When you’re involved in a legal matter, it means that you’re very emotionally fragile and in a vulnerable state of mind. You are faced with challenging issues that require legal assistance to solve. For this reason, you view your attorney with utmost reverence, a sort of savior. The attorney has dominance in the case, and you believe that the attorney is working for your best interests. Trusting an attorney makes you vulnerable, and the attorney can take advantage of that by sexually abusing you. Attorneys who have sex with their clients are committing a type of professional misconduct that can be as harmful as any surgeon’s or doctor’s error.
Attorneys have a deep understanding of the law and know how to manipulate it in their favor. Nevertheless, you should not allow their position or intimidation stop you from pursuing justice. If you were sexually abused by an attorney whom you had trusted and thought you could rely on to sort out your legal issue, you need to understand California laws regarding this behavior and what you can do to find justice. While it’s understandable that you may be going through some tough time, physically and emotionally, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. An attorney hurt you, but there are others who respect their clients and are ready to help you through this difficult time. At Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, we are here to help and dedicated to your recovery. Contact us today at 310-359-9451 for a free case evaluation with a sexual abuse lawyer.
Attorney Sexual Abuse Explained
The attorney-client relationship is inherently unequal. Such relationships where clients are usually emotionally and financially vulnerable can be a recipe for abuse by the attorney. Is consent possible in such relationships? In most cases, especially those that are emotionally charged, probably not. One court stated that the professional relationship renders it impossible for vulnerable clients to be considered “consenting.” In some cases, such as those involving a high-powered corporate executive being in a relationship with her client, the relationship can be considered consensual. However, the concept of consent becomes questionable if the executive is involved in a criminal or matrimonial matter or if she was manipulated or coerced into the relationship. The issue of consent in attorney-client relationships is problematic due to the nature of such relationships. As such, sexual relationships between clients and attorneys during legal representation are unethical. An attorney who wants to have a sexual relationship with the clients should withdraw from representation or wait until the case is concluded.
California was the first state to pass a law barring attorney-client sexual relationships. Rule 3-120 of the Rules of Professional Misconduct states that a client has great emotional vulnerability and reliance on the counsel and guidance of an attorney. This rule is intended to prohibit sexual assault by attorneys in the course of professional presentation. An attorney-client relationship is considered sexually exploitative if the attorney demands sexual favors in exchange for representation, conditioning representation on sexual relations, or in lieu of legal fees. Moreover, it is unacceptable for an attorney to intimidate, coerce, or unduly influence a client to engage in a sexual relationship.
As a resident of California, you are also protected by the Victim’s Bill of Rights, also known as Marcy’s Law. This law protects a client’s rights to legal standing, protection from a defendant, notification of court proceedings, parole boards, and restitution. Under this law, you have the right to be treated fairly and with respect to your dignity and privacy, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse throughout your justice process. If your attorney violates this right by subjecting you to sexual assault, then you will have the right to sue them and seek compensation for the harm caused. An attorney who abuses his power and asks for sexual favors to satisfy their own personal needs should be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions. With the help of a sexual abuse law firm, you can file a civil lawsuit under California law.
Types of Sexual Abuse by an Attorney
Since sexual abuse in the legal field is usually committed by a person in a position of trust and power over the victim, these cases can be incredibly complicated. Many victims require time to understand and come to terms with what happened. Others are paranoid or afraid about the consequences of revealing their abusers. Generally, legal professional sexual abuse occurs when an attorney performs undesired sexual behavior against their client. It involves any sexual contact or behavior that is unwanted, forced, or coerced. Other names used for sexual abuse include sexual violence, sexual assault, and rape.
There are two types of sexual abuse: physical contact abuse and non-contact abuse. Non-contact abuse involves an attorney engaging his/her client in a sexual manner without actually touching them. This form of abuse can be done in person or online. Sexual abuse by an attorney includes (but not limited to):
- Legal professionals developing open personal and unprofessional relationships with clients that do not center a client’s needs may use the relationship to ask personal questions, flirt, and manipulate a patient.
