The results of various studies suggest that victims of childhood sexual abuse rarely see justice done to their attackers. The reasons for this are as sad as they are complex. Very young victims may not understand that they have been abused, may be afraid of speaking up, or may simply lack the vocabulary to express what has happened. Abusers may be otherwise trusted friends or family members who escape discovery by carefully maintaining a veneer of respectability. But when victims grow up they do not need to accept what happened to them when they were young without fighting back.
Nevada is one of many states that has adopted a special statute of limitations for civil lawsuits brought against perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse. Statutes of limitations set strict deadlines by which a lawsuit must be filed to be valid. For many civil causes of action, like negligence, Nevada’s statute of limitations is two years from the time the plaintiff knew about his or her injury.
In recognition of the special nature of childhood sexual abuse, Nevada has extended the statute of limitations that applies to causes of action that arise from it. Under NRS 11.215, a victim of childhood sexual abuse must file a civil suit within the later of twenty years of reaching the age of 18, or within 20 years of discovering that an injury, such as psychological trauma, was caused by the abuse. This latter provision provides recourse for individuals who only recall their abuse through the assistance of a therapist.
Nevada law defines “sexual abuse” broadly. In addition to the sort of behavior that need not be described, it includes behavior that is done “with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust or passions or sexual desires of [the] person.” NRS 201.230(1)(a). The laws governing sexual abuse are criminal statutes, meaning that the perpetrator may be prosecuted and sent to prison for an extended period if convicted. Unfortunately, in many instances the lack of evidence makes criminal prosecution less likely.
Even if prosecutors do not pursue a case the victim of childhood sexual assault should consider filing a civil lawsuit. Quite often the victim has suffered a range of long-term psychological consequences following the abuse, for which they should be compensated. To recover damages in civil court a victim of sexual abuse must be able to show by clear and convincing evidence that the abuse occurred.
For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients recover compensation. We understand that childhood sexual abuse is a complex and difficult topic. Our firm is committed to providing every client with personal, caring attention. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.
A child who suffers emotional or physical abuse can endure both short- and long-term consequences, from injuries requiring medical care to lasting emotional and psychological trauma. In many cases child abuse is a crime. It can also be grounds for filing a civil lawsuit against the abuser to recover compensation for the child’s care.
The nature of a lawsuit filed against an alleged child abuser will depend on a range of factors. These will include:
- The identity of the abuser. Was the abuse by a parent or caregiver, or was the abuser someone outside the home?
- The nature and severity of the abuse (physical versus purely emotional abuse, sexual versus nonsexual abuse).
- The identity of the potential plaintiffs, which might include parents or legal guardians suing on behalf of their child, or the child suing directly.
A key question in any abuse trial will be the availability of physical evidence to prove that the abuse took place and that the defendant was responsible. In cases of physical abuse this might include testimony from medical professionals who treated the child immediately after abuse-related injuries. It might also include photographs and testimony from anyone who can confirm seeing visible signs of injury. Evidence of emotional abuse may have similar contours. In cases of emotional abuse, it can often be helpful to have evidence of the child’s psychological state before the abuse occurred as a way to show how much harm the abuse caused.
When a child has been abused it is often vitally important to take steps to prevent the abuse from happening again. Plaintiffs can seek protective orders to restrict the abuser’s access to the child, and should consider reporting the incident to law enforcement and the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services. Parents are sometimes reluctant to seek help through these official channels for a variety of reasons, including fears that a governmental agency may seek to take the abused child away from the home. An attorney can help parents resolve these questions.
The timing of a lawsuit that arises from child abuse is an important consideration for potential plaintiffs. Under Nevada law most types of personal injury cases must be filed with the court within two years of the injury. Nevada law provides an exception for plaintiffs who were minors at the time of the wrongful action. In such cases the two year period will only begin to run once the victim-plaintiff turns eighteen (in legal terms, the statute of limitations is “tolled” or paused). There is also a greater period of time granted for victims of childhood sexual abuse. Last year the Nevada legislature extended the statute of limitations for lawsuits arising from sexual abuse of a minor from ten to twenty years. NRS 11.215.
The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. If you or a loved one has suffered from child abuse and you would like to better understand your legal options, call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We’re available at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.