Institutional Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Injury Lawyers Fighting on Behalf of Victims
Sexual abuse is utterly devastating and life-changing for victims. Survivors will carry emotional and sometimes physical scars for the rest of their lives. And when the abuser could have—and should have—been stopped by the institution he or she represents, victims can have an even more difficult time healing and moving forward with their lives.
At Fellerman & Ciarimboli Law PC, we fight for the injured and the wronged. Since 2000, we have aggressively gone after sexual predators and the organizations that allowed this abuse to occur. We stand up for victims’ rights and work tirelessly to make sure that all responsible parties are held liable in a court of law. With our Pennsylvania sexual abuse injury lawyers by your side, you can rest assured that a powerful legal team is there to serve as your voice. We work to ensure that these actions do not happen again to others in the future while also seeking the justice you deserve.
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 or 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 or 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. In addition to criminal penalties, the abuser can face civil action in which the victim seeks retribution and compensation for the harm they have endured as a result of the abuse.
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 in civil court as well. But what many don’t realize is that if another party or organization had the power to prevent the abuse from occurring, that party may also be held accountable.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Educational institutions
- Healthcare institutions, such as hospitals
- Religious organizations
- Recreational organizations, such as summer camps
- Volunteer organizations
- Any licensed residential facility serving children or the elderly
- Departments of Corrections
- County correctional authorities
- Mental health facilities
When these institutions employ abusers, they can be held liable for the damages caused by the abuse. Such institutions are responsible for preventing abuse and investigating claims of abuse. Failure to do so is considered negligence.
Criminal vs. Civil Standards in Sexual Abuse Cases
It’s important to note that even 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, however, 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 injury attorney by your side to fight for your rights.
How We Can Help
At Fellerman & Ciarimboli Law PC, our Pennsylvania 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. We strive to make sure your voice is not silenced. We will fight to 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.