Florida Sex Abuse Lawyers
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If you have been a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault, a sex abuse lawyer can be invaluable in helping you fight for justice against your abuser. When considering hiring a sexual abuse attorney in the State of Florida, you should find out about attorneys’ profiles. You need an attorney who is passionate about fighting for sexual abuse victims and who will approach your civil suit with compassion, care, and understanding.
If you or a family member are a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault, you do not have to go through the complex legal process of seeking justice for your emotional trauma alone. The experienced sex abuse attorneys at Herman Law are here to provide you with legal advice to help you through every step of your civil claim.
Your Legal Rights As A Sexual Abuse Survivor in Florida
Florida law recognizes that sexual abuse is a horrific crime and that victims have the right to seek monetary compensation for the emotional pain and suffering caused by the abuse. As a survivor of sexual abuse, you have the right to report the abuse to law enforcement officials so they can bring criminal charges and a possible prison sentence against the abuser, and you also have the right to file a lawsuit in civil court against the person who abused you, as well as any organizations or others that allowed the abuse.
What kind of action can I take if I am a sexual abuse survivor?
Sex abuse survivors in Florida have several options for finding justice through legal actions. First, you can initiate criminal action against your abuser by contacting a local police officer or law enforcement officials and reporting the abuse. Florida law imposes a harsh criminal conviction for sexual crimes in a criminal case. A Florida sex crimes attorney that works for the government will bring criminal charges against your abuser. In the criminal proceeding, the government will have to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the person sexually abused you. If the government meets this requirement, then the person will be punished with sex crime charges and a prison sentence.
You can also bring a civil lawsuit to recover money damages against the person who sexually abused you. If the person worked in a church, school, sports club, nursing homes, or other organization, then you may also be able to sue the entity for knowing about the abuse but failing to take reasonable steps. You may also be able to bring a claim against anyone who had a legal duty to report the abuse but failed to do so. This could include medical professionals, teachers, therapists, etc.
Though the outcome of a specific case will depend on the facts of the civil litigation, sexual offenses should never go unpunished. Victims of child sex abuse should contact a law firm with decades of experience in many practice areas to learn how you can also hold liable third parties responsible. Whether you take civil action or criminal action, the important thing is that you seek legal counsel to understand your legal rights after your traumatic experience.
What is sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse is generally referred to as coercing or forcing an individual to participate in unwanted sexual activity. Most of the time, sexual abuse involves a minor child. Sexual assault is also a form of sexual violence, but it generally refers to a sudden, violent incident, like sexual molestation. Whereas sexual abuse is often committed by someone known to you, sexual assaults are usually perpetrated by strangers.
Florida law refers to sexual abuse as “sexual battery.” Sexual abuse does not require physical contact. Examples of sexual abuse include forcing a child to watch an adult masturbate, indecent exposure, making or distributing child porn, threatening someone sexually through text messages, and making a child perform sexual acts on an adult. Sexual abuse can happen to anyone regardless of the race, socioeconomic background, or age of the victim. Common places where Florida child abuse, molestation, neglect, rape, and other forms of sexual abuse happen are:
Churches or other religious institutions
The terrible truth about sexual abuse and sexual assault is the in most instances, the victim of sexual assault or abuse actually knows the perpetrator.
How common is sex abuse in Florida?
Sex abuse crimes are, sadly, pervasive in Florida and most involve child abuse. In Florida, between 360,000 and almost 600,000 children will become victims of sexual abuse before they turn 18. It’s estimated that about 33% of all girls and about 20% of all boys in Florida have been sexually abused. Children are most likely to be sexually abused between the ages of 7 and 13.
News reports about sexual abuse crop up every day in Florida. In June 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida charged a woman with producing and distributing images showing the sexual abuse of a child. The woman is accused of taking sexually explicit photos of a child and then sending the photos to someone else through her computer. If convicted, the woman could be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison.
In the United States, the vast majority of victims of sexual abuse, more than 90% percent, know their offenders. In fact, many sex abusers turn out to be trusted members of the family, a beloved teacher, or a respected clergy member. In 2020, investigators in the Florida Attorney General’s office announced that a two-year investigation into Florida’s Catholic churches revealed rampant clergy abuse in the church, with over 100 Florida priests accused of sexual abuse of children. Florida was even referred to as a “dumping ground” for abuser priests, as dioceses in other states transferred many known abuser priests to Florida. To try to counteract such realities, the Florida Department of Children and Families maintains a hotline for people to call and report abuse.
A person who has been convicted of a sex crime must register as a “sexual predator” in the sex offender registry under Florida law. The Florida Sexual Predators Act defines a sexual predator as “a person who has been convicted of a qualifying sex crime in Florida or another state.” Examples of qualifying sex crimes include legally prohibited sexual misconduct, kidnapping a minor, false imprisonment of a minor, human trafficking, unlawful sexual activity with certain minors, lewd conduct in the presence of a minor under 16, video voyeurism involving minors, and child pornography. Sex offenders must register where they live, and they must notify local law enforcement whenever they travel into a new community.
Florida maintains a database of sex offenders through the Sexual Offender and Predatory System. To find whether a sex offender lives in your neighborhood or community, go to the state’s sex offender registry database, where you can look up offenders by city, county, zip code, name, and type of offense.
What injuries can sexual abuse cause sex abuse victims?
Survivors of sexual abuse can suffer from both physical injuries and nonphysical injuries. Physical injuries may include tears, bruising, redness, or swelling in the genital areas, as well as sexually transmitted diseases and other forms of physical pain. Nonphysical injuries from sexual exploitation include intense emotional pain and suffering, sometimes exhibited as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harm such as cutting, substance abuse, eating disorders, and sexual dysfunctions.