- An attorney who has a habit of developing sexual relationships with clients can easily take advantage of their position without the client realizing that the behavior is not normal
- Taking advantage of emotionally-affected clients who are unable to give consent
- Displaying “grooming” behavior like slowly making a client accustomed to intimate conversations and meetings that are sexual in nature
- Forcing a client to take part in sexual activities
- Convincing a client to allow fondling so as to overcome personal obstacles
- Forcing a client into doing unwanted, degrading, or painful acts during intercourse
- Using a body part or object to penetrate a client’s sexual organs
- Sexual touching of any part of the client’s body, whether they’re undressed or not
- Forcing a client to undress or touch another person in a sexual manner
- Subjecting a client to sexual battery and causing injuries
- Introducing a drug into the client’s body to lower his/her inhibitions
- Showing pornography or taking pornographic pictures or videos of the client without their consent
- Forcing a client to view or share abuse images or videos
- Forcing them to masturbate or doing it in their presence
- Having sexual conversation online or through the phone
- Criticisms about a client sexually
- Demanding sex with threats or the use of a weapon
Unfortunately, many attorneys who have been reported for sexually abusing their clients are allowed to keep their jobs and licenses. And in most cases, those accused of sexual misconduct are accused by many clients. You need a lawyer who can help you put an end to it and obtain the justice you deserve.
Consequences of Attorney Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse can have an immediate and direct negative impact, such as physical trauma and injury. It can also affect the victim’s physical and mental health and well-being. Studies show that up to 65% of adult sexual abuse survivors exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a reactive disorder that a person experiences after a traumatic event. The victim responds to the abuse incident with intense fear and feelings of hopelessness. The person may experience flashbacks and nightmares that force him/her to relieve the trauma.
The victim may also suffer from insomnia, which makes them hypervigilant and always on the alert. And because of the trust that he/she has in the attorney, he/she may end up avoiding getting help from another legal professional to avoid thoughts or situations that are reminders of the traumatic events. Male victims of adult sexual abuse report higher rates of isolation and sexual dysfunction than female survivors. They also become more confused about their sexual orientation.
What to Do if You’re a Victim of Attorney Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is a crime that many people don’t like to think or talk about. Many refuse to even imagine that it could happen to them until it does. There’s help available for attorney sexual abuse victims in California and across the nation. Whether you were abused 40 seconds ago or 20 years ago, there are groups and programs that can prove to be helpful. Here are some important things you should do if you’re the victim of sexual abuse by an attorney:
Seek medical treatment immediately: Immediately after the abuse, it is important to get to a safe place, and if you are in danger, call 911. If you are not severely injured, visit a hospital to ensure that you take care of your health and wellbeing. This medical visit will also prove to be important in providing important pieces of evidence to hold the perpetrator accountable for his actions.
Talk it out: Talk to a counselor who is trained to handle sexual abuse cases. You could very well receive support and advice from loved ones, and other close people who have been victims, but talking to a licensed counselor could make things much better for you. A counselor could help you avoid issues with drugs, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Report the assault: If you did not seek medical evaluation on the day of the attack or did not report the abuse to law enforcement, reconsider these options. Reporting allows for investigations to commence and even prevent other clients from being victimized.
Document financial losses: You may have to make several visits to a doctor or therapist as a result of the assault. You can claim compensation for the expenses incurred, including your travel expenses, provided all invoices, receipts, and other proofs of purchase are kept.
Contact a lawyer: It may not be easy to trust an attorney after being betrayed and harmed by one. But contacting a sexual abuse lawyer can have a positive impact on your recovery and pursuit of justice. You need to find an attorney who is compassionate and experienced in working with victims of sexual abuse victims. At Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, we understand the sensitive nature of such cases and are committed to protecting the rights of sexual abuse victims and holding rogue attorneys accountable for their actions. Contact us today to get started with your case.
Filing a Sexual Abuse Case in Civil Court
Civil courts do not need proof of innocence or guilt in attorney sexual misconduct lawsuits. Instead, the court determines the liability of a perpetrator or a third party in the injuries or damages resulting from the crime. Findings of liability usually result in the perpetrator or negligible third-party being required to pay a survivor monetary damages. The compensation can help you with the financial resources you need to seek medical treatment and rebuild your life.
When proving that the perpetrator is responsible for the abuse, a criminal prosecution (and conviction) can improve your chances for success in the civil lawsuit. By taking advantage of a legal rule referred to as “collateral estoppel” you may be able to bring in the evidence used in a criminal case if the defendant has been found guilty of committing the abuse. But even if the perpetrator was not criminally charged or convicted, you will have an easier time showing that the defendant committed the alleged abuse. The standard of proof in civil cases is lower compared with that required in criminal lawsuits. For a defendant to be found civilly liable for abuse, the plaintiff only has to show that it’s more likely than not that the defendant committed the abuse. In legalese, this standard of proof is referred to as “preponderance of the evidence” and is not as tough as the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases.
