In recent months, we have seen a seemingly never-ending stream of horrific allegations come from all corners of the country, but most significantly from Hollywood and Washington D.C. From Harvey Weinstein to Louis C.K. to Al Franken to Roy Moore to Charlie Rose to President Donald Trump, the list of alleged abusers is as lengthy as it is shocking. Hopefully, we can all agree that exposing these (alleged) predators is a good thing. The more information we have on the dangers in high places, the better.
While the high profile figures receive the attention, one question that I have been asked repeatedly is “what can victims of sexual assault or harassment do?” The first, and most obvious answer, is that victims can go to the police. Sexual assault is a crime, and the police take it seriously. Going to the police, and getting the perpetrator into the criminal justice system may have value in several different ways. First, it may get the predator off the street, and hopefully ensures that no other person will be subject to the same treatment. Second, it may draw attention to the sexual assault. A victim can hardly be blamed for wanting to expose a perpetrator who has done so much damage.
While bringing attention to the wrongdoer certainly has value for many victims, it provides no real tangible recovery to a person whose life has often been turned upside down. That is where the civil justice system may come in. Crimes of sexual assault, battery, and rape are also civil counts, and victims may be able to sue the perpetrator and collect compensation for the ways in which their lives have been damaged. These complaints may come in a number of ways.
First, if a victim can prove that they were sexually assaulted by a person, it may be possible to collect compensation from the person who committed the act. Unfortunately, this may be difficult in situations where the person who committed the crime has no money. Generally, insurance policies will not cover intentional acts, and if the perpetrator has no money, there may be no way to collect directly against the abuser. In those situations, however, a Massachusetts sexual assault lawyer may still be able to help. To illustrate that point take a minute to consider the following situations:
- A bouncer in bar sees an intoxicated patron touch a woman inappropriately, and does nothing about it.
- A manager learns that an otherwise productive employee has groped a female co-worker and does nothing about it.
- A building management company knows that there is a predator in the area who has abused women in the past, and puts no security measures in place on the property they manage.
If a Massachusetts Sexual Assault attorney is able to prove that the bouncer, manager, or building security firm had reason to know people were in danger, and did not act appropriately to stop the danger, these companies may be liable as well.
As a Massachusetts personal injury lawyer, I have also gotten this question- “I thought I had 3 years to sue, and this happened 5-10-15 years ago. Am I out of luck?” The answer is maybe not. Massachusetts has recently changed the law in an effort to protect minors who are subject to sexual abuse. In the past, a minor who was injured (whether by sexual assault or any other way), had 3 years past their 18th birthday to sue. Recently, however, the law has been changed. A person who was sexually assaulted as a minor now has 35 years to bring a claim against the perpetrator or the company that should have stopped the assault. Accordingly, victims who were assaulted in the 1980s may still be able to bring a case.
If you feel you have been sexually assaulted or harassed, call the sexual assault attorneys at Mirick O’Connell today. We will be happy to discuss whether you have a case with you.