JUSTICE FOR CRIME VICTIMS IN THE UNITED STATES: CIVIL TORT CLAIMS FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT AND SEXUAL EXPLOITATION ©
There is a movement gaining momentum across the United States to seek redress for physical assaults and sexual assaults in civil courts. Although we are all too familiar with the criminal justice system as “the” system of redress for victims of sexual assaults, many victims remain unaware that they may have a viable cause of action for monetary (money) damages against sexual predators in the civil justice court system. These civil actions are becoming more common in courts throughout the U.S.
Any criminal action committed against a person can not only be prosecuted in criminal court but most states allow these intentional assaults (“torts”) to be prosecuted as a civil cause of action in the civil court justice system. Physical assaults, sexual assaults, sexual exploitation by doctors, therapists, and church officials, illegally photographing and videotaping persons in a state of undress, and date rape can result in a civil verdict against these predators resulting in an award of monetary damages to the victim. In addition to compensating crime victims for their “actual damages” which may include medical bills, mental health counseling bills, and reimbursement for lost wages, civil court juries in most states can award “punitive” (exemplary) damages against criminal predators as a punishment to deter others from committing these illegal and despicable acts.
Why should anyone file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator of a sexual assault? There are several answers to this question. I think, foremost, that by initiating civil litigation against a perpetrator, a crime victim can help regain their sense of control over their environment. Sexual and physical assaults usually leave emotional scars that result in a victim feeling a loss of control over their lives. If a crime victim can move from an inactive and passive state of “victim” to a more active and assertive state of “survivor” they may be able to regain a feeling of independence and control over their own life again. This may be the most compelling of all reasons for pursuing civil litigation against a perpetrator.
Other reasons for pursuing civil litigation against predators include, but are not limited to: (1) exposing individuals who commit these crimes to the public through media coverage and press releases (local news media are most interested in these cases); (2) seeking money damages to assist the victim in obtaining medical and psychological counseling; (3) documenting sexual harassment, assaults, and acts of sexual deviants in the civil court system where they remain on file, in perpetuity.
Kevin Madison is an Austin-based attorney with over 29 years litigation experience and 25 years experience as a judge. He is also a trained Sexual Assault Crime Victim Advocate. He was the first attorney in Austin to file a civil lawsuit against a rapist and obtained a $1.5 million judgment in 1987. His experience and training as a police officer, police chief, prosecutor and EMT set him apart from most other personal injury attorneys as an advocate for victim rights in the civil justice system. To learn more about Kevin Madison or civil remedies available to victims of sexual assault, visit www.KevinMadison.com or call (512) 708-1650.