Institutional Sexual Assault

How Can an Institutional Sexual Assault Lawyer Help You?

Regardless of whether anyone is criminally charged, you have the right to file your own lawsuit for institutional sexual assault. That includes holding the perpetrators accountable, and the organizations that enabled them.

Sexual assault and abuse are crimes. When these violations are discovered in places like churches, schools, and workplaces, such institutions have a duty to intervene. If they fail to do everything in their power to protect you or your loved one from a known predator, you have the right to hold them responsible for your injuries.

The attorneys at Levin Simes Abrams have dedicated our careers to helping survivors of sexual assault take back their power. We are a women-led firm with proven verdicts and settlements for individuals, children, and families. 

Speak with a lawyer about your rights and legal options today. Reach out to our San Francisco offices online or by calling (415) 426-3000. We have taken on international corporations and other massive institutions and won on behalf of our clients. We are ready to put those same efforts to work for your case right away.

A dark-haired young woman in blue hospital clothes sits in a wheel chair next to a bed in an institution.

What Is Considered Institutional Sexual Abuse?

Institutional or organizational abuse happens when individuals are harmed by the hierarchy and structure of a care setting or institution. By institution, we mean any organization or society founded for a social, educational, religious, or other similar purpose. Sexual abuse or assault can involve verbal, written, and physical forms of unwanted sexual conduct. Institutional sexual abuse occurs when an organization allows or encourages sexual misconduct. 

Institutions frequently involve a chain of command where certain people have authority over other individuals. A boss, a faith leader, or a teacher has power over workers, congregants, or students. When that power is abused to coerce or force sexual compliance, the injuries can be profound and long-lasting due to the element of trust involved.

For more examples of institutional abuse and the long-term effects of sexual assault, see the FAQs at the bottom of this page. For more information on what you can do to help stop institutional sexual abuse, read on.

What Should I Do if I Am Experiencing Institutional Sexual Abuse?

If you want to know exactly what you can do about ongoing institutional abuse, call a knowledgeable attorney right away. A lawyer can help you:

  • Report: File a formal complaint with law enforcement. It may also help to file a complaint within the organization, such as management in a care facility or the HR department in a workplace. In some cases, institutions choose to close rank to protect the organization’s reputation. Your lawyer can help protect you from illegal forms of retaliation.
  • Document: Securing evidence of misconduct can help prevent it from being destroyed or hidden. Documentation of sexual abuse can also serve as proof in a lawsuit. The next section contains a detailed list of potential evidence your lawyer can help you gather.
  • Act: By formally filing a lawsuit, your attorney can begin discovery, the process of exchanging otherwise private information between the parties named in the suit, including paperwork, recordings, and witnesses.

Calling a hotline or logging a complaint with a state or national database can also be beneficial, but to see real, tangible change under the law, you need an attorney. Many reporting mechanisms only exist to gather data, and will not send anyone to put a stop to abuse that is happening today.

A well-known phrase points out a truth about institutional abuse: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” When you contact an experienced institutional sexual assault attorney, you could help spark the life-saving change you want to see.

How Do I Document Institutional Sexual Abuse?

It is your lawyer’s job to gather the documents and evidence needed for a lawsuit, not yours. If you don’t have any of the following pieces of proof, that does not mean you can’t file a lawsuit. Your attorney can legally demand documentation via subpoena, and build a case based on sworn testimony given later.

That being said, here are examples of ways you can document institutional sexual abuse that may be extremely helpful for your case:

  • Preserve physical evidence like clothing or other items with bodily fluids that may contain DNA
  • Save, forward, or screenshot electronic communications
  • Make copies or take pictures of written or printed documents you have legal access to
  • Take notes during or immediately after in-person conversations and send them electronically to yourself or your attorney to save the time stamp 
  • Document names, dates, times, and places where incidents of sexual abuse took place, as well as those who witnessed or were aware of them

When in doubt about what is evidence or what you can potentially do to gather it, ask a knowledgeable attorney. Obtaining information the wrong way could have it thrown out by a judge. Incorrectly collecting evidence could leave you vulnerable to attacks from the other side, like recording a private conversation with someone without their consent, which is illegal in the state of California. Your lawyer will help protect you and the evidence you need for justice every step of the way.

