No matter the form, sexual abuse can take a traumatic toll on a victim's physical and mental health. While attackers who are convicted of a sex crime face criminal penalties, victims who come forward and report their sexual abuse may be able to bring a separate civil action against their abusers. The Brod Injury Law Firm's legal team is dedicated to providing victims of sexual abuse the legal assistance they need to seek the justice they deserve.
How is Sexual Abuse defined in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, cases involving sexual abuse are governed by 18 Pa. Cons. Stat § 3121 and subsequent sections. Sexual abuse itself is not a specific crime--rather, the term applies to any form of inappropriate sexual conduct imposed upon a victim.
Acts Which Constitute Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a variety of actions fall under the umbrella of sexual abuse. Such acts include:
- Rape: forcible intercourse with a person who is threatened, unconscious, or incapable of giving consent;
- Statutory Sexual Assault: sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16, even if the victim consents;
- Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse: engaging in any form of involuntary sexual intercourse using a foreign object or with an animal;
- Sexual Assault: engaging in sexual intercourse without a person's consent;
- Institutional Sexual Assault: engaging in involuntary sexual intercourse while serving as a correctional worker, mental health facility worker, school employee, or childcare worker;
- Indecent Assault: engaging in nonconsensual penetration of a victim or causing a victim to come into contact with seminal fluid, urine, or feces without consent;
- Indecent Exposure: exposing genitals in a public place where others are present; and
- Unlawful Dissemination of Intimate Image: sharing a sexually explicit image to harass a current or former sexual partner.
Forms of Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania
While sexual abuse can occur at any time, several circumstances exist in which sexual abuse is more prevalent. In Pennsylvania, common forms of sexual abuse include:
Clergy Sexual Abuse
Recently, Pennsylvania has been a center of attention for an unfortunate reason--according to a 2018 grand jury report, more than 300 priests were accused of sexually abusing over 1,000 children in six dioceses from 1947 onward. While two priests face criminal charges for such abuse, every instance of clergy sexual abuse in the grand jury report was committed too long ago to be prosecuted. But clergy sexual abuse continues and timely action can help those who have suffered in recent years.
Workplace Sexual Abuse
Suffering sexual abuse in the workplace can be particularly difficult--in addition to the trauma and fear that an ordinary case of sexual abuse can bring, a victim of occupational sexual abuse may also fear negative consequences at his or her place of employment if he or she reports an attack by a co-worker or boss. As such, a victim of workplace sexual abuse may be more hesitant to report such abuse because he or she does not want to put a career in jeopardy. There are, however, protections in the law to address retaliation in the workplace.
Institutional Sexual Abuse
When a victim is sexually abused by a person with a certain occupational status, he or she can be said to have suffered institutional sexual abuse. Examples of institutional sexual abuse include:
- A patient of a mental health institution being abused by an employee or agent of the institution;
- A child who is attending school being abused by a teacher or other employee; and
- An inmate being abused by a prison guard or other employee of the Department of Corrections.
Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Cases
While the term may sound complex, a statute of limitations is essentially a time frame that a victim of sexual abuse must meet in order to bring a civil action against his or her abuser. After the statute of limitations has run, it is extremely difficult--if not impossible--to file legal action against the person who sexually abused you.
In Pennsylvania, a victim of sexual abuse must file a claim against his or her abuser within two years of the date on which the abuse occurred. Underaged victims--victims under the age of 18--must file a claim within 12 years of their 18th birthday in order to meet the statute of limitations.
While Pennsylvania currently retains a statute of limitation for sexual abuse cases, it may not for long--following recent controversy surrounding sexual abuse by priests, many of the state's lawmakers are seeking to reform these laws to either extend the time limit or eliminate the statute of limitations altogether.
Legal Remedies for Sexual Abuse
A person who is convicted of sexually abusing a victim can face severe criminal penalties--as the forms of sexual abuse outlined above carry a felony charge, a person found guilty of such a charge can face decades of imprisonment, hefty fines, and--perhaps most life-altering--mandatory registration on Pennsylvania's sex offender registry.
In addition to the criminal penalties that a sexual predator faces upon conviction of sexual abuse, a victim who has suffered sexual abuse may also bring civil charges against his or her attacker. Civil cases attempt to compensate a victim of sexual abuse by providing several forms of compensation known as damages:
- Non-economic damages: this form of compensation takes into account the physical pain and mental anguish that a person suffers as a result of sexual abuse, like fear, loss of sleep, and depression.
- Economic damages: these damages allow you to be compensated for any bills that you incurred as a result of your sexual abuse, including medical bills and counseling costs.
- Punitive damages: in contrast to the above damages, punitive damages are not meant to compensate you for a loss; rather, this form of damages serves to set an example by punishing your abuser in order to deter similar conduct in the future.
Are You a Victim of Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania? We Can Help
If you suffered at the hands of a sexual predator in the State of Pennsylvania and are considering filing legal action against the person who harmed you, you don't have to face your legal battle alone. The Brod Injury Law Firm is committed to fighting vigorously on behalf of our clients to receive the justice our clients deserve for the experience that should have never happened.
When it comes to holding sexual predators accountable for their actions, it's critical to choose a law firm carefully. Experience is key, and The Brod Injury Law Firm has it--with over thirty years of practice under his belt, Gary Brod has secured a reputation for competent representation and compassion for clients. Don't wait until it is too late to receive the quality legal representation you deserve. To speak with a member of our legal team at one of our conveniently located offices in Philadelphia, Bala Cynwyd, and Reading, fill out an online case evaluation form or contact us at 1-888-435-7946 today.