Victims of sexual abuse, especially if they were abused as children, often have difficulty maintaining healthy romantic relationships as adults. If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, you have the legal right to seek justice for the pain you’ve endured. While no one can ever take away the pain that a perpetrator inflicts on a victim, you can fight for compensation and justice to help with the recovery and healing process.
What damages can I receive in a Florida sex abuse lawsuit?
In a Florida sex abuse lawsuit, you can recover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages may include medical expenses, counseling and therapy, lost wages due to missed work, and other costs that resulted from the trauma of the sexual abuse. Florida law recognizes that sexual abuse causes much emotional pain and suffering, so the law allows survivors to recover money damages for this type of injury. Finally, if the abuse was particularly heinous, you may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to your other damages.
What are the criminal penalties for sexual abuse in Florida?
The criminal penalties for sexual abuse in Florida are very harsh, as they should be. The criminal justice system can charge sexual assault as a second-degree felony, with a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Sexual abuse against alleged victims is referred to under Florida law as sexual battery, which is defined as “oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object.” If a person is charged with a capital felony, the person can receive a life sentence. Sexual abuse of a child has several penalties, with up to life imprisonment in some cases. Sexual abusers must also register as sexual predators in Florida.
What evidence do I need to prove the sexual abuse?
To prove a sexual abuse case, the first step is to collect as much evidence as possible to link the abuse to the perpetrator. Most victims do not report the abuse until after much of the evidence is lost, so sexual abuse cases often turn solely on the victim’s testimony of the abuse. Physical evidence can be very helpful in proving a sex abuse case, and this may include DNA evidence, fingerprints, semen evidence, medical records of treatment for physical injuries caused by the abuse, recorded or written statements of the perpetrator, text messages and e-mails, gifts from the perpetrator (in an effort to win over the victim’s loyalty), photographs of the injuries, or any other relevant sensitive information.
How long can you wait to file a sexual abuse claim in Florida?
Sexual abuse is a form of personal injury, which is why personal injury attorneys represent the victims. Every state has laws that provide deadlines for when you can bring a claim for a personal injury. The deadline is referred to in legal terms as a “statute of limitations.” For most types of personal injuries, the statute of limitations is fairly short, such as two to five years from the date of the injury.
Sexual abuse often happens when a person is a child, and it may take years, or even decades, for a victim to even fully understand that they were abused. Furthermore, survivors often feel intense shame and humiliation and may simply not report the abuse for many years. By the time a person decides that they want to seek justice for what they endured, the Florida statutes deadline to file a civil lawsuit may have already passed.
In recognizing the unique nature of sex abuse, many states have recently passed laws, sometimes called “look-back” or “revival” laws, that give sex abuse survivors more time to file a civil lawsuit if their claims are otherwise time-barred. Some states have also passed laws extending deadlines for criminal charges to be brought.
In 2020, the Florida legislature passed Donna’s Law, which removes the statute of limitations for charging someone criminally with sexual battery if the sexual battery happened on July 1, 2020, or after. Under Donna’s Law, the case can be prosecuted at any time if the victim is under 16, if it’s a first-degree felony sexual battery and the victim is under 18, or if it’s a first- or second-degree felony sexual battery and the victim is under 16, and the crime is reported within 72 hours.
The law also states that once a person turns 18, they have seven years to file a civil case, or four years after leaving a perpetrator they were dependent on. Because the deadlines in sex abuse cases can be confusing, it’s important to contact an experienced sex abuse lawyer as soon as possible to learn about your legal rights and case conditions.
How can a Florida Sexual Abuse Lawyer help me?
A Florida sex abuse attorney is invaluable in helping you with your sex abuse case. First, the attorney will research your case and compile all relevant evidence, including medical bills as well as forensic evidence, such as DNA or semen samples. Your attorney will do hard work and research the law to determine whether there are any time limits for bringing your lawsuit, whether persons other than your abuser can be held liable for the abuse, and other important legal aspects of your claim.
Jeff Herman of Herman Law is an expert in sexual abuse cases and has 30 years of experience in fighting for just compensation for his clients. Jeff and his experienced team of attorneys will help you every step of the way in your pursuit of justice.
How do I choose a lawyer?
When choosing an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you in your sex abuse case, it’s important to choose an attorney who understands all of the facets of sexual abuse. Your attorney should be someone who will treat you with compassion and understanding while fiercely fighting for your legal right to obtain financial compensation from the person who abused you and anyone else who was responsible for the abuse.
A sex abuse attorney should do much more than simply file documents on your behalf. The attorney should also be able to help gather important evidence to demonstrate your economic losses from the abuse. They should have the education and training to be able to fight for your rights adequately, and treat you with kindness and compassion. The most important step you can take is to find an experienced Florida sex crimes lawyer that will help fight for your rights.
When should I contact an experienced Florida sex abuse lawyer?
You should contact an experienced Florida sex abuse attorney as soon as possible. Sexual abuse is a horrific crime that often leaves victims with permanent emotional scars. Victims of sexual abuse often feel deep shame and humiliation over the abuse. If a victim was abused as a child, then the victim may blame himself or herself for the abuse. Sexual abuse is never the child’s fault, no matter what.
Because of the debilitating, long-term effects of sexual abuse, it is important for survivors to seek healing as soon as they come to terms with the abuse. A victim that seeks help through therapy, counseling, and advocacy has the best chance to heal fully from the abuse.
If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, use this contact form to reach out to the legal team at Herman Law for a free consultation.