When pursuing a sexual abuse claim against another party, your privacy should always be respected. Most information a client discloses to their attorney is subject to attorney-client privilege, a legal doctrine intended to ensure confidential communications between a client and their attorney. In sex abuse cases, the victim can talk openly to their attorney about what they experienced without fearing their lawyer will share their name or any other information with anyone without permission.
At Greenberg Gross LLP, our sexual abuse attorneys can help if you or someone you love has suffered sexual abuse. Many survivors remain silent for years due to fear of retaliation and feelings of guilt and shame. However, coming forward with a strong legal advocate at your side can help you regain control of your life. By filing a sexual abuse claim, you can hold your abuser and any others who enabled their misconduct accountable.
What Is Sexual Abuse?
According to the American Psychological Association, sexual abuse includes any undesired or unwanted sexual contact or activity. An offender may use force, coercion, threats, etc. against persons who do not consent or cannot do so. This includes fondling or touching of a non-consensual nature, rape, taking sexually explicit photos, etc. Often, misuse of power or authority is involved.
Common situations where sexual abuse may occur include:
- An authority figure pressuring another to participate in sexual activity or inappropriate conduct, such as in a classroom setting involving a teacher and student
- Persons engaging in sexual activity or inappropriate conduct with vulnerable individuals who cannot consent, such as in cases where the victim is intoxicated or emotionally groomed
- An adult engaging in sexual activity or inappropriate conduct with a minor
- Sexual activity or inappropriate conduct between persons significantly different in physical size and strength when the larger person intimidates or threatens a smaller individual with violence if they do not consent to sexual contact
Can a Sexual Abuse Victim File a Lawsuit for Damages?
Whether or not a sexual abuse survivor pursues criminal charges, they are entitled to file a civil lawsuit. The survivor may be eligible to receive monetary restitution from the abuser and also from an organization or other third party, such as a business or a church, that enabled or should have prevented the abuse.
For example, an organization that disregards allegations and prior complaints of sexual misconduct against an offender they employed, has inferior employee screening processes, or fails to take the precautions needed to prevent sexual abuse may be held responsible in civil court.
Sexual abuse and assault survivor may be entitled to compensation for their losses, including the following:
- Medical treatment related to the abuse, including therapy and counseling
- Lost wages from missing work
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of quality and enjoyment of life
- Punitive damages to penalize the abuser or organization that allowed the sexual abuse
More About Attorney-Client Privilege and Privacy in Law
Many consider attorney-client privilege to be the very heart of the legal profession, as it protects the client’s sensitive information from being disclosed. This principle requires that an attorney not reveal any communications with their client to any third party, such as business associates or government and law enforcement agencies, without permission. It allows the client to speak with their attorney honestly without fear that the lawyer will reveal their sensitive information.
According to the Marquette Law Review, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that ensuring confidentiality motivates clients to make “full and frank” disclosures to their legal counsel, who can provide informed advice and effective representation.
Your attorney will be better armed to lead your sexual abuse case more effectively if you feel comfortable disclosing your most personal and sensitive information regarding your case.
What Information Is Protected Under the Ethics of Attorney-Client Privilege?
The ethical duties related to attorney-client privilege protect much more information than the law does. In addition to disclosures that a client communicates in confidence, the attorney-client privilege applies to all information related to legal representation, regardless of whether it originated from the client or another source.
Moreover, if a court determines that your attorney-client privilege does not protect certain information, it may be covered by your attorney’s ethical duty to ensure confidentiality, and you can expect them to fulfill this responsibility to the best of their ability.
Further ethical guidelines require the client’s information to be used only to their advantage and to facilitate their best interests. Additionally, confidential information must remain private after the case is over—even after the client’s death.
Will You Have a Right to Privacy During the Legal Claims Process?
An understandable concern of many sexual abuse survivors is the privacy afforded to them by the court, which is often of utmost importance. For example, fear of harassment or retribution from offenders who gain access to their identifying information through public records or court testimony discourages many survivors from pursuing justice.
Fortunately, the legal system has devised several remedies to address these issues, such as allowing individuals to file lawsuits under pseudonyms to protect their privacy. Courts also allow individuals to file documents containing private information under seal, such as medical records, so the public cannot access them.
Sexual abuse survivors also have the right to the limited disclosure of identifying information, such as their name, address, phone number, workplace, etc., as contained in legal documents, police reports, and court records. Unfortunately, in some cases, the abuse survivor’s safety may be in jeopardy if their personal information becomes public. Therefore, you can expect your attorney to do everything possible to uphold your right to privacy.
Start Working With a Sexual Abuse and Assault Attorney Today
The legal professionals at Greenberg Gross support the rights of sexual abuse and assault survivors in legal claims against abusers and institutions. We understand our clients’ needs are unique, and we are committed to working with them and for them to receive the compensation and justice they deserve. Contact us today for a free and confidential case review.