It can take years or even decades before a sexual abuse survivor is able to acknowledge and process their experience. Even then, survivors may not be mentally and emotionally prepared to come forward right away. However, the fact remains that sexual abuse victims should be able to hold their abusers accountable for their actions. Here is more on why every victim deserves their day in court.
The Prevalence of Sexual Abuse
In December of 2021, news broke that disgraced British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of child sex trafficking and other crimes she committed while associated with Jeffrey Epstein. When the jury returned the verdict, it seemed as if a small fraction of Maxwell’s and Epstein’s victims would finally see some measure of justice for the sexual abuse and exploitation they endured.
The case is far from over, however. Currently, Maxwell’s lawyers are pursuing a new trial because one of the jurors failed to disclose that he is a survivor of sexual abuse. Although the legal issue has yet to be decided, what is not being discussed is that, given the prevalence of adult and child sexual abuse, there is a strong possibility that other Maxwell jurors are also sexual abuse survivors.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), 1 out of every five women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape during her lifetime. Nearly a quarter (24.8%) of men in the U.S. have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. One in three female and one in four male victims of completed or attempted rape experienced their assaults for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17. Nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime.
The Damage Caused by Sexual Abuse and Violence
When someone subjects another person to the trauma of sexual violence or abuse, it’s an assault on the mind and the body. Not only will the victim feel the physical pain of the abuse, but they will also experience emotional trauma.
Carrying the memory of sexual violence can have debilitating consequences for a survivor. Sexual abuse trauma can manifest in a victim’s life immediately, in months, or even years.
In some circumstances, an abuse survivor may develop a mental health condition or engage in self-abusive or destructive behavior as a coping mechanism. Some may turn to alcohol or drugs to manage their trauma. Additionally, abuse survivors often have difficulty with self-esteem, trust, and relationships.
Why Having Their Day in Court Matters
Sexual violence can permeate every aspect of a survivor’s life. When someone is sexually assaulted or abused, it can feel as if their abuser took everything that they were away from them. As a result, a survivor may no longer feel safe in their own home or be able to connect with those closest to them. This kind of pain and fear can be consuming.
Although they are in no way responsible for the abuse they have suffered, many sexual abuse survivors believe it was their fault. Having the chance to file suit and hold the abuser accountable for their actions can give survivors the voice to speak out against the wrongs they have endured. They are not responsible for the abuse, and being able to break the silence and seek justice can be an affirming and important part of the healing process.
Child and adult sexual abuse is far too prevalent in our country, and those who have been harmed are entitled to compensation for their injuries and emotional trauma. Having their day in court communicates to the victim that their voice matters and tells the abuser they will be held responsible for the harm they have inflicted.
The Child Victim’s Act
In 2019, New York enacted the Child Victim’s Act (CVA). The CVA acknowledged that a victim’s responses to childhood sexual abuse can be different for everyone. The law also recognized the impact of trauma on disclosure times. The CVA opened the court to those childhood abuse survivors who would otherwise be barred from seeking justice against their abusers. By giving these survivors a year to pursue their claims, the law created a path for those who wanted to speak out and seek justice. The window to file these types of suits is now closed.
The Adult Survivor’s Act
Today, the state legislature is considering a comparable measure for those victims who were abused after they turned 18. Currently, adult survivors cannot go back and file suit against their abusers if they didn’t file within the applicable statute of limitations. The fact that they have not been given their day in court fails to acknowledge the nature of trauma and has denied these survivors the opportunity to hold their abusers accountable. The Adult Survivors Act would give those who have endured sexual abuse their voice and the opportunity they deserve.
Contact an Experienced Sexual Abuse Injury Attorney
If you’ve been the victim of rape, sexual abuse, or other sexual violence, you want an experienced and compassionate sexual abuse injury attorney on your side. Bonina & Bonina, P.C. understand the importance of helping sexual violence survivors get the help they need for their trauma. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se Habla Español.