When it comes to child sexual assault, there is a difference between a criminal case and a civil lawsuit. The types of penalties, such as monetary fines or jail time, vary based on whether the case is tried in civil or criminal court.
In general, a criminal case is brought against the defendant by the state who could face probation or imprisonment. In a civil case, the victim brings the charge against the accused and controls what kinds of evidence are presented. The goal of a civil case is financial compensation.
Types of Child Sexual Abuse Cases
There are many different types of child sexual abuse, including:
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Sexual grooming
- Commercial sexual exploitation
- Sex trafficking
In the Chicago-Kent Law Review, child abuse is repetitive and often occurs more than once in a victim’s life. A child could experience more than one form of sexual abuse from their abuser. The type of abuse could be one that is not featured on this list.
Criminal Child Sexual Assault Cases
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families’ Office on Child Abuse and Neglect Center for Child Welfare, people working in certain occupations have an obligation to report child abuse and neglect, receiving a degree of immunity from possible civil liability. In many cases, a criminal sexual assault case starts when a teacher, doctor, or clergy member refers the case to the authorities, or when the victim or a loved one discloses the abuse. The state takes the case to criminal court, where the victim could be asked to give witness testimony. The perpetrator might have to reimburse the victim for incurred financial costs, go on probation, and face imprisonment. Criminal charges are possible.
Civil Child Sexual Assault Cases
A civil child sexual assault case is brought by the victim against the responsible party. The point of the case is to prove that the perpetrator is liable for the damages related to their actions. The evidence is collected and presented by the victim and their attorney to seek specific damages. The abuser will not have a criminal record as a result of a civil case.
Understanding the Differences
There are many differences between a criminal case and a civil lawsuit in a child sexual assault case, including:
- The type of court that the case goes through
- Who brings the charges against the perpetrator
- Possible penalties, such as jail time
Depending on your goals, what happened, and the state that you live in, there could be even more differences between the two types of cases. If you have any questions about your legal options or for advice on what to do next, you may want to consult with a child sexual assault lawyer for a free case evaluation to help you make a more informed decision.
Statute of Limitations
The amount of time that you have to file a child sexual assault lawsuit against the responsible party is known as the statute of limitations. The answer varies by state and may depend on the type of lawsuit you file: civil or criminal. For criminal cases, law enforcement brings forth charges against the alleged assailant. However, this does not limit your ability to file a separate civil case on your own or with the help of a child sexual assault lawyer.
There are also some considerations regarding the age of the victim at the time of the abuse, your relationship to the victim, and the victim’s current age. Generally, the victim tends to have the longest amount of time to report and pursue legal action against the perpetrator. However, parents can also file legal action on behalf of their child, even though the time allowed to do so will generally be shorter.
Changes to the Statute of Limitations
As noted by WUSF News, some of the current statute of limitations in place in some states are not sufficient to help give child victims enough time to pursue legal action. This leads some states to continue to modify or propose legislation to change the statute of limitations. The #MeToo movement has led many states to start the process of re-examining older cases.
Laws change often. If you plan to also pursue a criminal case, there could be other considerations that extend the statute of limitations for your case. Be sure to discuss your case with a child sexual assault attorney so they can give you specific advice relative to your unique situation. They can advise you about the best ways to move forward.
Contact a Lawyer to Discuss Your Case
If you or your child has been the victim of child sexual abuse, you could potentially start both a civil and criminal case against the person responsible. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 219-9622 to speak with a member of our legal team about your potential case. The call is free, and we do not receive payment unless we secure a fair settlement or court award in your case.