Sexual abuse is a horrific crime that can have devastating consequences for its victims. Even long after the trauma of the abuse itself, the resulting stigma and deep shame often create lasting psychological problems for victims of sexual abuse. But sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault, no matter the circumstances. If someone sexually abused you, you have the legal right to seek compensation from the abuser and anyone else responsible for the abuse.
At Herman Law, our attorneys and staff have many years of experience fighting for victims of sex abuse. Jeff Herman and his team work solely on sex abuse cases, advocating for the victims’ rights. We have achieved tremendous results for our clients throughout the country. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, you are not alone. To understand your rights, contact the Florida sex abuse attorneys at Herman Law today for a free case evaluation.
- Sex Crimes in Florida
- Sex Abuse Cases in Florida
- Sex Abuse Settlements in Florida
- Penalties for Sex Abusers in Florida
- What should I do if I suffered Sexual Abuse in Florida
- How can I press criminal charges against my abuser in Florida
- When do I have to file a lawsuit or civil claim for a sex abuse case in Florida?
- Should I hire an experienced Florida sex abuse attorney for my claim?
SEX CRIMES IN FLORIDA
Florida groups sex crimes into several categories, including sexual battery, rape, and lewd or lascivious acts.
Florida law labels sexual abuse “sexual battery.” Officially, the law recognizes sexual battery as nonconsensual “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.” Florida law includes rape in the definition of sexual battery.
Some factors affect the category of crime and severity of the punishment, such as:
- If the victim is under 12
- If the victim is under custodial or familial authority
- If the victim was a minor solicited for sexual acts
- If the conduct injured a child’s genitalia
Florida law may also call sexual battery aggravated if:
- The perpetrator used a weapon or drug to overpower the victim
- The abuser was in a position of authority over the victim
Lewd or Lascivious Acts
Florida law categorizes some sexual abuse as lewd or lascivious acts. These include exposing one’s genitalia indecently and molestation of a child, among other things. Some lewd or lascivious acts overlap with sexual battery crimes, so official charges could alternate.
Other Sexual Crimes in Florida
Other punishable offenses include child pornography, prostitution, incest, and sexual misconduct by someone in a position of authority or trust over the victim or where the victim is vulnerable, such as when the abuser is the victim’s correctional officer, probation officer, or therapist.
For each of these crimes, victims can take legal action against their abusers in civil court and receive compensation for their injuries. If you are a victim, you can have justice. Experienced sexual abuse lawyers in Florida will help you file a suit against both your abuser and any third party responsible for the abuse.
SEX ABUSE CASES IN FLORIDA
Tragically, sexual abuse is widespread in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, in 2018 alone, there were 8,015 reported rapes, and 331 reported attempted rapes in Florida. But since sex crimes often go unreported, there were most likely more.
Headlines announce sex crime cases almost every day. In 2020, Daniel Spurgeon of Cape Coral pled guilty to child neglect and child sex abuse. Spurgeon was sentenced to 15 years in prison after one of his former foster children accused him of sexually abusing them while they were under the care of Spurgeon and his wife. Court documents alleged that, between 1997 and 2008, the couple physically and sexually abused 11 foster children in their charge.
In one recent case, federal courts convicted a Lake Worth man of trafficking three women as prostitutes for almost a decade. Two of the women were minors when the man started forcing them into prostitution. A federal district court sent the man to prison for life. In July 2021, a federal appeals court upheld his conviction.
In August 2021, registered sex offender Michael Burr, Jr., pled guilty in federal court to possessing computer images of children suffering from sexual abuse. Burr faces up to 20 years in prison under federal law.
SEX ABUSE SETTLEMENTS IN FLORIDA
Sexual abuse civil lawsuits in Florida often involve institutions that knew or should have known about the abuse committed by their members. One well-known example is the Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal and the church’s widespread cover-up of the abuse. Between 1960 and 1980, as the scandal was ongoing, the Catholic Church transferred many pedophile priests to Florida. In recent years, numerous dioceses in Florida have paid out millions in settlements to victims of clergy sexual abuse.
These settlements include:
The Diocese of St.Petersburg in 2011
The Archdiocese of Miami in 2004
The Diocese of Orlando in 2004
The United States also settled a lawsuit brought by 15 women at the Federal Correctional Complex Coleman in Sumter County, Florida. These women alleged that correctional officers sexually assaulted them for years, threatening to punish them if they told anyone. Six of the eight officers admitted that they had sexual contact with inmates at the prison in the lawsuit. Three of the women received $1.26 million to split among them.
PENALTIES FOR SEX ABUSERS IN FLORIDA
Florida has very harsh criminal penalties for sexual abusers. Perpetrators of some sex crimes can serve as much as a life sentence. Generally, in Florida, sexual battery may be charged as a second-degree felony with a prison sentence of up to 15 years. If the victim is a child, the penalties are particularly severe. For instance, if the child is under 12 and the defendant is also a minor, the defendant’s sentence can range from 25 years to life. But if the defendant is 18 or older, they could face the death penalty.
