Civil Remedies for Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Posted on February 16, 2021 by Laura E. Laughlin

For victims of sexual abuse and their families, the road to justice can seem confusing and overwhelming.  While most people may be familiar with criminal cases, where the government brings a case against the person who committed the crime, there also may be a civil case that can obtain justice for the victim as well.


A civil case is a lawsuit brought by the victim and/or the family to seek monetary compensation from those who could have, but failed to prevent the crime from happening.  For example, if a child is assaulted by a teacher at school and the school failed to do a background check on the teacher, the school could be held responsible for the abuse by the teacher.  If a child is hurt by another student at school or daycare due to improper supervision of the children, the school or daycare could be held responsible.


Schools and daycares have a responsibility to keep the children in their care safe.  If the school, daycare or organization acts carelessly, whether it’s through the ways described above, or failure to have appropriate training or policies and procedures, the school, daycare or organization could be held accountable.


A civil case can lead to monetary compensation for the survivor to cover things like medical treatment, counseling, future care needs, and pain and suffering.  “Pain and suffering” means the impact the assault has had on the child’s or family’s life physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  In addition to immediate impacts of abuse, effects of the trauma can last long into the child’s future as well.  Compensation for pain and suffering can account for things like panic attacks, nightmares, depression, or other effects to the victim.


Sometimes, childhood sexual abuse can continue to severely impact the victim into adulthood and affect the adult’s ability to earn a living.  If this is the case, the victim can seek monetary compensation for future loss of earning capacity or lost wages for not being able to work.  Sometimes, in addition to monetary compensation, a civil lawsuit can help make things safer in the future.  As part of a settlement, a school or daycare can agree to re-train its staff or revise policies and procedures to prevent what happened to your child from happening to anyone else.


Ultimately, each case is different depending on the specific facts of what happened.  If you have questions about your legal rights and options, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.  There are time limits, called the Statute of Limitations, that govern how long you have to file a lawsuit and can vary depending on where the incident occurred and the specific facts of the case.  If you don’t file the case by the Statute of Limitations, you could possibly lose the rights to any case you may have.