Oregon Sexual Abuse Information

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Oregon Sex Abuse

Information

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434 NW 19th Avenue, Portland oregon 97209

434 NW 19th Avenue

Portland, Oregon

 

2013

 


 

Sexual Abuse

 

 

 

Why do people file a civil suit for sexual abuse?  What’s the difference between a civil case and a criminal case?

In a criminal case for sexual abuse, the alleged abuser is prosecuted by the district attorney's office for committing sexual abuse against a victim.  If you are a victim of sexual abuse, you should contact the police or district attorney’s office.  Law enforcement officials will take your testimony, gather evidence and decide if it is sufficient to bring criminal charges.

In a civil case for sexual abuse, the victim sues the person who committed the sexual abuse to recover damages for his or her injuries, which may include medical bills, lost income, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, etc.  If you have been sexually abused, a civil suit may be an appropriate means of attaining justice and accountability.  Your case will be in civil court, and may be brought in addition to a criminal case.  Sometimes it may be possible to bring a civil case against an abuser, even if the state has determined that there is insufficient evidence to bring a criminal case or the criminal case was not successful.  Therefore, you will need an experienced Oregon personal injury lawyer to help you. 

What is meant by the term "sexual abuse?" 

In the case of adults, sexual abuse is any nonconsensual sexual contact, touching, intercourse, sexual penetration, sodomy, rape, including date rape.   

Child sexual abuse is defined more broadly.  It occurs when a person intentionally uses or attempts to use a child for their own sexual gratification.  This can include incest, rape, sodomy, sexual penetration, fondling, voyeurism and sexual harassment. It also includes intentional conduct that produces any physical injury to a child, or any mental injury which results in impairment of the child's mental or psychological ability to function caused by cruelty to the child.  

What about the emotional effects of child sexual abuse?

Persons who sexually abuse children rely on many methods to keep children from reporting the conduct.  They may be subtly coercive, such as promising favors or gifts.  Or they may be more blatant, such as a adult warning a child that if she tells anyone, the family will be broken up and everyone will blame the child; or a clergyman using his position of religious or moral authority to coerce the child.  Many abusers use threats, telling the child pets will be hurt, that siblings will be targeted, or even the child himself will be killed if he/she tells. Abusers deliberately emphasize the child’s dependency on the adult for basic necessities like food, shelter, care, etc., to make the child submit to them. 

All of these instances can be part of a claim for child sexual abuse, which can have long-lasting and severe effects on the physical and mental well-being of a person. It is also common for adults in a position of authority such as teachers, coaches, clergy members, daycare workers, babysitters, scout and club leaders, among others, to exploit their power to gain the child victim’s complicity or silence.

What if there has been no physical contact, but the child has been otherwise abused or exploited?

Sexual exploitation of a child is any other conduct which uses children in a sexually explicit way.  This includes encouraging or using children to engage in the performance of sexually explicit conduct or contact for others to observe or the photographing, filming, tape recording or other exhibition which depicts sexual conduct or contact with a child.  This also includes using children in prostitution, using children to create pornography, and online sexual corruption of a child.  

What if the abuser claims that the relationship was consensual because it was with a teenager? 

Consenting sexual relationships imply that both partners have the ability and capacity to make an informed choice without fear of harm or pressure. Oregon law does not make all sexual activity of a teen under the age of 18 illegal. The law includes defenses in some circumstances if the actor is less than three years older than the victim. Each situation is analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

However, many teens do not have a clear understanding of the difference between consensual and abusive relationships, particularly when the older party is in a position of authority as a teacher, coach, clergyman, scout leader, club leader, etc.  The following factors should be considered in determining whether a relationship may constitute child sexual abuse:

  • Distinct power differential or position of authority;

  • Significant age difference;

  • Use of force;

  • Impaired mental and/or emotional capacity, maturity level;

  • Drug or alcohol involvement;

  • Manipulation, intimidation, implied threats or other forms of coercion.

