Chicago Sexual Abuse & Assault Attorney
Sexual abuse is a very sensitive area of the law in Illinois, especially when children or the elderly are involved. These cases can include sexual abuse by a clergy member, school teacher or school staff member, a coach, or a family member. Sexual abuse also can involve elderly victims abused by nursing home staff members. You may need the help of an experienced Chicago sexual abuse and assault lawyer to help you through this sensitive and complex legal issue. The Chicago lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. often handle these types of sensitive sexual abuse cases and may be able to get you compensation.What is sexual abuse and where does it happen?
Sexual abuse cases can be pursued by a personal injury attorney (separately from a criminal case) because they fall under the category of injury. Oftentimes, sexual abuse victims have lasting physical and mental injuries that cause all kinds of damages like medical bills, missed work, pain and suffering, etc.
Sexual abuse is an undesired sexual act or behavior perpetrated by one person upon another. It is often done using force or coercion or by taking advantage one's power over another, like a teach or priest. When a person is sexually abused in single event, forceful manner, it is usually called sexual assault, whereas sexual abuse happens over a long period of time.
Sexual abuse or sexual assault can happen anywhere, at anytime, to anybody, but some common places and situations that lead to sexual abuse include:
- Doctors office or medical facilities
- Nursing home
- Mental health facilities
- Foster home
- After school program
- Tutoring facility
- Relative or neighbor's house
The growing and well-publicized issue in this area of the law is church sex abuse cases in Illinois and nationwide. These cases can unfortunately cause life changing psychological and emotional damages, including flashbacks, depression, dramatic behavioral changes, poor performance in school, and commonly, PTSD. These effects can be a permanent and ongoing issue for the rest of a person's life.
When the sexual abuse and assault lawyers at our Chicago law firm work on a sex abuse case, we often employ psychologists to interview and evaluate the victim. This helps us the better understand the situation under which the sexual abuse took place, and it also gives us a better idea as to potential damages. At Abels & Annes, we handle sexual abuse cases with the utmost respect and confidentiality. You can trust that everything from our consultation to our last meeting will be handled compassionately.
In addition to the actual abuser, other parties may be held responsible, including churches, schools, and day care centers were sex abuse occurred. These facilities were more than likely negligent in their duties, creating unsafe conditions, doing insufficient background checks, or using hiring practices that led to the abuse.
Other defendants may also include hospitals and nursing homes where insufficient safety practices led to abuse.
Our sexual abuse and assault attorneys represent Chicago residents in claims against health care facilities, churches, schools, daycares, and anywhere sexual abuse happened.Sexual Abuse Statistics
According to statistics found on RAINN's website, victims of sexual abuse are:
- 3 times more likely to suffer from depression
- 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide
- 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol
- 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
Our law firm is currently working on several high-profile sexual abuse cases in the Chicago area, including claims against the Chicago archdiocese.
$3,200,000 - In 2011 Abels & Annes, P.C. working with co-counsel, settled a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal George, and the Catholic Bishop of Chicago involving sexual abuse of a minor boy by former Rev. Daniel McCormack in the amount of $3.2 million dollars, $300,000 of which was placed in escrow for services. The identity of the plaintiff and his family remain confidential. We are now working on several other McCormack cases.
$2,600,000 - Abels & Annes, P.C. helped reach this settlement while working with co-counsel in 2016. To protect our client's identity, the plaintiff's name was kept confidential during the proceedings of the claim and through settlement.
Sexual Abuse FAQ
While each person deals with a difficult issue like sexual abuse differently, you should know that if you have been a victim, remedies are available to you through the courts and resources can help you heal and reclaim your life. Below we answer some of the most common questions we receive from clients at Abels & Annes regarding legal options for seeking justice and accountability for sexual abuse.
What qualifies as sexual abuse?
The terms “sexual abuse” and “sexual assault” are sometimes used interchangeably. But at its most basic level, sexual assault is non-consensual touching or sexual contact and may fall into several categories. When the perpetrator abuses a position of power or trust to manipulate or force sex on another person, often a child and often repeatedly, is generally referred to as sexual abuse. Examples of sexual assault/sexual abuse include:
Sexual contact with a minor child, including students and parishioners;
Domestic/intimate partner violence; and
Drug-enabled abuse/date rape.
Whom can you hold legally accountable for sexual abuse?
