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Washington Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Childhood sexual abuse causes severe physical and emotional harm that can last a lifetime. A Washington sex abuse lawyer from Herman Law helps survivors recover financial compensation from the individuals that perpetrated the abuse and the institutions that failed to prevent it.

Childhood sexual abuse is a crime, but perpetrators are rarely prosecuted. According to Darkness to Light, an advocacy organization for survivors of sexual abuse, only 38 percent of child sexual abuse survivors report the abuse, and 40 percent of these are reported to a close friend rather than an adult. 

Even when a case is reported to the proper authorities, only 29 percent of investigations result in an arrest. 

However, survivors of sexual abuse may still be able to get justice by recovering significant compensation through a civil lawsuit. However, by the time many survivors are ready to confront the abuse, the state deadline, known as the statute of limitations, has already passed. 

Fortunately, a new bill introduced in the Washington state legislature would eliminate the civil statute of limitations, removing this final barrier to justice for sexual abuse survivors. If you are a sexual abuse survivor, an experienced and supportive Washington child sexual abuse lawyer at Herman Law can help you hold the responsible parties accountable. 

Why You Need a Washington Child Sex Abuse Lawyer

Holding the perpetrator accountable enables sexual abuse survivors to restore the sense of power robbed from them during childhood. Standing up to those responsible for your abuse is an act of courage, and you should not have to face them alone.

When you have a Washington sexual abuse lawyer from Herman Law on your side, you can count on us to believe you, support you, and provide skillful, vigorous advocacy until you get the justice you deserve.

Why Herman Law is the Law Firm of Choice for Sexual Abuse Survivors

We have more than 25 years of experience helping sexual abuse survivors recover substantial compensation for the harm they suffered from childhood sexual abuse. We understand the courage it takes for a survivor to take a stand, and you can count on our attorneys to provide personalized, compassionate service.

We will keep you informed as your case develops and push hard to win you the compensation you deserve. We will skillfully negotiate to get you a generous settlement while tirelessly preparing your case for trial. While we will always provide you with our best legal advice, it will always be your choice whether to accept a settlement or go to trial.

The testimonials we regularly receive from our clients attest to the commitment and care we devote to every case:

The Herman Law Firm never over-promised. They kept everything in perspective. But they sure hit a grand slam for me in the end. The firm always kept in contact with me to let me know things were getting done. I was blessed with this firm. Thank You Jeff and Jason for all your empathy and professionalism. You guys really helped me to get closure in my life.

–David E.

I’d like to thank Herman Law Firm. I finally got to be heard as a victim of a crime. After all these years God put the right person to finally get Justice I truly deserve. The ladies were very understanding when I spoke to them. Thank you so much.

–Mary P.

This team of lawyers has really given me a sense of justice in knowing that I’m not alone. I cannot express in words my heart’s gratitude for Herman law.

–Heather L.

You May Be Entitled to Substantial Compensation for Sexual Abuse in Washington

If you or your child has experienced sexual abuse, you may be entitled to recover significant economic and non-economic damages. 

Economic damages are compensation for your documented monetary losses. Sexual abuse survivors often live with physical and psychological harm that takes years— even decades—to overcome. In some cases, long-term therapy is required. Some survivors find that it adversely affects their ability to attend college, maintain employment, or transact business.

As a result, economic damages may be substantial and could include the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Psychological counseling
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Lost business opportunities

Non-economic damages are compensation for the pain and suffering you have experienced as a result of the abuse and may include the following:

  • Emotional suffering
  • Loss of society
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Humiliation
  • Loss of capacity to enjoy life

Economic damages are limited to losses you can prove, but there is no limit for non-economic damages. Although Washington Statute § 4.56.250 initially imposed a non-economic damages cap, a Superior court judge ruled the cap unconstitutional in 1989.

Who Can I Sue for Sex Abuse in Washington?

Childhood sexual abuse is never the child’s fault. Regardless of the child’s actions, the perpetrator always bears the blame for what occurred. That’s because children under age 16 are legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity under Washington law. The age of consent is even higher in some cases, such as when the perpetrators are teachers, school administration employees, foster parents, and those in supervisory positions.  

However, the perpetrator is not the only party responsible. Too often, sexual abuse occurs while a child is under the care of a trusted institution that has a duty to protect the children in its care, such as the following:

Children abused in foster care and group homes are often in the custody of the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

These private and government institutions are legally obligated to perform background checks on staff, supervise staff, and institute safeguards to protect children’s safety. When sexual abuse occurs in these institutions, they are legally obligated to report it to the proper authorities.

When children are harmed by any institution’s failure to establish reasonable protective policies and report abuse when it occurs, the institution is liable for negligence in allowing and enabling the abuse. This establishes grounds on which to sue.

What evidence do I need to prove my claim?

Child sex abuse is any completed or attempted sexual act involving a minor. It includes sexual contact or exploitation of a child by an adult. This includes acts that attempt to do the following:

  • Sexually stimulate a child
  • Bring sexual pleasure to the adult
  • Make the child available to other adults to sexually abuse

Sexual abuse can be penetrating or non-penetrating. Sexual abuse does not always result in a physical injury and can, in fact, occur without the adult actually touching the child. Examples of sexual abuse include but are not limited to the following:

  • Fondling
  • Intercourse
  • Exposing oneself sexually to a minor
  • Masturbation in the presence of a minor
  • Pressure on a child to engage in sexual acts or to remove clothing
  • Sexual photography of a child
  • Display of sexual photography to a child
  • Sexual conversation or role-playing with a child
  • Commercial exploitation/trafficking

The Effects of Child Sex Abuse

Every survivor of childhood sexual abuse is unique, and no two children respond with the same exact symptoms. However, the harm is universal. Researchers from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have observed the following long-term effects of childhood sex abuse:

  • Chronic pain
  • Reduced tolerance to pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Self-neglect
  • Eating disorders
  • Four to five times higher risk of developing problematic drug and alcohol use
  • A twofold increase in the risk of becoming a smoker
  • A doubling of the risk of becoming physically inactive and morbidly obese
  • Increased risk of future victimization
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Increased likelihood of having multiple sex partners
  • Increased risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Pelvic pain
  • Gynecological disorders

How can I prove sexual abuse?

