Sexual abuse is devasting and life-changing. The survivors will carry emotional and sometimes physical scars for the rest of their lives. And when the abuser could have been stopped by the institution he/she represents, it can cause even more damage to the victim and the victim’s family.
At Fellerman & Ciarimboli, we fight for the injured. For decades, we have aggressively gone after sexual predators and the organizations that allowed the abuse to occur. We stand up for the victim’s rights and makes sure all responsible parties are held liable in a court of law. With our Pennsylvania institutional sexual assault lawyers by your side, you will find the courage to speak up and prevent this abuse from happening to another child or adult.
What is Institutional Sexual Abuse?
In Pennsylvania, the law recognizes different degrees of sexual assault, depending on the nature of the sexual contact, the identities of the victim and alleged abuser, and other circumstances. Institutional sexual abuse applies to cases between two individuals who have an established relationship where the perpetrator has legal access to his/her victim, such as a doctor with a patient or a teacher with a student. The victim may even have developed some affection for the abuser, especially in the case of a child. Using this relationship to his/her advantage, the perpetrator will then prey on the vulnerability of the victim.
Sexual abuse is all about power and many institutional sexual abusers are in a position of authority over their victims. This gives them ample opportunity to abuse their power and take advantage of the situation.
Institutional sexual assault is a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania with a punishment of up to seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for Institutional Sexual Abuse?
When an act as heinous as sexual assault happens against a child, the perpetrator can not only be held responsible in criminal court but the civil court as well. But what many don’t realize is if another party or organization had the power to prevent the abuse from occurring, that party may also be held accountable. This includes, but not limited to:
- Educational institutions
- Healthcare institutions such as a hospital
- Religious organizations
- Recreational organizations such as a summer camp
- Volunteer organizations
- Any other licensed residential facility serving children or the elderly
- Department of Corrections or a county correctional authority
- A mental health facility
Criminal vs. Civil Standards in Sexual Abuse Cases
It’s important to note that if the criminal court fails to prosecute your abuser, that individual can still be held liable for your injuries in a civil suit. The standards between a civil and criminal case are very different. In a criminal matter, there needs to be enough evidence to prove that the crime was committed “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means there must be a large amount of concrete evidence to show that the crimes were committed by the alleged abuser. This can be difficult to prove, especially if the crime had occurred years or even decades ago.
For a civil case, absolute certainty is not needed. All you need is a “preponderance of the evidence,” i.e. more than 50 percent of your evidence is accurate. So if a witness has a hazy memory of the events that occurred but you have photographs of the crime, you still are able to show fault.
But as with any legal case, you need an aggressive, experienced sexual assault attorney by your side to fight for your rights and the rights of any victim.
How Our Institutional Sexual Abuse Lawyers Can Help
At Fellerman & Ciarimboli, our Philadelphia institutional sexual abuse lawyers have been fighting for the rights of minors and adults for decades. We are committed to those who were victimized by not only a sexual predator but by those who could have stopped the abuse from happening in the first place.
We understand how difficult it is to discuss this topic. But it is not your fault. You deserve justice and compensation for the suffering you have endured. Fellerman & Ciarimboli makes sure your voice is not silenced. We will make sure that no one will suffer this abuse from this institution again. We will fight for you and give you a voice inside the courtroom. Contact one of our offices in Philadelphia, Scranton, or Wilkes-Barre now for a free consultation.