Sexual abuse cases are highly specialized, and few Georgia attorneys have the unique knowledge and experience to effectively represent victims of sexual abuse. For Hoffspiegel Law, protecting victims of sexual abuse is a mission that extends beyond legal practice. Lloyd Hoffspiegel is past President of the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) and sits on the board of Civil Lawyers Against World Sex Slavery (CLAWS). This background provides Mr. Hoffspiegel with unique insight into both the legal and personal aspects of a sexual abuse case—in particular, the challenges a victim faces when making the courageous decision to confront his or her abuser.
What Constitutes Sexual Abuse in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, sexual abuse includes child molestation, assault, battery, rape, date rape, improper touching of any kind, and abuse of power by someone in a supervisory authority While we assist victims of all types of sexual abuse, most of our cases in this arena involve people in a position of power preying on those who are least able to defend themselves. Our cases commonly involve:
- Youth Ministers / Clergy
- Family Members
Criminal Prosecution of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is a crime, and may be prosecuted as such. However, the purpose of a criminal trial is different from that of a civil trial, as is the applicable burden of proof. While restitution is ordered in some criminal cases, the key goals of a criminal prosecution are to punish the defendant and to protect society, not to compensate individual victims.
You Can File a Sexual Abuse Claim Even if Your Abuser Was Acquitted at a Criminal Trial
In Georgia, any criminal prosecution (or lack thereof) does not impact your right to pursue a civil suit. You are free to file a civil sexual abuse claim whether:
- You opted not to prosecute;
- The District Attorney declined to prosecute;
- Your abuser was acquitted of sexual abuse charges at a criminal trial; or
- Your abuser has been convicted of sexual abuse.
Criminal prosecution of sexual abuse claims can be difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that victims are in a vulnerable position, may feel responsible for or embarrassed about the abuse, or may be deterred from making a police report due to fear of the abuser. In addition, a prosecutor may decline to file a case because the burden of proof is high in a criminal case, and the state’s caseload is often demanding.
When you work with a private attorney who thoroughly understands sexual abuse issues, the process can be much less intimidating. You’ll have an advocate at your side to help you through the process, and your civil attorney will face a less-stringent burden of proof than in a criminal case, making it easier to prove your case.
Investigating Your Sexual Abuse Case
Successful prosecution of your sexual abuse case requires assembling adequate evidence to prove your case to a judge or jury. Gathering this evidence in sexual abuse cases can be difficult for a number of reasons. Medical and other physical evidence may not have been collected at the time of the abuse. Witnesses may be reluctant to get involved or unclear in their accounts.
Lloyd and Alexander Hoffspiegel have the experience necessary to thoroughly assess your case, determine the likelihood of success at trial, and assemble the most effective evidence available.
Evidence in Sexual Abuse Cases
Some key evidence in sexual abuse cases includes:
- Physical evidence, including medical evidence
- Witness testimony, including witnesses to an admission by the perpetrator
- Statements the perpetrator made to police or others
- Mental health records supporting the claim of abuse
- Prior history on the part of the abuser
While corroborating evidence such as that described above is important in a sexual abuse case, the victim’s testimony is often the most compelling evidence offered. We understand that testifying about sexual abuse can be difficult and intimidating, and have helped to empower many victims to tell their stories in the courtroom and assert their rights.
Collecting a Judgment in a Sexual Abuse Case
One challenge associated with sexual abuse cases, and an issue that deters some law firms from representing victims of sexual abuse, is that the acts giving rise to the claim fall outside most insurance policies. Collecting a judgment against an individual without insurance coverage can be difficult, particularly if the abuser is incarcerated.
Our extensive experience with sexual abuse claims often allows us to avoid insurance policy exclusions and find coverage to compensate the victim.
Work with the Right Georgia Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Sexual abuse claims may be more complicated and nuanced than the typical personal injury case, and there are important emotional and psychological issues in play. Not just any attorney can do justice to your case, nor assist you through the difficult process of fighting back.
At Hoffspiegel Law, we are committed to helping victims of sexual abuse, and have made the investment necessary to fully prepare to do your case justice. Contact us today at (404) 760-8600, or click the Contact Us button to learn more about how we can help you take back control.