Real estate agents and REALTORS® have responsibilities to their clients. They are required to promote the interests of their clients first while following a specified code of ethics. During a real estate transaction, an agent must put his client’s needs before his own, meaning it’s wrong for an agent to conceal or exaggerate important facts, share a client’s personal information with anyone outside of the agent-client relationship, or complete a transaction that’s financially advantageous to the agent. Importantly, an agent should not develop a sexual or intimate relationship with a client because it can create a conflict of interest, influence the agent’s judgment, and allow the agent to use client personal information for the personal advantage of the lawyer.
Unfortunately, every industry has sexual predators. A real estate agent can lure a prospective homebuyer into a property he is showing for sale and try to initiate sexual contact. They can also victimize sellers when they visit to learn more about the features of the home. An unknown agent can show up at a seller’s house unannounced or knock at the door at strange hours, either early in the morning or late at night. It’s easy for someone to print a fake business card and identify with a certain agency. And since a real estate agent will place a lockbox on a door, they can gain access at any time, even when the homeowners are home alone or asleep. Sexual predators often ask unusual questions such as: Do you live alone? What time do kids return from school? When does your spouse leave for work and return? Such questions could be an attempt to know when and how long you’ll be alone at home.
Sexual abuse victims endure unfathomable violations of their emotional and physical integrity. In addition to physical injuries that a victim may suffer as a result of physical force, they are often left with a slew of long-term emotional damages. It takes enormous fortitude and strength for a survivor to share his/her story of sexual abuse. This may explain why many cases of sexual abuse by real estate agents go unreported. If you or your child has been sexually assaulted by a real estate agent, you should not suffer in silence. You deserve to have the legal system work for you and hold the perpetrator accountable. Since sexual abuse cases are the focus of Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, we make it our mission to help sexual abuse victims seek justice and compensation for damages under California law. Call us at 310-359-9451 to schedule a free consultation with our committed and compassionate California sexual abuse lawyer.
Clients Can Be Victims Too
The National Association of Realtors provides tips on how professionals in the real estate industry can protect themselves from sexual and violent crimes. Stories in the media usually highlight the dangers of a realtors’ career. In some cases, however, the client is the one who needs protection. In March 2019, a real estate agent in Orlando was charged with sexual battery for repeatedly raping a client. In another case, the owner of an upscale South Carolina real estate firm reportedly killed at least 7 clients and chained another one in a metal storage container before she was rescued by the authorities.
Unfortunately, sex offenders can easily obtain a real estate license. While registered sex offenders in California are prohibited from living close to a park, playground, or school, they can work as property managers, real estate agents, and other licensed professionals. What’s more, they’re not obligated to disclose their status to clients or co-workers. In one case, a man who was convicted of four felony counts of sexual assault received his real estate license two years after his release. In another case, a licensed real estate agent tried to lure a child to have sex with at his attorney’s office to avoid a hotel room because it would look suspicious. He remains licensed more than 10 years following his conviction.
It’s virtually impossible to know licensed real estate agents are sex criminals. A person could hand over their keys to a sexual predator without realizing it. Apart from real estate agents, there are many licensed professionals who enter people’s homes. Plumbers, air conditioning specialists, cleaning service workers, electricians, chefs, contractors, and others. However, most of them are not entrusted with a key to the home. And while the listing agents will have primary access to keys, any agent with the lockbox code can gain access to a home. Clients may assume that they can fully trust an agent because he/she is properly licensed, a member of a professional organization, and working for a reputable real estate agency. But you or your children can become victims of sexual abuse anytime you’re dealing with someone in such a close manner and allowing him to come into your home.
Reasons Why Real Estate Sexual Abuse Cases Often Go Unreported
Cover Up by the Agency
Many real estate agencies will try to cover up an agent’s prior history of abuse. When an allegation of sexual abuse is made, an agency may not turn a blind eye if they’re unsure about the legitimacy of the accusation. When this happens, sexual predators can get away with several incidents, even if reported. And instead of acknowledging the abuse and even reporting to the authorities, the real estate company may simply transfer the accused agent to another branch or department with a warning not to let such incidents occur again.
