New Connecticut law helps victims of childhood sexual abuse

In May, Connecticut’s General Assembly passed “Erin’s Law,” named for Erin Merryn, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who is now a national advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Erin’s law aims to educate children on how to avoid becoming victims of child molestation. The law would implement age-appropriate education in Connecticut’s schools to teach children about sexual molestation and how to avoid it. The curriculum will include such programs as “How to Tell Today,” “How to Get Away” and “My Body Belongs to Me.”

Education will include the difference between good and bad touching and how to find a trusted adult to report abuse. And anything that can help childhood victims is needed. Federal data shows that one in four girls and one in six boys are molested before age 18. Child victims of sexual abuse can face a lifetime of struggles. The Department of Justice has reported that up to 95 percent of female offenders were abused before the age of 12, while up to 68 percent of male offenders similarly faced physical or sexual abuse or neglect as children.

Currently 14 states have passed Erin’s Law; 23 states have similar legislation in the works. Connecticut would be the 15 th if Governor Malloy signs the bill into law as expected.

Connecticut and 36 other states already have Megan’s Law, which forces sex offenders to register to a database made available to the public online and also prevents many registered sex offenders from living in certain neighborhoods and near schools.

Civil lawsuits may help

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse are generally most concerned with preventing other children from suffering the same abuse as they experienced. That is why reporting sexual abuse, while extremely difficult, is also an important step, as offenders usually victimize more than one child. In a civil case, the burden of proof to find a defendant guilty is a “preponderance of the evidence.” In a criminal case, on the other hand, the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Because of this, some victims can find justice in a civil case even if a criminal case was unsuccessful.

A victim of sexual abuse may also be able to obtain money damages in a civil suit for help with medical and therapeutic expenses, in addition to recovery for the difficulty many victims have in moving on with their lives. A civil suit can also provide a victim with a sense of closure and empowerment. Most importantly, a civil suit can bring to light the actions of the abuser and make it less likely other children will become victims themselves.

In 2002, Connecticut passed a law that made the statute of limitations for bringing personal injury claims for sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor to 30 years after the minor reaches adulthood. Essentially, in Connecticut a victim of childhood sexual abuse has until age 48 to bring a claim against his or her abuser.

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse ready to bring a claim against an abuser should contact an experienced personal injury attorney familiar with sexual abuse claims to discuss legal options and next steps.

Free Confidential Consultation

We understand the concerns of individuals and families about reporting sexual abuse. We are adept at protecting the privacy interests of our clients while holding abusers accountable. Our attorneys are experienced, compassionate and professional when representing our clients. We create an environment where clients can feel safe and confident in our ability to see that justice is done.

Talk to our attorneys about what happened. We’ll tell you how we can help and what we can do to protect you throughout the duration of your case. Call us now at 203-212-9075 or email our firm online.

Child Sexual Abuse Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Prove a Molestation Case?

A. Child sexual abuse can take many forms and be difficult to prove, especially if the physical injuries are no longer present. However, many physicians and behavioral specialists are able to spot the warning signs of sexual abuse in children and can help build a strong case against the abuser. Our lawyers are experienced in working with the right experts to help with your claim.

Can You Sue a Teacher for Sexual Abuse?

A. Yes. Teachers can be held liable in a civil claim for sexual abuse against minor students. Like with all civil claims for child sexual abuse, it is important to work with an attorney right away to make sure all evidence is collected and documented to help build your case.

What Are My Legal Rights if I Was Sexually Abused as a Child?

A. Our lawyers represent victims who were sexually abused as children (under the age of 18). The law only allows victims to bring a claim up until the age of 48. Do not wait to learn about your legal options if you were the victim of sexual abuse as a minor.

Why Choose Us?

A. We have more than 50 years of experience handling personal injury and abuse cases at Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C. Our firm only handles personal injury cases. Why does this matter? You wouldn’t go to an eye doctor for a foot problem — just like you shouldn’t go to a full-service law firm for your personal injury case. All we do is personal injury cases, and our success in these cases is proven by our history and record.

What is the statute of limitations with regard to filing a sexual abuse claim?

A. Victims who claim damages for sexual abuse, sexual assault or sexual exploitation as a child can file a claim up to 30 years past the age of abuse (typically until the age of 48) in Connecticut.

However, if you claim damages as a result of being sexually assaulted as an adult, then you have a much shorter time period in which to file a lawsuit. Typically, you have three years from the date of the assault to file against the perpetrator for his or her intentional acts and two years from the date of the assault to file against any other person or entity (e.g., perpetrator’s employer) who may have been negligent in allowing the perpetrator to have contact with you.

If there is a criminal case presently pending against the perpetrator, can I still file a civil suit?

A. Yes. The two cases can proceed at the same time, but there may be reasons to wait, if possible, until the criminal case concludes.

What is the difference between criminal and civil cases? Is there a different burden of proof?

A. Many people know that the burden of proof (or evidence needed to prove the case) in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal cases require a very high standard because being found guilty of a crime is at stake as well as the potential to go to jail. In a civil case, no one is accused of a crime and cannot be found guilty. Instead, the question in a civil case is whether a person was negligent and responsible for damages to another. The burden of proof in a civil case is lower (easier to prove) than in a criminal case. The standard to win a case is “more likely than not” that the person was at fault, or proof of just over 50 percent responsible.

The perpetrator is now dead. Can I still file a claim?

A. Yes. A claim can be filed against the estate of the perpetrator. However, there are very strict and short time restrictions for doing so.

I do not want my identity revealed. Is there a way that I can file a claim and remain anonymous?

A. You can ask permission from the court to file your case under a pseudonym (e.g., Jane Doe or John Doe). It is up to the judge to grant or deny your request.

Who are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse?

A. Under Connecticut law, the following people are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse: doctors; nurses; medical examiners; dentists; dental hygienists; psychologists; coaches; school teachers; school principals; school guidance counselors; school paraprofessionals; social workers; police officers; juvenile or adult probation and parole officers; members of the clergy; pharmacists; physical therapists; optometrists; chiropractors; podiatrists; mental health professionals; physician’s assistants; certified EMT providers; certified drug and alcohol counselors; licensed marital and family therapists; sexual assault and battered women’s counselors; paid child care providers in public or private facilities; child day care centers; licensed group and family day care centers; employees of the Department of Children and Families or the Department of Public Health if responsible for licensing day care centers, homes, or youth camps; and employees of the Office of the Child Advocate, including designated Child Advocates.

Any person so identified who in the course of his or her employment or profession has reasonable cause to believe or suspect that a child has been abused or neglected or has been inflicted with non-accidental injuries or is at imminent risk of serious harm must report or cause a report to be made in accordance with state law. Violation of the law will result in a monetary fine and required participation in an educational and training program. See Connecticut General Statutes Sections 17-101(b); 17a-101a.