Civil Sexual Abuse
An increasing number of survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) are bringing civil lawsuits seeking accountability as well as damages for the cost of past and future therapy, loss of childhood, failure to fulfill potential and the long-term emotional damage resulting from the abuse. Sexual abuse laws allow claims to be filed for sexual abuse, assault and battery, unlawful restraint, invasion of privacy, and intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. In Maryland, a victim of childhood sexual abuse must file an action within 7 years of the date that the victim attains the age of majority.
Adult victims who have been exploited by medical professionals (i.e., doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists) also have a civil damages remedy that would likely be covered by medical malpractice insurance. The statutes of limitation will be shorter than those available for survivors of CSA. In most instances an ongoing physician/patient relationship can extend the time period.
If a civil action is successful, an abuser can be ordered by the Court to pay money damages to the person harmed. If the abuser has assets from which the court-ordered damages can be collected, money can be recovered to compensate for the harms that were caused.
Survivors of sexual abuse should be aware that in a civil sexual abuse case, his or her therapy will no longer be totally confidential. The therapists' notes and records will be subject to disclosure in a civil suit although their use will be limited to the parties and their attorneys and will only in rare instances be filed in the court file. A therapist is a witness to the impact of the abuse on the survivor and will probably be called upon to testify if the suit is filed.