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It’s not too late to speak out

Military can sue for past offenses even if deployed

Whether you are deployed, or at a duty station far from home, local military vet and attorney Michael McNeil can assist you with your abuse case, it's not too late for justice. File photo

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It often goes unspoken for years, but child sexual abuse is unfortunately something too many people have experienced.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, and every nine minutes, that victim is a child, yet only five out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.

Michael McNeil, retired combat engineer and now attorney with Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, knows from his work that no group is immune from these issues.

Incidents of child sexual abuse can occur in any setting where predators are able to gain the trust of their child victims. And too often, these victims never speak out, harboring the effects of this abuse for the rest of their lives. Victims of sexual abuse have significant increases in their risk for suicide, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"People regularly reach out to me about incidents that happened 20 or more years ago, and they think they have no path to justice," said McNeil.

Service members, their spouses, and family members may experience this or have experienced this in the past. Together with his colleague Darrell Cochran, they work to help victims of child sexual abuse achieve some measure of justice, even many years after the fact.

"We are proud to have secured settlements and won jury verdicts for thousands of sexual abuse victims," said Cochran. "These awards do not take away any of the pain, but we hope that the process helps our clients to move closer to healing."

In recent years the news has been flooded with cases against the Catholic Church (and its various religious orders), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church), the Boy Scouts of America, and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). But McNeil and Cochran say they have also worked with clients who experienced abuse through their affiliations with sports, summer camps, foster homes, and group homes.

Five things McNeil wants people to know:

1.     You may still have a claim even if you never reported the abuse.

2.     Many states have exceptions to the Statute of Limitations that are victim friendly.

3.     It is normal not to remember every detail about what happened - this does not  bar your claim.

4.     Anything you say to your lawyer is confidential and nothing will be made public.

5.     You are not alone.

You are encouraged to call McNeil or Cochran at 253-948-3199 if you or a family member has experienced child sexual abuse. They will assure your privacy and everything you say to them is confidential. Consultations with Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC are free, they only accept a fee if they win your case.

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