The media will almost certainly not use your name without your consent. Consider how many times you’ve read news articles about sex abusers – those articles rarely, if ever, mention the abused person’s name. When they do, this is usually because the abused person has given their consent for the use of their name.
In criminal and civil cases, the defendant is entitled to know who is making the allegations. In criminal cases, your real name will be used before the Grand Jury and with regard to any indictment or trial.
In civil cases, initials or “Jane Doe” may be used in formal filings with the Court. Again, media will not report your name without your consent. Over the years, we have represented dozens and dozens of women, and none of them has had their identity revealed to the public without their permission. Some women have chosen to go public because of the particular circumstances of their case. Interestingly, the women who did go public felt empowered and did not regret doing so.
Serial sexual predators, especially those in positions of power, rely on this fear in their victims to keep their abuse from coming to light. It may begin as your word against his, but if a pattern emerges – as it so often does – then it may be the word of dozens of victims against him. After the first woman comes forward, many other women also speak up, precisely because they now know it is not just their word alone. Additionally, it is possible that other victims have spoken up and you simply have not heard about it. For example, a police investigation may not want to tip off the predator by publicizing accusations in the media while they work to gather evidence to make an arrest. In a few of the cases we have handled, police initially talked to women who had made reports, but then could not make an arrest because they did not have sufficient evidence. Later, after more victims surface, the police can then gather all the victims together to pursue criminal charges.
The fear of breaking the silence can be extremely strong. In one of our cases, there was a suspicion that the predator had been highly active in his abuse, although we only had a small number of victims. We suspected that there were more victims who had not yet broken their silence. In an effort to bring the predator and his employer who harbored him to justice, we were able to win a petition and have the judge compel the company to release to us the names of all females who had been transported in an ambulance attended by the abuser. With difficult and time consuming efforts, we were finally able to show that as many as 1 in 6 women had been victimized, but had never broken their silence.
Each woman believed it was only her word against the paramedic’s, but taken together, their voices made an undeniable chorus of evidence.
You do not need the exact date of your abuse in order to stand up for yourself. The dates can usually be narrowed down from medical records and other documents.
Yes, you can still get help. Quite often medical staff or professionals who engage in sex abuse target patients precisely when they are at their most vulnerable. There have been very successful criminal convictions and civil verdicts on behalf of sex abuse victims who were highly medicated or in and out of consciousness at the time they were attacked. Indeed, even sex abuse victims who had repressed what had happened to them have been able to vindicate their rights.
People who suffer from sex abuse are permanently injured. However, treatment can be, and is often a great help to sex abuse victims. Seeing a counselor or medical professional with specialized skill in treating sex abuse victims should be explored.
Statutes of limitations vary from state to state. The statute of limitations can also vary based upon when you learn certain facts. For example, a patient who was sexually abused by a doctor, and who later reads in the newspaper that the hospital had prior complaints against the doctor, may have a case against the hospital for which the statute of limitations did not begin to run until the patient read the article in the paper and learned of the hospital’s knowledge of those other allegations of sex abuse.
Additionally, if you were sexually abused when you were a minor, there may be a statute of limitations that extends well into adulthood. For example, in Oregon, a child sex abuse statute of limitations (with various qualifying provisions and exceptions) extends until a child who was sexually abused reaches age 40.
Being caught and convicted are two different things. As discussed above, corroboration of a sex abuser’s behavior by other witnesses is often essential to successful civil and criminal prosecution. Sometimes, sex abusers have varied methods of abuse. To the extent that others come forward who can substantiate a fact or methods of abuse used by the sex abuser, the sex abuser or the institution who harbored the sex abuser is far more likely to have to concede that the abuse occurred, especially when it comes to institutional liability. Additional persons who were victims who speak up are crucial to holding the institutions such as hospitals, clinics, or ambulance companies accountable.
It shouldn’t. A number of prestigious and well-respected attorneys routinely handle sex abuse cases on a contingent-fee basis. That is, you pay nothing – unless and until you pay the attorney a percentage of your recovery.
The key to understanding the behavior of predators is that what they seek is not sex, but domination, power. Similarly, the key to the harm suffered by the victims is the sense of helplessness and vulnerability that flows from being abused. Those who try to forget what they have experienced find that the attempt to suppress or ignore the memory leads to a constellation of symptoms such as hyper-vigilance, anxiety, depression, and fear. Calling out the abuser and those who have enabled the abuse creates a shift of power. Now those responsible for the abuse are on the defensive, are at risk, and the victim is empowered by rejected victimhood, and reclaiming control over the trauma they have experienced. Bringing those who have permitted or tolerated abuse to justice is the most powerful of therapies.