Civil Litigation Process
The civil lawsuit process begins when the plaintiff files a formal complaint with the clerk of the court. This involves giving a detailed explanation of the events that led to the filing of the lawsuit. The defendant is then notified that a lawsuit has been filed against them. This responsibility falls on the plaintiff. The defendant will file an answer or motion to give their side of the story or discredit the plaintiff’s accusations. Then, the court will establish jurisdiction and the location where the case will be heard.
The civil litigation process is heavily bureaucratic and involves many exchanges between the two parties. Both parties must meet and discuss the nature of the case. This is meant to determine the main issues, points of disagreement, start making plans for discovery, and propose the possibility of out of court settlement. Depending on the specific facts of the case, discovery can end up taking a significant amount of time because both parties must disclose the pieces of information they will be using as evidence in court. If there are many pieces of evidence, then the discovery period will be very lengthy.
Since both parties must be completely open and honest, it is important to have an experienced civil litigation attorney to get enough insight as to how you’re going to approach the conflict. Reviewing the evidence that the opposing party plans to use against you helps you understand what their plan is and what you can do to counteract it with yours.
After discovery, the court will schedule an early pretrial conference, where both sides meet in front of a judge for a discussion of the issues of the case. The purpose of a pretrial conference is to determine whether the case is suited to go on trial because some cases can be settled if there’s a lack of material issue of dispute. Other cases are ambiguous, and the conference helps clarify issues for the judge in order for him/her to understand the actual points of contention before the trial commences.
If the dispute is not settled, the case will move to trial. The trial is more like what you see on TV. Each party gets to present its arguments and evidence before a judge in an organized manner. The judge will deliberate for a period of time to determine if the defendant is liable for the sexual abuse and the plaintiff’s losses, and if so, how much the plaintiff should receive as compensation.
Once the ruling or verdict has been made, either party can choose to appeal. This provides another opportunity to present the case, which may or may not overturn the judge’s decision. Appeals are considered on the basis of oral arguments, which shows why the judgment was unjust or inadequate and to also propose an alternative judgment that the court can implement. The ruling made by the appellate court will be final. This means that whatever decision is made must be carried out, and the litigation process is concluded.
Compensation Based on Sexual Abuse by an Attorney
While a sexual abuse incident can give rise to a criminal prosecution, which can result in fines, jail time, probation, and other sanctions, if the offender is convicted, a criminal lawsuit does not give an assurance of restitution to the victim. As a survivor, you may be entitled to seek monetary compensation for the harm suffered and costs incurred as a result of being sexually abused by your attorney. The amount and type of compensation will depend on the severity of damages and long-term effects.
You could receive compensation for:
- Psychological trauma: For the sexual abuse, along with the psychological, emotional, and mental anguish you may be experiencing. Also, you can include costs for counseling and therapy.
- Medical expenses: for any health care, medication or equipment needed as a result of the abuse
- Loss of employment or wages: if you were not able or were not allowed to work due to physical injury or psychological trauma
- Travel expenses: for any traveling required, for example, frequent trips to another city to see a specialist doctor
- Pain and suffering resulting from the incident
- Any other past, present, or future financial and emotional damages caused by the assault
If the perpetrator is held liable, he/she will be ordered to compensate you for the damages. In some cases, you can include a third party in your sexual abuse lawsuit. For example, you may be able to sue the law firm based on negligent supervision or failure to provide security. And if your spouse was also affected by the abuse you suffered, you may be able to use on his/her behalf for loss of sexual intimacy, fear, anger, and resentment. These feelings could have detrimental effects on your marriage and even lead to divorce.
Find an Attorney Sexual Abuse Law Firm Near Me
If you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse by an attorney, consider having attorneys from Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm in your corner. By retaining us, you gain access to dedicated advocates for abuse victims. Our intent is to make those liable for the victimization of others to pay for their actions by exercising the right guaranteed in California’s Victims Bills of Rights and the 7th Amendment of the U.S Constitution. While the damages caused by sexual abuse can’t be undone, civil remedies can help you hold the perpetrator as well as the law firm, which employed the perpetrator liable for their actions or inactions. Our law firm has the knowledge and resources to handle attorney sexual abuse cases. We’ve helped hundreds of clients recover millions of dollars from their abusers.
We encourage you to contact our attorneys to review your case, discuss your legal options as well as potential remedies. The initial consultation is complimentary, confidential, and non-obligatory. We will take the time to listen to you and understand your experience. We’ll then pursue a personalized legal strategy and provide guidance throughout the legal process. Please don’t feel embarrassed or worried discussing your case with one of our attorneys. We’re experts in this area, and we will handle your case with great care and complete confidentiality, so we work together to help you obtain the justice you deserve.