One of the main factors that hinder reporting of sexual abuse in real estate is the stigma tied to allegations regarding the assault. Once an individual is labeled as a “rapist” there’s absolutely no way they can ever escape allegations of this nature, even if innocent. The righteous anger of the accused plays into this known stigma. Simply put, it’s this extreme stigma and the potential that an accusation is fabricated, that stands in the way of punishing the truly guilty and protecting other people.
Least Likely to Suspect
Sexual abuse in real estate is often committed by the last person you would suspect. Sexual abusers look like everyone else -no one looks like a sexual predator. Because of this, people fall victim to individuals who look and seem credible and trustworthy. This is one of the ways the abusers get away with it. No one willingly hangs around or does business with a person they suspect is a sexual predator.
Victims of real estate sexual abuse are often petrified and seldom report assault themselves. They are terrified of retaliation from numerous sources, most of which may be challenging for strangers to comprehend. Survivors fear their abusers to the extent that they can’t open about the incident. And if the perpetrator used threats, a victim may think it’s best to never speak about the abuse to protect themselves and their families. Attempts to report to the real estate agency may be dismissed as unbelievable.
Real State Sexual Abuse and the Damages It Can Cause
Sexual abuse is any sexual act or behavior forced upon another person without their consent. The perpetrator attacks someone they perceive as weaker than them. In most cases, sexual abuse does not come from an uncontrollable sex drive. It is a crime committed with the goal of humiliating and controlling the victim. Sexual abuse can come in many different forms and when trying to sue a real estate agent or real estate agency for sexual abuse, you must know what form of sexual abuse you suffered. Sexual abuse covers a wide variety of acts, including:
Inappropriate sexual touching or fondling
Forceful penetration of a person’s body using any part of the perpetrator’s body a foreign object
Demanding, blackmailing, or forcing a person to take part in sexual acts, including watching pornography
Sexual intercourse, including anal or oral penetration
Exhibitionism and/or masturbation
Taking inappropriate photos of a person for personal use or distribution
Forcing a person to watch an abuser masturbate
Using drugs to ensure a victim’s submission
Of all these forms of sexual abuse, rape is deemed the most damaging form. It involves forceful, non-consensual sexual penetration of someone’s body. Survivors of rape can suffer from physical injuries since physical force is usually used to make the victim conform to the assailant’s sexual advances. Besides the risk of physical injuries, there’s also a swing of emotional damages that can be caused by sexual assault. Some of these emotional injuries include:
Depression. Most victims of real estate sexual abuse are diagnosed with depression following the incident. Depression is a mood disorder that encompasses prolonged periods of sadness and hopelessness, which can affect a survivor’s way of life and relationships.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. A traumatic occurrence like sexual assault can leave a victim with feelings of fear, stress, or anxiety. Feelings of this nature make it hard for a victim to cope or adjust for a long time following the abuse.
Flashbacks. Sexual abuse can be extremely traumatic that a victim can experience steady flashbacks and disturbing nightmares characterized by memories of past trauma.
Self-Harm. Typically acted on out of a feeling of anxiety, stress, or depression, deliberate self-harm takes place when an individual causes physical injuries on themselves.
Eating disorders. Many victims of real estate sexual abuse experience adverse changes to discernments of the body and feelings of control leading to eating disorders such as anorexia, binging, and bulimia.
Sexually Transmitted Infections. Sexual abuse comes with a great risk of contracting STIs. This can be viral or bacterial infections, which are transmitted from one individual to another via anal, vaginal, or oral contact.
Sleep disorders. The trauma victims of real estate sexual abuse undergo could also impact their sleep as well. This trauma can inflict trouble falling asleep, sleeping longer or shorter than required, or sleeping at unusual times.
Dissociation. Many sexual abuse victims use detachment as a mechanism defense. Dissociation is the brain’s way of dealing with the trauma inflicted by sexual assault.
If you or someone close to you has been sexually abused by a real estate agent or realtor, you may be entitled to file a claim for compensation. As such, it’s in your best interest to hire a seasoned attorney to represent you and your case in court.
