Countless victims of sex abuse struggle to get justice. The difficulties they face with the criminal justice system can make the pursuit a frustrating experience.
Fortunately, there are other ways to tackle the issue. Those who are not keen on the criminal courts might consider the civil courts as an alternative. These are two very different systems that offer their own remedies to the petitioner.
An experienced sex abuse lawyer will be able to give detailed information regarding sex abuse damages and civil lawsuits. We will try to cover the basics below and explain the difference between a civil suit and a criminal case.
Burden of Proof
Criminal cases require proof that is beyond reasonable doubt in order to get a conviction. This is a very high standard that can lead to abusers getting off the hook because of technicalities.
Sometimes victims only find the courage to file a case years after an incident, which means that physical evidence and witnesses can be hard to come by. A small seed of doubt can be planted by the defense, and it could lead to an acquittal.
In a civil case, the liability of the accused can be established by a preponderance of evidence. This is much easier to achieve, and success rates are higher as a result.
Control of Proceedings
Criminal cases are controlled by the state. The prosecutors will be the ones calling the shots as to how the case will proceed since sex abuse is considered a crime against the state. The victims are merely there to act as the state’s witness against the offender and strengthen the case. Their voices are limited.
In a civil case, victims are the ones in the driver’s seat, as it is considered a lawsuit involving two private parties. This means that they have the power to make crucial decisions, such as whether to settle or go to trial.
Obligation vs. Punishment
The outcomes of these cases will also differ. In a criminal case, a conviction is likely to lead to a jail or prison sentence. The focus is on punishing the offender for the illegal actions committed. Payment for restitution, if any, will depend on the court and will be limited to the victim’s out-of-pocket expenses. This will not cover non-economic damages.
In a civil case, there is no jail or prison sentence awaiting the defendant. The focus is not on punishment but on compensation for the damages caused by the abuse. The goal is to help the victim recover from the hardships that followed the incident(s).
Independence from Criminal Court
A civil lawsuit can be launched independently from a criminal case. It does not matter if there was a previous criminal case and the offender was found not guilty.
This may bar the state from filing another prosecution for the same crime, but it does not prevent the victim from seeking justice elsewhere. The lawsuit can proceed even if the defendant was already found guilty since these are two very different remedies.
The life of a sexual abuse victim can be full of challenges. Their stories are rarely heard as those who expose their abusers are often derided. Their experience could leave a permanent mark on their psyche, preventing them from going to school, being productive at work, and developing healthy relationships.
A civil suit can help them prove their doubters wrong by winning it. They can also get the means to take their life back after years of economic hardship and mental anguish. If you are a victim of sexual abuse, then talk to an injury lawyer in Chicago or elswehere who can help you initiate a suit.