Sexual assault is a serious crime. It is also a civil wrong. Sexual assault victims have the same right to file lawsuits against the people who harmed them as any other victim of personal injury. If the victim is intellectually impaired, his or her family can file the claim on the victim’s behalf. A civil claim is independent of any criminal charge or complaint, and could help bring justice and financial compensation for the victim.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has years of experience representing victims in sexual assault claims. If you schedule a free consultation with us, we can explain your state’s sexual assault laws, what is involved in filing a civil lawsuit, and what your case could be worth. If your intellectually impaired loved one has suffered sexual abuse or assault, seek justice for them by getting in touch with us today.
Sexual Violence Against People With Intellectual Disabilities
A primary motivator behind sexual assault is exercising power over the victim—something that is easier to do when the victim has an intellectual disability. The perpetrator may force, threaten, coerce, trick, or manipulate the victim into a sexual situation. Someone with an intellectual disability such as Downs Syndrome, autism, developmental impairment, or dementia may not be able to fight off the perpetrator, understand what is happening, or come forward after experiencing sexual assault. Thus they are more vulnerable than others when it comes to sexual violence.
Studies have shown that people with intellectual disabilities are up to seven times more likely to experience sexual assault than others. Researchers have also found that a large number of these cases result in no consequences to the assailant. Abusers will continue assaulting victims, usually because the victims cannot stand up for themselves or because their family members do not believe them when they do come forward with allegations.
Sexual abusers of persons with intellectual disabilities are often caretakers or other people close to the victim. Caregivers, friends, and even family members can take advantage of their positions of trust with the victim. They may use their position to deceive others, coerce the victim, and/or disguise what they are doing. If the victim comes forward, it is the family’s responsibility to listen and believe their accusations and initiate an investigation. Sadly, however, many victims with intellectual disabilities do not or cannot report their experiences.
How to Detect Sexual Abuse of a Disabled Loved One
Victims with intellectual disabilities may never be able to come forward on their own. It is often up to trusted friends and family members to notice signs of something amiss, or to initiate conversations with the loved one about sexual assault. Speaking openly on the subject could help your loved one understand what sexual assault is and that it is okay to report on a caregiver or someone else. You may be able to help the victim by noticing potential signs of sexual assault:
- Withdrawal or depression
- Self-harming behaviors
- Low self-esteem
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Anxiety around certain a person or caregiver
- Regression in behaviors or actions
- Concerning level of sexual knowledge
- Nightmares or bedwetting
- Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms
- Unexplained injuries, especially around private parts
- Bloody undergarments
Warning signs in people with intellectual disabilities are often similar to those found in small children who are victims of sexual abuse. Sexual assault of the intellectually disabled often happens in the home or in the place where the victim spends most of his or her time. Be wary of allowing unsupervised visits with caretakers or others who are close to the individual. Always be on the lookout for red flags. Report your suspicions immediately if you notice signs of possible sexual assault in your loved one.
Civil Versus Criminal Sexual Assault Actions
If your intellectually disabled loved one has been the victim of sexual assault, you should seek counsel from an attorney experienced in handling sensitive cases of this nature. The police you notify about your suspicions could help you press charges against the perpetrator, but only a sexual assault attorney can help you file a civil claim. A criminal conviction aims to make the perpetrator answer to the state by punishing them with a sentence of jail time or fines, while the goal of a civil case is to compensate the victim for his or her losses. Winning a civil claim for sexual assault could lead to reimbursement for the following “compensatory” damages:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional or psychological distress
- Mental anguish
- Physical injuries and medical bills
- Costs for counseling or therapy
- Lost quality of life
In addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages are relatively common in sexual assault cases against the intellectually disabled. These damages award extra compensation to victims for behavior that is grossly negligent, wanton, or malicious. A judge may award punitive damages on top of a compensatory award to punish the defendant and deter others from committing the same wrongdoing.
Speak to a Sexual Assault Attorney Today
Do not be afraid to speak out against sexual violence on behalf of your loved one. Filing a civil lawsuit can help achieve justice, closure, and future financial compensation for your disabled loved one and your family. An experienced sexual assault attorney from Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can strengthen your case and guide your family through the civil litigation process. Get answers to your most pressing questions by requesting a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our qualified attorneys today.