Sexual assault is a serious crime in Illinois. It is also a civil wrongdoing. Sexual assault victims have the right to file personal injury lawsuits against their perpetrators. If the victim is intellectually impaired, his or her family can file the claim on the victim’s behalf. A civil claim could bring justice and financial compensation for the victim.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has years of experience representing victims in sexual assault claims in Illinois. During a free consultation, we can teach you about the state’s sexual assault laws, how to file a civil lawsuit, and what your case could be worth. If your intellectually impaired loved one has suffered sexual assault, seek justice with our help. Contact us today.
Sexual Violence Against People With Intellectual Disabilities
A common motivator behind sexual assault is having power over the victim – especially when the victim suffers an intellectual disability. The perpetrator may force, threaten, coerce, trick, or manipulate the victim into the sexual situation. Someone with an intellectual disability, such as Down syndrome, autism, developmental delays, 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 most when it comes to sexual violence.
Studies have shown that people with intellectual disabilities are up to seven times more likely to suffer sexual assault than others. Researchers have also found that a high number of these cases never see justice. Abusers will continue assaulting victims – often because the victims cannot speak up for themselves, or because family members do not believe them when they do come forward with allegations.
Assailants in a sexual assault case against someone with intellectual disabilities are often caretakers or 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 positions 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 the accusations enough to initiate an investigation. Sadly, however, many victims with intellectual disabilities do not or cannot report their experiences.
How to Detect Sexual Assault in 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 a caregiver or someone else. You may be able to help the victim by noticing a potential sign of sexual assault:
- Signs of withdrawal or depression
- Self-harm 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 warning signs for small children. 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 sexual abuse red flags. Report your suspicions immediately if you notice signs of sexual assault in your loved one.
Civil vs. Criminal Sexual Assault Lawsuit
If your intellectually disabled loved one has been the victim of sexual assault in Illinois, get help from an attorney. The police you notified about your suspicions will help you press charges against the perpetrator, but only a sexual assault attorney can help you file a civil claim. A civil lawsuit is different from a criminal trial. A criminal case aims to punish the perpetrator with a sentence, such as jail time, while the goal of a civil case is to compensate the victim for his or her losses. Winning a civil claim in Illinois could lead to reimbursement for the following damages:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional or psychological distress
- Mental anguish
- Physical injuries and medical bills
- Therapy costs
- Lost quality of life
- Punitive damages
Punitive damages are relatively common in sexual assault cases against the intellectually disabled. Punitive damages are additional compensation awards for victims when the assailant was grossly negligent, wanton, malicious, intentional in his or her acts. A judge may award punitive damages on top of compensatory awards to punish the defendant and discourage others in the community from committing the same wrongdoing.
Speak to a Sexual Assault Attorney Today
Filing a civil lawsuit can help your intellectually disabled loved one achieve justice, closure, and financial compensation for the future. Do not be afraid to speak out against sexual violence on behalf of your loved one. Use an attorney from Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC to strengthen your case. Our Chicago sexual assault attorneys can guide your family through the claims process. Get answers to your most pressing questions today. Request a free, no-obligation consultation at an office near you.