What to Do If You’ve Been Sexually Abused by a Realtor in California
The immediate aftermath of sexual abuse or rape can be confusing and frightening. Your top priority is to ensure your safety, so you need to go to a safe place. Call someone you trust and ask for their help. Thereafter, seek medical attention as soon as possible. To win a case against your abuser, it’s important that you act swiftly and seek medical treatment since physical evidence will greatly help you prove the abuse. It’s also important to contact the police and have them draft a report. Reporting to law enforcement can help prevent other people from being abused by the same perpetrator and can help reinforce your credibility in court.
For numerous reasons, most victims of real estate sexual abuse don’t seek legal help. They often fear no one will believe them and feel shame and embarrassment about what happened. Victims also avoid making any official reports to protect themselves and their families from the attacker’s retaliation. A dedicated California sexual abuse attorney can help protect your rights as you focus on your recovery both emotionally and physically. Whether or not the D.A files criminal charges against the perpetrator, we can help you establish liability and pursue justice.
Holding the Real Estate Company Liable After a Sexual Abuse Incident
Statistics show that only 40% of sexual abuse incidents are reported to law enforcement authorities. Many cases of sexual abuse by real estate supervisors, clients, co-workers, or agents are never reported. While some employers are committed to doing the right thing and addressing such cases with immediate effect, including reporting the matter to the right legal authorities, many have attempted to protect their brand by attempting to cover up or overlook the sexual abuse. They are more focused on protecting their brand and reputation rather than the well-being of the victim. At Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, our real estate sexual abuse attorneys believe that the agency must be brought to book for the role it plays in allowing, facilitating, covering up, or trying to ignore sexual abuse.
There are many reasons to hold the attacker’s employer responsible for sexual abuse – not the least of which is to protect other people from becoming victims at the hands of predators who would use the company as a sanctuary. Employers in California have a legal obligation to use appropriate screening techniques to identify sexual predators at their workplaces. This includes doing background checks on all potential candidates to find out if they have a prior history of sexual abuse. If you believe that the real estate company failed to demonstrate proper due diligence when hiring the perpetrator, California sexual abuse lawyers at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm can help hold the employer liable for their role in your abuse.
In addition to failing to investigate an employee’s history of sexual abuse, employers may also turn a blind eye or fail to thoroughly investigate previous complaints that could have gone a long way in helping prevent your abuse. Typically, sexual predators display certain warning signs or red flags before committing acts of sexual assault. These signs may be noticed or reported by an observant supervisor, co-worker, or client. Employers who receive complaints of this nature should follow up and remove the employee if necessary. Unfortunately, many real estate employers simply overlook complaints of sexual abuse or attempt to actively cover up the complaints. Such employers must be held accountable for their deliberate failures or negligent actions.
Statistics by RAINN show that 97 percent of rapists will never be convicted. All too often, sexual perpetrators are let off-hook or swept under the rug by employers and a society unwilling to address the issues of sexual abuse. Our lawyers are committed to holding perpetrators of sexual abuse or rape accountable for their atrocious actions and help their victims achieve justice and find closure. We work with doctors, therapists, counselors, and psychologists to understand the physical and psychological impact of the abuse. We also work with law enforcement agencies, investigators, and our in-house team to help obtain an appropriate verdict or settlement. Our office is a safe space where victims and their loved ones can speak freely and know that someone will listen to their story and act on it.
Proving Liability in Real Estate Sexual Abuse Case
In a civil lawsuit claiming sexual abuse against a real estate agent, the evidence must show an improper and unlawful contact with the victim. Because almost all cases of sexual abuse are not witnessed, credibility between the victim and the real estate agent becomes a big deal. In most cases, there may be physical evidence of the abuse and the victim may talk about it with family or friends shortly after the incident. Or there may be written complaints or text exchanges made to the realtor or the employer. In all cases, the jury in a civil matter and police in a criminal matter must determine exactly what transpired and if the act amounted to sexual abuse.