It’s also important to avoid communicating directly with the other party without a lawyer. The protects your words from being used against you later, and also avoids potentially triggering interactions. Your lawyer can help save you the trauma of revisiting the event by acting on your behalf.

What Can an Institutional Sexual Abuse Settlement Cover?

Personal injury lawsuits are different from criminal prosecutions, and typically hinge on proving negligence and damages. The damages you can sue for may include:

  • Medical bills for physical injury and psychological therapy
  • Lost wages and other job-related benefits like sick time, paid time off, or health insurance coverage that were affected by the abuse
  • Pain and suffering, including emotional trauma and conditions like PTSD or depression
  • Punitive damages, fees that are sometimes ordered by a judge to punish the wrongdoer in your case
  • Wrongful death damages for those who’ve lost a loved one due to self-harm accidental deaths or suicide

While a monetary award cannot undo the harm caused by institutional sexual assault, it can help create a better future. 

By bringing a lawsuit, you also incentivize institutions to improve their safety standards and stamp out sexual offenders by removing them from the organization and reporting them to the police.

Contact Levin Simes Abrams to Hold Institutions Accountable

It’s a known phenomenon that institutional hierarchies disrupt normal human instincts like protecting the vulnerable or victimized. In service of the “greater good” of a church or a business or a school, people may stay quiet about sexual assaults rather than blow the whistle. They may even actively assist predators by moving them into new positions where unsuspecting men, women, and children can be harmed. There is no excuse for enabling a sexual abuser.

At Levin Simes Abrams, we are advocates for survivors of institutional sexual abuse. This includes rideshare assault cases that successfully sue worldwide apps. It also means human trafficking lawsuits, where we hold local businesses like motels accountable for turning a blind eye to human suffering and exploitation. No one is above the law, and no institution is either.

Contact our offices online or by calling (415) 426-3000. Your communications with us are 100% confidential, and you will be met with the compassion and professionalism you deserve.

Institutional Sexual Assault FAQs

What kind of organizations are common in institutional sexual abuse cases?

Institutional abuses, including sexual assaults, can occur in any organization with a closed-in hierarchy. This could mean places like schools and colleges, churches, the armed forces, prisons, rehab or mental health facilities, and workplaces both small and large.

Wherever there is a power differential between those who give and those who bust obey orders, there is potential for abuse and exploitation.

What are the long-term effects of institutional sexual assault?

The long-term effects of institutional sexual abuse could range from physical to psychological. Physical effects could include unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Psychological harm could mean conditions like panic attacks, depression, and PTSD.

Certain mental health conditions could cause or contribute to substance abuse or other forms of self-harm like eating disorders. Institutional abuse also violates an important trust an individual once had in the communities attached to their church, their school, or their job. Without that support system to rely on, survivors may feel abandoned indefinitely.

Can I sue on behalf of my child for institutional sexual abuse?

You may have the right to file a lawsuit on behalf of your child for institutional abuse. This includes legal actions against schools, churches, and organizations for kids. For example, groups the Boy/Girl Scouts of America or church-affiliated programs like Young Life.

Individuals also have rights as adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Many states including California have opened up the lawsuit filing deadline for survivors of childhood sexual assault to seek justice.

How long do I have to file an institutional sexual assault or abuse case?

The deadline for filing a civil lawsuit for sexual assault or abuse involving an institution depends on many factors: your age, when the assault occurred, and what kind of institution (public, governmental, or commercial).

The important information to know is that deadlines do exist, and if you miss any one of them, it may affect your chances of justice and the degree of impact you can have on seeing real change.

Contact an attorney from Levin Simes Abrams right away at (415) 426-3000 to get direct answers about your specific situation. The more you know and the sooner you act, the more choices you may have to decide what options you want to pursue.