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It is hard to know what to say when someone you are close to tells you they were sexually violated. Your response at that time can make a difference. Here are some thoughts to consider:
- Don’t judge. Survivors make an outcry when they are psychologically ready to do so. You should not press for details if they are unwilling to share. It is important to say “it’s not your fault.” They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to provide support. Let the survivor control the narrative.
- Be Affirmative. Acknowledge the trauma. Say the words “I believe you.” or “You can trust me.” Survivors often blame themselves even if they know the perpetrator. Words matter.
- Offer Help. Part of victimization is feeling helpless. Offer to accompany them to a Rape Crisis Center or go with them to report to law enforcement. The survivor might also need help seeking medical or counseling even if the event happened a while ago.
- Continue to care. Check in with the survivor to remind them you still care about their well-being and believe their story.
- Seek out resources. Become familiar with resources in your community (local Rape crisis centers) or on-line resources you can recommend such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673) and org.
The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt exclusively represents victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault. We stand ready to help you with your legal needs. If you were sexually assaulted or sexually abused, our law firm can help explain your legal remedies. For almost twenty years, we have represented victims of sex crimes in civil cases against institutions, including colleges and universities, religious organizations, such as the Catholic church, Baptist church, Greek Orthodox church, Episcopal Church, and Presbyterian church among others. We have also represented victims of sexual abuse in schools, youth sports organizations, youth camps, daycares, scouting and the like. You may confidentially contact our office at 214-503-7300 or through our website : https://tkmlawfirm.com/.
Like and Follow us on social media. We post articles and other information helpful to survivors, including current media on abuse cases nationwide, wellness, self-care and other mental health news.
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By Michael Bettencourt On March 22, 2017
Tahira Khan Merritt Child abuse, Rape Victims, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Sexual exploitation, Sexual violence Abuse, attorney, civil, counsel, criminal, law enforcement, lawyer, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual violence, Substance Abuse 0
Child Sexual Abuse is a National Problem.
A national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control estimates 12.3% of female rape victims and 27.8% of male rape victims were first raped when they were age 10 or younger. The fact is the majority of sexual assaults – some studies put the number at 60% – are never reported.
What is the difference between civil sex-abuse litigation and criminal sex-abuse prosecution?
Civil claims are brought by victims against wrongdoers—perpetrators and enablers– to recover money damages for their injuries. Criminal actions are brought by the state to assess societal punishment against wrongdoers for their actions.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time allowed by law that a person can bring suit against any potential wrongdoers and enablers who caused or contributed to injury. While civil statutes of limitations can be retroactive, criminal statutes of limitations cannot. What this means is that once a criminal statutes of limitations runs out, even a guilty perpetrator cannot be criminally charged, thus placing more children in harm’s way. But again, importantly, civil statutes of limitations can be applied retroactively in child sexual abuse cases.
Civil statutes of limitations vary from state to state and from claim to claim. For example, limitations applicable to a lawsuit based on personal injury is different from one based on a contract disputes. To make matters more complicated, each state may have statutes of limitations set to begin “running” at different time periods, depending on the nature of the case. For example, some statutes of limitations begin to “run” at the time of the injury and others when the injury is discovered. In cases where minors are involved, limitations are “tolled” or suspended until minors turn eighteen. Finally, in some rare instances, statutes of limitations are indefinitely suspended due to the plaintiff’s incapacity or mental defect.
What is “Window Legislation”?
Civil statutes of limitations are created by state legislatures, so they can be changed. Thus, a legislature can enact so-called “Window Legislation”, which essentially allows a specified period of time during which civil claims that would otherwise have been barred by law can be brought to court. In other words, it allows victims who were abused as children access to the courts regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
Why Texans Needs A Window For Child Abuse Victims
Current Civil Statutes of Limitations favor the abusers over the victims.
Currently in Texas the civil statute of limitations extends five years after the victim turns eighteen if the injury is based on sexual assault. In other words, victims of sexual assault must file a civil suit before their twenty-third birthday. The reality is that most victims find the courage to speak out and confront their abuser only after the statute of limitations has run out. The consensus among experts in the mental health field is that child victims of sexual abuse frequently repress and suppress memories associated with the event until their adult years. Further, children who have been sexually abused are often not diagnosed with depression or anxiety until they are in thirties, forties and even fifties.
A Window protects potential victims by identifying predators.
Public disclosure in civil proceedings of previously unknown predators prevents other il proceeding prevents tir rther, children who have been sexually abused are often not diagnosed with depression or anxichildren from being abused in the future since predators usually prey on more than one victim. By bringing a civil claim and identifying a predator, a victim who was not able to bring criminal charges timely can still protect other children by the same abuser from committing additional sex crimes in the future.