The standard of proof in civil lawsuits is a preponderance of the evidence. This means you must prove that your claims are more likely to be true than not. Some cases are easier to prove than others. For example, a successful criminal prosecution would serve as strong evidence to support your case.

Other supporting evidence may include the following:

  • Witnesses who saw or heard the abuse occur or witnessed its aftermath
  • Outcry witnesses – personal friends or acquaintances in whom you or your child confided about the abuse shortly after it occurred
  • Changes in behavior observed by others around the time of the abuse
  • Medical records, such as a physical examination, that point to abuse
  • Allegations of abuse against the perpetrator by other survivors
  • Witnesses who saw strange or inappropriate behavior by the perpetrator while the abuse was occurring
  • Photo or video evidence
  • Correspondence from the perpetrator referencing the abuse

In some cases, the only evidence may be your word against the perpetrator’s word. However, this should not deter you from contacting us. We retain forensic psychologists, investigators, social workers, and other experts who know how to find evidence. 

In any sexual abuse case, the most important evidence is your statement that you were sexually abused. In some cases, this alone is sufficient to initiate an action.

Washington Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations

The current Washington sexual abuse statute of limitations is just three years from the date of the last act of abuse or three years after the resulting harm is discovered. Since a child cannot file a civil lawsuit, the clock on the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the child turns 18. 

This short statute of limitations essentially denies civil justice to sexual abuse survivors. A civil lawsuit may require a survivor to relive painful memories. The information may become public. The devastating effects of sexual abuse can take decades to overcome before a survivor can reasonably be ready to face these challenges.

Fortunately, the state legislature has recognized this travesty of justice. The Washington House of Representatives has passed HB 1618, which would eliminate the civil statute of limitations on child sex abuse. If passed, it would apply retroactively to cases where the statute of limitations has already expired. 

Several other states have passed laws extending or removing the civil statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases, including New York and California.

How Common Is Sex Abuse in Washington?

The prevalence of child sex abuse is difficult to estimate because it is grossly underreported. According to Statista, 1,627 children in Washington reported sexual abuse in 2021. However, according to Darkness to Light, only 38 percent of children who experience abuse report it, meaning the real number may be nearly triple.

According to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, more than a third of Washington women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and 80 percent of these experiences occurred before age 18. In 2016, 17.7 percent of Washington 10th graders reported they had been forced to engage in sexual activities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), one in four women in the United States report having been victims of rape or attempted rape, with 49 percent experiencing it before turning 18. 

However, sexual abuse is not unique to women. The same data showed that one in 26 men reported having been the victim of rape or attempted rape, and 56.6 percent stated that they experienced it before age 18.

Prominent Sex Abuse Cases in Washington

Several nationwide sex abuse scandals have made headlines nationwide involving significant numbers of children being sexually abused while organizational leaders covered it up. The most well-known cases include the following:

Washington’s children have also experienced cases of sex abuse that have made the headlines.

Jake Jackson, Sumner High School Basketball Coach

The Seattle Times reported in April 2023 that six former basketball players aged 15 to 17 were sexually abused by their coach Jake Jackson. According to the report, the abuse began when the boys started high school. 

The boys allege that Coach Jackson sent them nude photos of himself, solicited nude photos from them, and masturbated in the presence of at least two of them. One boy alleges that the coach touched him inappropriately. Police have identified six other potential victims. The case is still under investigation.

Catholic Priests

At least 77 Catholic priests in Washington have admitted to or been implicated in sexual abuse against minors, according to Oregon Live. The Seattle Times has only been able to confirm that five priests have ever been prosecuted. According to the report, the Seattle Archdiocese has paid approximately $74 million in settlements for 392 sexual abuse claims. 

For years, the Catholic Church has actively concealed sexual abuse, transferring offending priests to other regions without warning parishioners or alerting the authorities. At Herman Law, we maintain a directory of offending Catholic Priests known as the Predator Priest Index.  

In February of 2023, a bill was proposed in the Washington state legislature that would require clergy to report sexual abuse allegations. However, the bill lacks a requirement to report abuse revealed during confessions. 

Boy Scouts of America

Thousands of former boy scouts have come forward across the nation to report rampant sexual abuse by scoutmasters. Investigations into these reports found that Boy Scouts of America maintained an extensive list of scoutmasters who had been accused of sexual abuse. This list was kept in a file entitled “Ineligible Volunteers.”

Scout leaders were instructed to keep the file and the names in it secret, and these names were never reported to law enforcement or parents. The list of accused pedophiles included 52 scoutmasters from Washington, who served as scout leaders in multiple boy scout councils throughout the state, according to KIRO 7 News.

One of the victims in King County who came forward reported that the same leader victimized him and his brother. They were afraid to report the abuse because he always carried a gun and threatened to kill them if they reported him.

Herman Law Helps Sex Abuse Survivors Get Justice

If you have experienced child sexual abuse in Washington State, our child sexual abuse lawyers want to help.

for a free, confidential consultation about your case.