develop a sense of closure by showing that the abuser did in fact cause the harms which have troubled the abused person’s life.
There has developed increased understanding of the harms caused by childhood sexual abuse. New laws and court decisions in Florida and other states across the country have increased the legal recourse available to victims. Attorneys have developed more devices to help protect privacy interests of victims and to protect the emotional health of their clients. These changes have helped to create an environment in which survivors of sexual abuse are more able to assert their rights against those who have caused them harm.
Url: Susan B. Ramsey