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Calls were growing for California lawmakers to protect women prisoners from sexual abuse as documents revealed that sexual abuse suffered at the hands of prison guards was a much larger problem than previously realized. As part of the state’s new transparency law, the disciplinary records of corrections officers fired for sexual abuse were disclosed.
Some incidents involved the fondling of mentally ill inmates while they were in restraints. Others reported non-consensual sex between guards and inmates. There were instances of officers requiring inmates to wear revealing clothing or observing the inmates as they changed clothes. A few reports documented officer’s requesting inmates to them write sexually explicit letters.
The documents also reveal that at least six officers were fired for sexual misconduct during a four-year period. However, it is believed that there are many more unreported instances of sexual assault. Victims may not file a complaint while incarcerated due to fear of retaliation.
In the meantime, California and several other states have lifted the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases. Allowing individuals to file a claim for a longer period of time threatens to result in thousands more sexual abuse cases. In particular, claims against Catholic clergy members could result in more than $4 billion in payouts.
One victim in San Diego, who is now 71, whose abuse occurred in the 1950s when she was a child, described the ability to come forward with the allegations as a whole new beginning for her and other survivors who have remained silent for decades. She like many others believed that too much time had passed to pursue a legal claim against their abusers. It is estimated that as many as 5,000 new sexual abuse cases could be filed in California, New York, and New Jersey alone.
While seemingly unrelated, both of these cases demonstrate the silence and fear experienced by many sexual abuse victims. The need for legal protections for vulnerable populations has never been more apparent. Children abused at church or at school, or women facing abuse during incarceration are among the groups most in need of protection.
If you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault, you may be eligible for compensation for injuries. You may also recover for any injury-related costs you have suffered. You may be entitled to compensation for the psychological impacts you suffered as a result of the abuse. An attorney experienced in sexual abuse laws can help you understand the legal process of claiming damages for your injuries.
In September 2018, the Catholic Diocese of San Diego disclosed eight additional clergy members accused of sexual abuse. At the time, the bishop stated that the publication of the names was a “response to the terrible moment we’re in.” He was referring to a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that found that more than 1,000 children had been molested by Pennsylvania priests. The public demanded that the names of the priests credibly accused of sexual abuse be released and that victims be compensated.
The names released by the San Diego Diocese were added to those it released in 2007. The list was created after a landmark legal case. The case was settled when Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $660 million to more than 500 victims of sexual abuse. The additions included priests either accused since 2007 or whose cases had been misplaced and not included in the earlier settlement. The 2007 case remains one of the largest church sex abuse settlements in the nation.
In California, the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases was set to expire at age 26. Victims who do not come forward by their 26th birthday were barred from filing a legal claim. With no legal recourse, victims could not seek compensation from their abusers or those who attempted to cover up the abuse. The new law, which went into effect in January 2020, provides the following provisions:
This is the third time that the state legislature has attempted to extend the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases. Former Gov. Jerry Brown twice vetoed similar bills in 2018 and 2013. With a new governor and increased publicity regarding sexual abuse, California’s lawmakers have now succeeded in enacting the amendments. Increased public awareness through the #MeToo movement and investigations into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church helped provide the necessary public support.
Sexual abuse and sexual assault victims suffer economic and non-economic expenses. Some of the details of those expenses and related statistics include:
Sexual abuse can cause harm to a child’s psychological and social development. Improper development can cause multiple disruptions later in life. Some of the developmental processes that are affected by sexual abuse of a child include emotional regulation, cognitive style, and coping mechanisms.
Sexual abuse may deprive victims of educational opportunities that can lead to earning a higher income as adults. In addition, the consequences of sexual abuse may also influence the victim to turn to alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse is used as a coping mechanism to alleviate the emotional pain resulting from the abuse. Some victims may suffer other long-term issues including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, psychological distress, and inappropriate sexual behavior. Other consequences of childhood sexual abuse that carry on into adulthood include:
One of the questions most frequently asked by victims of sexual abuse is: “Why did this happen to me?” While there is no definitive answer, it is important to know, as a victim, that the abuse was not your fault. Some potential clues as to the reasons for abuse include:
In addition to church and prisons, other organizations and institutions have faced an increase in sexual abuse allegations in recent years. Some of those include:
This is not an exhaustive list of all the places where sexual abuse occurs. However, these locations are places where abusers may come in contact with their victims. The most likely location for sexual abuse is in a family home. Victims commonly suffer abuse in the victim’s home or the home of friends and family members.
Many sexual abusers develop relationships with a child and his or her family before the abuse takes place. “Grooming” involves a gradual gaining of trust that furthers the abuser’s ability to be alone with the child. Some common signs of “grooming” include:
Only about a third of all sexual abuse and assault cases are ever identified and even fewer are reported. If you were the survivor of sexual abuse or sexual assault, regardless of the circumstance, contact Gomez Trial Attorneys. Our experienced sexual assault attorneys can help you understand the process of filing a claim and provide you with the support and compassion you deserve.Remember the three-year look back period will lift the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases. You may be eligible for compensation even if the abuse took place decades ago.
Let us help. Contact us or call (619) 237-3490 to schedule a consultation.
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