Sexual assault is one of the most common crimes in Maryland and elsewhere. Over the last few years, the growth of the #MeToo movement has heightened national awareness of sexual assaults and rapes. More people are contacting Maryland sexual assault attorneys for help.
The national debate has highlighted the fact many victims were ashamed to come forward in the past. More people are now willing to talk about their ordeals at the hands of predators. Entities like the Roman Catholic Church in America have also opened up more about the scale of institutional sexual abuse. The victims of sexual assault can be female or male. The physical and emotional effects of sexual assault can linger for years and seriously impact the lives of victims.
In some cases, institutions are linked to serial sexual assaults, be it a church or sect, a nursing home that abuses elderly residents or a children’s home.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we take on civil cases related to sexual assault, rape, or other forms of sexual harassment, be it in the workplace, a hotel, a restaurant, an apartment complex, or a church, a non-profit, or a civic organization. We are discreet and understanding in our work in this sensitive area. Please contact us today for a free consultation.
Who Are the Victims of Sexual Assault in Maryland?
According to the National Center for Victims of Crimes, it’s difficult to put an accurate figure on the extent of sexual assault in America. However, children are most likely to be victims. Studies show children make up almost three-quarters of sex assault victims.
The center also noted:
- 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys become victims of sexual abuse;
- Children between the ages of 7 and 13 are most vulnerable to child sexual abuse;
- About 20 percent of women and 5-10 percent of adult males recall an incident of sexual abuse from their childhood;
- As many as 28 percent of people in the United States have reported an incident of abuse over their lifetimes.
- Up to 42 million adults in the United States are victims of child abuse.
What is the Definition of Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is a broad term. Under the Maryland code, the offense ranges from rape in the first degree to sexual assault in the fourth degree. Although sexual assault in the fourth degree comprises sexual contact without consent it also includes consensual sexual contact when the victim is 14 or 15 years old, and the person performing the sexual act is at least four years older than the victim.
What Are the Most Common forms of Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is not a specific term. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) identifies the following as forms of sexual abuse or assault.
- Child sexual abuse;
- Sexual assault of women and girls;
- Sexual assault of men and boys:
- Intimate partner sexual violence;
- Drug assisted sexual abuse;
- Sexual harassment in a workplace or a school;
- Sexual abuse of elders;
- Prisoner rape;
- Sexual exploitation by professionals;
- Gang rapes;
- Military sexual trauma;
- Sexual abuse by medical professionals;
Why Sexual Assaults Can Lead to Third Party Liability Lawsuits
In some cases, a business or an institution can be held liable for sexual assaults committed by employees or contractors. For example, a hospital that ignores complaints of sexual assaults made against a doctor or a TV station that fails to address complaints against a news anchor may be sued as well as the alleged perpetrator.
In some cases, lawsuits are brought for a failure to provide adequate security. If an apartment complex fails to act on rapes in communal areas or a shopping mall doesn’t address security concerns, owners or managers may be sued in a third party liability suit.
Where have victims reported sexual abuse?
Many institutions and businesses have faced sexual abuse allegations. They include.
- Nursing homes and residential care facilities;
- Schools and boarding schools;
- Churches and religious institutions;
- Homeless shelters;
- University campuses;
- Foster homes;
In today’s society, many places provide ample opportunities for sexual predators to gain unsupervised access to children. Often sex offenders slip through the net and are allowed to work in sensitive locations with access to children.
Can Responsible Third Parties Be Sued for Sexual Assault in Maryland?
Responsible third parties may be sued for sexual assault in Maryland. However, it can be hard to compile sufficient evidence. In 2017, a new law was enacted in Maryland that extends the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse to sue offenders and the people, bodies, and organizations that allowed the abuse to occur.
Under Maryland’s previous statute of limitations, child sex abuse victims were only given to the age of 25 to bring a lawsuit – seven years after they reached the age of majority. The new law extended the statute of limitations to 38. Often victims of sexual assault as children are afraid or ashamed to come forward and seek to conceal what happened in the past. The new law gives them more time.
Although the new law is an important step forward and it gives more time for victims to hire Maryland sexual assault attorneys, there are some important restrictions.
Victims whose abuse occurred more than seven years after reaching the age of majority can only sue third parties for sexual abuse if they can show an individual or a governmental entity owed a duty of care to them.
The person or entity must have exercised some degree of responsibility or control over the alleged abuser such as being in an employer and employee relationship.
The third party must also have been grossly negligent. In other words, the organization, business, apartment complex, hotel or another entity must have intentionally failed to carry out a duty or shown a reckless disregard for the consequences. This can extend to a failure to carry out a background check in a sensitive environment like a school or a nursing home.
The victims must make a strong case against a third party to be successful in a lawsuit brought over sexual assault in Maryland. A nursing home, school, daycare, or another entity must have been aware of sexual acts by a worker, had enough evidence to be aware, or failed in a basic statutory duty. Examples involve ignoring warnings and failing to investigate allegations.
Given the high burden of proof in these cases, it’s important to hire an experienced Maryland sexual assault attorney to fight your case.
There are certain restrictions relating to government entities. The Local Government Tort Claims Act limits liability to $400,000 per claimant per incident and $800,000 in total claims arising out of the same incident. The legislation also prevents punitive damages which are intended to punish a party being brought against a government entity.
Can a Civil Case for Sexual Abuse Be Brought in the Absence of Criminal Proceedings?
We are often asked if a civil case can be brought when nobody was charged with a crime. The answer is yes whether it’s a traffic accident or a sexual abuse claim. Some sexual abuse goes unreported for years and a criminal court is never involved. However, a civil proceeding may still be brought.
In other cases, criminal proceedings may have been brought but the charges were dropped or the alleged abuser was not convicted of a crime. Although a conviction for child abuse or another form of sexual abuse against your attacker may make your civil case easier to bring, the lack of a conviction is not a bar. The burden of proof in a civil case is not as high as the beyond all reasonable doubt burden required in a criminal case.
What Damages Are Available in a Maryland Sexual Assault Case?
Unlike in a vehicle accident case, the victims of sexual assault will not typically make a claim for physical injuries. Often cases are brought long after the assault occurred. However, victims can be compensated for emotional pain and suffering, post-traumatic stress disorder and ongoing psychiatric problems linked to the sexual assault.
Sexual abuse may have derailed a victim from their chosen career, causing economic damage to their future. An experienced sexual abuse injury lawyer will look at all aspects of your case to identify how an assault may have affected your life.
Contact an Experienced Maryland Sexual Assault Attorney
The #MeToo movement has led more and more people to come forward to allege sexual assault and harassment while high profile figures like the comedian Bill Cosby have been jailed for their crimes.
In the next few years, we are likely to see a flood in cases against individual abusers and third party institutions that may have protected abusers in the past. If you believe you were a victim of a sexual assault and an organization allowed a predator to operate or enabled abuse, please contact us today at (410) 694-7291.