Our Virginia lawyers ensure your story is heard and abusers are held responsible
Sexual assault is a devastating crime, leaving long-lasting effects on its victims and survivors. Whether it happens at the hands of a stranger, a teacher, a family member, caregiver or a member of the clergy, the emotional scars can last a lifetime. And our attorneys believe it is crucial perpetrators of sexual abuse and assault are brought to justice.
Sexual abuse is never your fault. However, the grief, trauma, and lasting harm caused by sexual assault are very real. At Phelan Petty, we stand with survivors of sexual assault in Virginia. We believe that all survivors deserve to have their voices heard and a chance to demand accountability from the people and institutions that harmed them.
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What Is Sexual Abuse and Assault?
Sexual abuse is shockingly common. According to RAINN, one out of every six women has been the victim of a rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. And, about three percent of men have experienced the same. Further, for transgender people, a staggering one in two individuals will experience sexual abuse.
While sexual abuse can take many different forms, it always includes unwanted touching or sexual behavior using force, manipulation, coercion, or threat. Sexual activities with a child or with someone who is physically or mentally incapacitated are also sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse can happen anywhere. However, in many cases, victims know the perpetrator. Common situations involve:
- Clergy members and church personnel
- Dating/relationship violence
- Daycare and school-related abuse
- Medical professionals and sports physicians
- Troop leaders and athletic coaches
- Workplace sexual violence
If you’re unsure whether someone’s conduct was sexual abuse, contact law enforcement authorities or our sexual assault lawyers today. Consultations are always free and confidential.
Warning signs of sexual assault or abuse
Everyone should be aware of the signs of sexual abuse, especially among our vulnerable loved ones like senior citizens and children. Often, sudden changes in behavior or new medical problems and injuries can sometimes indicate a person is experiencing sexual abuse or assault but may not be ready to talk about it yet. Sexual abusers often use threats and coercion in an attempt to keep their victims silent. It is important to note any changes in mood or appearance.
Another important concern is protecting yourself and your loved ones from becoming a target for sexual assault or abuse by recognizing predatory behavior. Sexual predators and abusers often have a pattern of behavior, or “red flags.” A few examples of these include the following.
- Some individuals who plan to commit sexual abuse attempt to make their victims feel secure before assaulting them. They may do this via flattery and gifts to get them to feel comfortable and lower their guard.
- Other perpetrators use alcohol or drugs to disable their victims or lower their resistance. When one person becomes focused on another person becoming extremely intoxicated or impaired, it may be a sign they’re intending to do them harm.
- Sexual abusers also attempt to isolate their victims, either for an immediate assault or for long-term abuse. This could be something like a neighbor luring a child to a basement to commit sexual assault, or a serial abuser isolating their victim from their friends and family over weeks and months.
- Some sexual abusers use emotional and mental manipulation to make their victim feel responsible for their own assault. Often, they try to confuse and influence the victim into believing the assault was consensual.
If you believe you were sexually assaulted, or believe a loved one may be experiencing sexual abuse, our Richmond attorneys can help.
Statutes of limitations for sexual assault in VA
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, only 23% of victims report their sexual abuse. Their reasons are heartbreaking. When a victim is assaulted by someone they know, they’re less likely to come forward. Others fear retaliation, or that authorities will not believe them.
When we talk about sexual assault and abuse, we’re using the terms broadly to encompass a variety of offenses. Perpetrators of sexual assault can expect both criminal and civil legal actions and, depending on the circumstances of the crime, the statutes of limitations can differ.
Here in Virginia, a victim has two years from the date of the assault to take legal action. However, this limit is “tolled” if the victim was a minor at the time of the abuse. Tolled means that the statute of limitations clock does not start running until the victim reaches 18 years old, or becomes aware of their trauma and resulting injuries.
Compensation for Richmond sexual assault claims
As a survivor of sexual assault, you have the right to hold your abuser accountable through a civil claim. Even if your attacker is not convicted in criminal court, you’re still entitled to file a suit and seek financial compensation for your losses and trauma, including:
- Lost income. If your assault forced you to leave your job or prevented you from working, you may be eligible for lost wages.
- Medical expenses. These include any medical treatment needed from the assault or abuse, including physical, psychological and other types of therapy.
- Pain and suffering. Sexual abuse and assault can cause long-term trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Your abuser can be held accountable for your mental anguish.
- Punitive damages. In extreme and aggravated cases of sexual assault, the court can award punitive damages which serves to dissuade future criminal behaviors.
If you are a survivor of sexual violence, it is likely that you suffered life-changing injuries that require intense physical and psychological care. Depending on your circumstances, you may have legal options to get the support you need.
Phelan Petty helps survivors get the answers and assistance they deserve, including access to mental health treatment and financial compensation. We treat our clients with compassion and care, but we’re not afraid to stand up to the powerful organizations that enabled sexual abuse for years or even decades.
Because we’re selective and only handle a limited number of cases each year, we can dedicate more time and resources to our sexual abuse and assault clients. Our law firm also works closely with respected experts, including physicians, mental health specialists, and investigators. To learn more about Phelan Petty and our unique approach to Virginia sexual abuse claims, contact us today.
- Virginia Catholic Dioceses Admit Sexual Abuse Victims Have Credible Evidence: What You Need to Know
- Churches Continue to Trickle Out Names of Sex Abusers
Dedicated Richmond sexual assault attorneys
At Phelan Petty, we fight for our clients with empathy and compassion, using sophisticated legal strategies to get them the help they deserve. Our priority is ensuring sexual abuse victims have the resources they need to overcome their trauma. We advocate for you and your loved ones and are committed to lending our meticulous, thorough legal skills to survivors. Talk to us today for compassionate, confidential guidance and support.