What if the victim was an adult, but I don’t think she could truly consent because she is disabled or otherwise vulnerable?

Your attorney can help you determine if an elderly or disabled adult lacked capacity from a legal standpoint to consent to sexual contact or a sexual relationship.  In general, a person is considered incapable of consenting to a sexual act if the person is: (a) under 18 years of age; (b) mentally defective; (c) mentally incapacitated; or (d) physically helpless.

I suspect that my child has been sexually abused by a teacher/clergy member/coach.  What signs should I look for? 

A child may show the following signs when he or she has been sexually abused by an adult in a position of authority:

  • Shame;

  • Guilt;

  • Low self esteem;

  • Depression;

  • Bruising/scarring;

  • Detachment;

  • Unmotivated to do school work.

Warning signs from the adult’s behavior may include:

  • The adult is overly friendly, or touches your child excessively and inappropriately;

  • The adult may frequently ask to spend alone time with your child;

  • Special privileges have been given to your child and not other children;

  • The adult may pay noticeably more attention to children then adults.

Are there other types of claims related to sexual abuse that might form part of a sexual abuse claim?

Yes, often a claim for sexual abuse will involve one of these related civil claims:

  • assault and battery—this is any unwanted touching or contact, or the threat of unwanted contact

  • unlawful restraint—this could occur in the setting of a school, daycare, church group, sports—anywhere when an adult uses his or her authority to unreasonably punish or confine a child.

  • invasion of privacy—this could involve secretly watching as children changed their clothes or used bathroom facilities, or forcing children to change in front of them.

  • intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress--any intentional conduct that results in extreme mental or motional distress. 

Are there other instances where an adult may file a claim for sexual abuse?

Yes; here are some common examples.  

  • professional exploitation-- adult victims who have been exploited by medical professionals, such as doctors, therapists, or psychiatrists,  may have a civil damages remedy. The statutes of limitation will be typically shorter than those available for survivors of child sexual abuse, but in most cases, an ongoing physician/patient relationship can extend the time period.  It is important to speak to an Oregon attorney as soon as possible. 

  • invasion of privacy/security cases-- in certain instances, an adult victim may have a claim against a property owner for failure to provide adequate security which allows for sexual voyeurism. For example, successful suits have been brought against parking lot and garage owners, hotel/motels, private owners of buildings open to the public and apartment building owners.

  • domestic torts—if there has been sexual abuse of a magnitude that is considered "extreme and outrageous" between spouses, a tort claim may be brought after the conclusion of a divorce case, although in some jurisdictions claims should be made before divorce goes to judgment.

What if the abuse happened a long time ago? Do I still have a case?

For a competent adult victim of sexual abuse, the statute of limitations in Oregon is two (2) years from the time of the abuse/injury to file a civil claim. 

However, if the sexual abuse happened to a child, the statute of limitations is “tolled” and does not begin to run until the child has reached the age of majority (18 years old) and then extended for another six (6) years; OR the statute of limitations is three (3) years from the time of the discovery of the injury that was caused by the sexual abuse or discovery of the causal connection between an injury and the sexual abuse, whichever is period is longer.

For example, if a child was sexually abused when he was 8 years old, the statute of limitations would be tolled until he turned 18 years old.  From that point, he would have another 6 years in which to file his claim, or until the time he reached 24 years old.  If the child did not remember or suffer the effects of the abuse until later in life, he would have a three year period in which to file his claim from the discovery or onset of the injury or problems caused by the abuse. The same rule may be applied to adults who lack capacity due to an injury and then later regain mental capacity. 

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Websites, including this one, provide general Oregon sex abuse information but do not provide legal advice or create an attorney / client relationship.  General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Oregon sexual abuse attorneys for advice about any specific potential claim that you have.  Oregon lawyers are governed by the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct.  This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way. 

 

Oregon sex abuse lawyers provide legal assistance to the communities of:  Portland, Gresham, Medford, Salem, Eugene, and Roseburg.

 

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