Abusers face criminal and civil liability for sexual abuse. That means they can be punished for committing sex-related offenses, and can also be sued for damages.
Depending upon the circumstances, in addition to holding abusers legally accountable, survivors of sexual abuse may also have the ability to take legal action against anyone who enabled sexual abuse. For example, if a teacher or clergy member perpetrated the abuse, then the schools or church institutions who employed the abuser may have legal liability for failing to stop abuse from occurring.How long do I have to file a lawsuit against my abuser?
In Illinois, the law recently changed and you can now take legal action against your abuser or anyone else who has civil legal liability for the abuse you suffered at any time if the abuse occurred when you were under the age of 18, However, if the abuse occurred before the statute of limitations was eliminated, the law at the time the abuse would govern, which in the recent past has been 20 years from a victim’s 18th birthday or 20 years from the date the victim should have reasonably discovered (i) that childhood sexual abuse occurred and (ii) that there was an injury caused by said abuse.
In most other cases, the statute of limitations for taking legal action against someone who caused you harm (a.k.a. a personal injury claim) is two years.
Do not assume that because of the unlimited statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims you can wait to consult with an attorney. But don’t assume the time limits have expired, either. If you have questions about seeking justice and accountability for an act of sexual abuse that occurred in your past, consult a compassionate, qualified Illinois sexual abuse attorney right away.
What kind of monetary damages might I be entitled to?
Sexual abuse is traumatic, no matter the age at which it occurs. It can leave survivors with physical health issues such as sexually transmitted diseases, and it nearly always leaves survivors with long-lasting emotional trauma.
There are costs associated with recovering from sexual abuse. A June 2017 article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that the Centers for Disease Control found the lifetime economic burden of a single rape to reach more than $122,000. It stands to reason that repeated abuse suffered over a period of years causes multiples of that amount.
If you have survived sexual abuse, depending on the details of your case, you may have the right to recover the following types of damages.
Medical costs associated with any initial care related to your sexual abuse;
Cost associated with mental health care, such as for treatment of anxiety, fear, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and
Damages to compensate you for the pain and suffering inflicted by the abuse.
There is no set-in-stone amount of damages that you might recover in a legal action seeking compensation for sexual abuse. Every case is different. Also, the reality is that to recover damages, the person or entity with legal liability to you must have the resources with which to pay you. An experienced Illinois sexual abuse attorney can look closely at the facts of your case and help you to calculate the amount of damages you might seek from your abuser and any other person or entity with legal liability for the sexual abuse you survived.
What if my abuser was found not guilty in a criminal trial?
Even if your abuser faced criminal charges and was acquitted, you may still be able to file a civil lawsuit for damages. In a criminal prosecution, a State’s Attorney must prove the allegations against a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt—the highest burden of proof in all of our legal system. In fact, the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard is often referred to as “to a moral certainty.” The prosecution may find this a difficult standard to meet, especially in a sexual abuse case where perhaps the only witnesses to the events are the perpetrator and the victim, and particularly when the abuse occurred many years ago.
On the other hand, a defendant in a civil lawsuit in Illinois must pay damages if the plaintiff proves her or his case by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, the plaintiff must show that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused harm to the plaintiff. This is a much lower burden of proof than in criminal case. As a result, even if your abuser or someone who facilitated the abuse has escaped criminal liability, you may still have the ability to recover damages from them in a civil action.How prevalent is sexual abuse?
According to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, one in three women and one in six men experience some type of sexual violence during their lifetime. 31 percent of teen girls are victims of sexual assault or violence and 23 million women have been victims of either attempted or completed rape.Where can I find help or more information?
Sexual abuse is never the survivor’s fault. Blame rests solely on the shoulders of the perpetrator. If you survived sexual abuse, look for a lawyer who will handle your case with the confidentiality, compassion, and experience it takes to recover every dollar of compensation you deserve.
In addition, the following organizations can offer you support, information, and other help.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
National Sexual Assault Hotline – (800) 656-HOPE
If you or a loved one have an issue to discuss regarding a church sex abuse case or any other type of sexual abuse case in the Chicago area, request a Free Sexual Abuse Case Consultation or call (312) 924-7575 to speak with a Chicago sexual abuse and assault attorney now.
***For resources or help, checkout a website ran by RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. They are the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization and they have a ton of great resources for literally all types of sexual abuse situations and victims. Find RAINN's resource page here.