Access to court offers closure for victims—and justice.
Law is designed to provide remedies– to right wrongs. A legislative window simply provides former child victims a specified and limited time period within which they as adults, can have access to the courts. The burden of proof in a civil case is still on the person bringing the suit to prove that the abuse occurred, that legal injuries resulted from it and that, in short, the complaint has merit and is not frivolous. Our legal system has procedural rules in place to discourage the filing of frivolous claims.
 Black M, Basile KC, Breiding MJ, Smith SG, Walters ML, Merrick MT, Chen J, Stevens MR. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey(NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2011.
 Justice Department, National Crime Victimization Survey: 2008-2012
Tahira Khan Merritt Campus rape, Rape Victims, Sexual Assault, Sexual violence, Title IX Abuse, assault, campus, Campus rape, college, criminal, law enforcement, Rape, schools, Sexual Abuse, Substance Abuse, university 0
July 31st, 2014
As reported in today’s New York Times, on Wednesday, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation designed to address the shocking number of reported sexual assaults on college campuses across this country. The measure would require transparency for schools to make public the result of anonymous surveys concerning the assaults. Further, the proposed legislation would impose penalties on universities and colleges for failing to comply with some of the law’s requirements. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/31/us/college-sexual-assault-bill-in-senate.html?_r=0
The legislation is in response to a White House a task force formed in January to address the issue, which found that one in five female college students in the United States has been sexually assaulted. (https://www.notalone.gov/) . Subsequently, the Department of Education released the names of 55 colleges and universities that are under investigation for their handling of sexual assault complaints. It was the first time a comprehensive list of colleges under investigation for potential violations of federal antidiscrimination law under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was made public, further pressuring Congress to act.
Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, the primary proponent of the bill, said : “Very rarely does a bill become a truly collaborative process, and this bill has been truly collaborative and bipartisan,”
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault at a college or university, you should report this crime to local law enforcement immediately.
The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt stands ready to help you with your legal needs. We have exclusively represented victims of sex crimes in civil cases against institutions that have aided and abetted perpetrators such as, churches, schools, universities and colleges, daycare centers, youth camps, scouting organizations, military schools and the like since 1996. You may confidentially contact our office at 214-503-7300 or through our website : https://tkmlawfirm.com/.
One of our previous cases was in the news again this week. Former Catholic priest John Fiala was sentenced on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 to 30 years in prison for having sexually abused a teenage boy, his own parishioner, my former client. Fiala is already serving 60 years for solicitation of capital murder of this same victim, who stood committed to testifying against him. http://www.ksat.com/content/pns/ksat/news/2014/12/03/former-priest-guilty-in-sex-assault-of-teen.html
At the time of the relevant assaults, Fiala was assigned as Pastor of Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Rocksprings, Texas. His other assignments included Beeville, Robstown, Harper, Camp Wood, Leakey, and San Antonio. Before being transferred to Texas, Fiala worked as a priest in the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska.
My office represented Fiala’s victim in a civil case filed on April 8, 2010 in Bexar county, Texas against the Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Archdiocese of Omaha. The lawsuit against these Church entities was settled in 2011 shortly after an informant notified me that a priest named “Fiala” was apparently serious about killing the boy he had sexually abused and had asked him to arrange the killing. I immediately informed law enforcement, who arrested him in a sting operation. The “gunman” Fiala “hired” was an undercover officer.
By filing the civil case and pressing criminal charges against wrongdoers such as Fiala, victims like my client can more nearly achieve justice. The courage of my client may well have prevented countless other children from being abused his predator. This civil case encouraged other victims and witnesses to come forward, not just to help, but to find their own measure of closure.
The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt exclusively represents victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault. We stand ready to help you with your legal needs. If you were sexually assaulted or sexually abused, our law firm can help explain your legal remedies. For almost twenty years, we have represented victims of sex crimes in civil cases against institutions, including colleges and universities, religious organizations, such as the Catholic church, Baptist church, Greek Orthodox church, Episcopal Church, and Presbyterian church among others. We have also represented victims of sexual abuse in schools, youth sports organizations, youth camps, daycares, scouting and the like. You may confidentially contact our office at 214-503-7300 or through our website : https://tkmlawfirm.com/. You can also become a fan of our firm on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We post articles and other information helpful to survivors, including current media on abuse cases nationwide, wellness, self-care and other mental health news.