Sexual abusers in Florida are also subject to specific federal criminal laws, some of which are more severe than Florida’s localized laws.
People convicted of sex crimes are required to register as sex offenders in Florida. Under the Florida Sexual Predators Act, anyone deemed a “sexual predator” in any state must register with the local sheriff’s department within 48 hours of moving to Florida.
Some crimes that qualify a person as a “sexual predator” include:
- Sexual misconduct
- Kidnapping a minor
- False imprisonment of a minor
- Human trafficking
- Lewd conduct in the presence of a minor under 16
- Child pornography
The person registering must give the following information:
- Birth date
- Social security number
- Physical description
- Additional evidence of the crime
Sexual predators convicted of offenses in Florida are also restricted from living in certain places. Under Florida law, they cannot live within 1,000 feet of schools or places children spend their time. The Florida government may also not allow them to live in subsidized housing.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUFFERED SEXUALABUSE IN FLORIDA
If someone has sexually abused you, seek medical attention immediately. Do not bathe, shower, or do anything else that could remove vital DNA evidence. Take photos of these injuries, write down your account of the abuse with as many details as you can remember, and seek immediate medical care.
Do not keep the abuse to yourself. Call friends, family, or anyone you can trust to tell them what happened. Also, call any local rape or sex abuse crisis center to report the incident. There will be a trusted individual there to talk you through your next steps.
Even if the abuse happened years ago, you should still seek help. You have the right to seek compensation and justice for the wrongs committed against you. Sexual abuse is a twisted paradox: although it’s never the victim’s fault, victims often experience deep shame over the event and sometimes even blame themselves. This is especially true of child victims. Sexual abuse can lead to lifelong emotional scars, and many victims do not come forward about the abuse until years later. No matter how long ago the abuse happened, it is essential to seek treatment for its effects. Through therapy and finding an advocate, you can try to heal fully. A sexual assault lawyer can help you receive compensation for any medical bills or expenses to help you recover.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, no matter how long ago, an experienced Florida sex abuse lawyer can help you seek justice. Even though financial compensation can never heal the emotional wounds you’ve suffered, it can help you cope with the resulting fallout. Monetary damages can help you pay for necessary therapy or healthcare.
An experienced sex abuse attorney will also investigate your claim to determine whether or not you can hold a third party responsible. For example, suppose your abuser worked for a church, school, sports club, or other institution. In that case, you may be able to recover against the institution if you can show that it knew or should have known that its employee was a sexual predator.
HOW CAN I PRESS CRIMINAL CHARGESAGAINTS MY ABUSER IN FLORIDA
If someone sexually abused you in Florida, you have the right to press criminal charges against them. Contact local law enforcement to report the abuse. A prosecutor will investigate your case and bring criminal charges against your abuser. The prosecutor must then prove to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime charged against them. A criminal case is between the government and the criminal defendant, so the defendant is punished with prison time, not financial damages. In a criminal case, you cannot receive any money from your abuser.
Previously, a statute of limitations – a law that prevents prosecutors from charging abusers with crimes after a specific deadline – has made it difficult for victims to pursue justice. In 2020, Florida passed a law known as Donna’s Law, which removes the statute of limitations for sexual battery if the crime occurred on or after July 1, 2020, and if the victim was under 18 when it took place.
WHEN DO I HAVE TO FILE A LAWSUIT OR CIVILCLAIM FOR A SEX ABUSE CASE IN FLORIDA?
A civil lawsuit is a type of personal injury lawsuit. For most personal injury lawsuits, the deadline to file is four years. In 2010, however, Florida changed the deadline for bringing cases based on sexual abuse, recognizing the stigma and long-dormant nature of the effects of this kind of abuse.
Under Florida’s 2010 law, there is no deadline for bringing a sexual abuse civil lawsuit where the victim is under 16. If the person is 18 or older, the statute of limitations for filing a civil case is seven years. Regardless of a person’s age, if they were financially dependent on their abuser, they have four years after leaving their abuser to bring a civil lawsuit. Because these deadlines can be complicated, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney who can guide you through the specifics of filing deadlines.
SHOULD I HIRE AN EXPERIENCED FLORIDA SEX ABUSE ATTORNEY FORMY CLAIM?
Yes. A Florida sex abuse attorney can be vital in helping you obtain justice and financial compensation for your injuries. An attorney experienced in Florida sexual abuse law will collect and compile all evidence relevant to your claim, including forensic evidence, DNA evidence, and medical records. Your attorney will also gather all records of the costs incurred due to the abuse.
The attorney will also help you keep track of filing deadlines and ensure you are holding all liable parties responsible. An experienced sex abuse attorney can also help you determine what your claim is worth, and they will fight for you to recover as much compensation as you can.
If you are seeking justice against your abuser in Florida, use this form to contact Herman Law today to understand your legal rights and receive a free case evaluation.