Depending on the case, it may be easier to prove sexual abuse in court and obtain a settlement than to prove a defendant’s guilt in a criminal court. In a civil case, the aftermath of the case is dependent on a preponderance of the evidence, which implies that the judge or jury must believe your side of the story is at least 51% more likely to be true. This standard of proof is much different from that of the criminal courts where the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the incident was 99% likely to have transpired.
Another aspect to take into consideration is the matter of third-party liability. Civil courts allow room for an expanded scope of liability. This implies that whereas the individual perpetrator is accountable for their actions, companies, or organizations that may have facilitated or turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse can be proven liable as well. To hold the real estate company or an employer responsible for the abuse, it’s helpful if there were previous complaints against the same real estate agent that were never promptly acted upon. And if the agent in question had a history of assaults or a criminal record before being signed up by the current employer, it offers a basis for legal liability. However, you’re not really required to prove that there was some level of negligence in hiring the real estate agent or revive previous cases of abuse to win a lawsuit against the employer. There are many different legal theories and standards that can be used to win the case. Our experienced sexual abuse lawyers can help you bring a strong case and present your evidence persuasively to a jury.
Possible Compensation That May Be Sought in a Civil Lawsuit
Sexual abuse can result in tremendous costs over the lifetime of the survivor. Sexual abuse survivors are likely to develop mental health issues, drug or alcohol dependencies, or suffer re-victimization. They may also experience trouble parenting, holding a job, or keeping healthy interpersonal relations. Some of the most common tools on a sexual abuse survivor’s productivity and quality of life include poor general physical health, disturbing nightmares, devastating emotional disturbances, and extreme depression. Every person processes these experiences in their unique way and the amount of disturbance to normal life ranges significantly from one individual to another.
Victims of real estate sexual abuse may seek financial compensation by bringing a sexual assault lawsuit against the offender and other responsible parties. The forms compensation may be pursued include reparation for the following:
Physical pain and suffering
Lost income from missed work
Loss of quality of life
Present and future medical care related to the abuse
Loss of consortium by the victim’s spouse
Emotional distress including, humiliation, shock, anxiety, and grief
Punitive damages meant to punish the perpetrator for the cruelty and misconduct
At Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, we understand no monetary compensation can completely wipe away the scars caused by sexual abuse. Conversely, we know that sexual abuse or attempted assault causes many hardships and usually interferes with the victim’s ability to earn a living, live life to its fullest, and maintain healthy relationships. Remember, sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault. It is a criminal act for which the abuser must be held accountable in court. We help sexual abuse victims have their voices heard and work to ensure that the sexual predator does not harm any other people.
Statutes of limitations for Real Estate Sexual Abuse Cases in California
We understand the choice to speak up about sexual abuse by a real estate agent is a deeply personal decision. We also know that for some individuals, going public can feel like a desecration. Even if you’re not ready to file a lawsuit, it’s imperative to protect your rights before the statutes of limitations expire. Failure to meet these statutory limitations can bar you from seeking the compensation you need and deserve.
Under California law, adult victims of real estate sexual abuse have ten years from the date of abuse, or within 3 years from the discovery of illness or disease resulting from the assault, to bring a civil claim in court. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse must take legal action by the time they are 40 years old or within 5 years of the discovery of the abuse. The new law provides a 3-year window for the revival of claims that were barred by expired statutes of limitations. Whether you suffered recent or non-recent sexual abuse at the hands of a real estate agent, it’s important to call our office to see if we can help.
Finding a Real Estate Sexual Abuse Attorney Near Me
While the litigation climate right now is favorable to victims of sexual abuse, it can be difficult to win a case without the right representation. The attorneys at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm have the compassion, experience, and grit to help you explore all legal avenues for pursuing justice and recovering compensation for the horrific and traumatizing assault. We’ll help you find the support you need to pursue healing and empower control throughout your case. We have a vested interest in stopping the epidemic of sexual abuse, so we take pride in providing “boutique” support to our clients.
Whether you’re an adult victim or the parent/guardian of a child who was victimized by a real estate agent you thought you could trust, just know that you’re not alone in this. Call us at 310-359-9451 or contact us online to schedule a free, confidential consultation with a leading California sexual abuse attorney.