Fighting for the Victims: Sexual Assault and the Importance of Civil Litigation

Perhaps the most important things one can say to the victim of sexual assault are “I believe you” and “You are not alone.”  As a San Francisco sexual assault victim’s law firm, we are here to represent the victim.  We are proud to act on behalf of brave children and adults who have suffered from these heinous wrongs.  We are honored to help bring civil sexual assault lawsuits that can provide a sense of justice and recover compensation from the assailant.

Police Arrest Petaluma Man on Charges of Sexual Assault Involving a Minor

ABC7 recently reported on a disturbing case of alleged sexual assault in Petaluma.  According to the article, police arrested a 38-year-old drug anhelpd alcohol counselor based on allegations he drugged and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl.  Police say they found evidence and admissions during a search of the man’s home.

The accused works as a lead recovery counselor at a center that focuses on teens and adolescents.  The center offers residential options for boys and outpatient services for both boys and girls.  A spokesperson for the facility said the accused has been suspended pending the investigation and said that they thoroughly vet all employees.

Police believe that the accused met the teen through a social media app.  Petaluma police took the opportunity to remind the public about online safety, particularly for young people.  Sergeant Paul Gilmartin cautioned: “I would just encourage parents of minors to know what their children are doing online, that they’re not accessing apps that can easily make them the victim of predators.”

Alarming Statistics on Sexual Abuse

The National Sex Offender Public Registry (“NSOPR”) is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice and other law enforcement organizations working together to the public with a range of information about sexual abuse, including access to sex offender databases.  The NSOPR’s Facts and Statistics webpage provides an alarming look at the prevalence of sexual abuse.  These statistics include:

  • The Center for Disease Control estimates that approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys suffer sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.
  • Slightly more than one-third of all sexual assaults involve a victim between 12 and 17 years of age.
  • Approximately 18% of women in the United States have been raped.
  • Only 16% of rapes and approximately 30% of all sexual assaults are ever reported to law enforcement.
  • In 2012 alone, there were 62,939 reported cases of child sexual abuse in the United States.
  • In cases of child sexual abuse, approximately 30% of perpetrators are family members, 60% are non-family members known to the child (e.g., child care providers, neighbors, friends), and 10% are strangers.
  • Among young Internet users, approximately 1 in 7 have received some form of unwanted sexual solicitation and approximately 1 in 25 received an online sexual solicitation that involved an attempt by the solicitor to initiate offline contact.

The Roles of Criminal and Civil Courts in Sexual Assault Cases

Sexual abuse is a crime and the offenders can and should be prosecuted in criminal court.  However, victims and their families should know that they also have the right to bring civil charges.  There are different standards in civil courts and a defendant may be found liable even if a criminal prosecution is unsuccessful or authorities decide not to bring criminal charges.

In civil court, the victim (or others acting on the victim’s behalf such as parents of a minor) brings the charges.  This is powerful in itself.  In most cases, a finding of liability means the offender owes monetary compensation to the victim.  Sometimes other individuals or entities, such as a day care that ignored abuse, may also be held liable.  Money can never undo sexual abuse, but it can help the victim get the care they need to move forward.

A Caring Law Firm, An Experienced Advocate

If you or someone you love was the victim of sexual abuse in San Francisco or the surrounding regions, please call our sexual abuse victim’s attorney in San Francisco, Oakland, or Santa Rosa.  Sexual assault includes, but is not limited to, rape.  We can help you and your loved ones obtain justice.  We also urge victims to obtain medical and psychological support.  Organizations that can help include RAINN (The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

See Related Blog Posts:

Child Sexual Abuse and the Role of the Civil Courts

Empowerment and Prevention: Twin Goals in Civil Cases Following On-Campus Sexual Assault

Civil Child Sexual Abuse Cases: Accountability for those Who Turn a Blind Eye to Abuse

(Image by Kiran Foster)