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Filing suit for sexual abuse

Here’s how to fight back

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Sexual abuse and assault impact millions of Americans across the country each year. These acts of blatant disregard for others inflict physical trauma and emotional distress.

A civil sexual assault lawsuit can help survivors recover damages for the harm inflicted.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAIN), survivors usually experience a range of immediate and long-lasting mental and emotional damage, to include:

Depression, flashbacks, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), shock, self-harm/suicide, dissociation, panic attacks, substance abuse, eating disorders, and sleep disorders. These conditions are serious and can have serious negative consequences on an individual’s life.

Legal options may be available, including filing a civil lawsuit. The first step is to talk with an attorney who has experience in this area of the law.

During your initial conversation, the attorney will evaluate if there is a statue of limitations and a case. If these two considerations are satisfied and the survivor still wants to go forward, then the attorney will spell out all of the available legal options.

In a recent conversation with Michael McNeil of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC (PCVA) in Tacoma (, he laid out four things to considerwhen seeking legal representation.

1.    Due to the sensitive nature of the abuse, many survivors hesitate to report sexual abuse. Survivors can obtain substantial compensation in sexual abuse cases without having their names publicly disclosed. Make sure to discuss with the attorney how they will protect your privacy.

2.    You are not alone. The shame, secrecy, self-blame and self-doubt that a survivor struggles against is very common. You may find some healing through discovering the commonality of your experience(s); and by ensuring your assailant(s) is held accountable.

3.    Ensure the attorney is committed to treating you with the utmost respect, compassion and understanding.

4.    In most sexual abuse civil lawsuits, the victim doesn’t pay unless the case is successful. If the attorney wins the case, payment for services will come as a part of the settlement or verdict. Ask the attorney how they are paid.

Fellow PCVA lawyer Darrell Cochran added that lawyers who represent sexual abuse survivors are skilled at uncovering the relevant facts of the abuse without going into unnecessary details.

Through the process of discovery, which can last over a year, witnesses are deposed and experts are consulted in order to build a strong case for trial. In reality, close to 95 percent of sexual abuse cases are settled before a trial is held, and of the five percent that do go into a courtroom, 95 percent of these never reach a jury verdict.

If and when there is a settlement, the decision to accept or reject it always remains with the survivor.

PCVA does not charge for consultations, and in fact, you only pay if you receive a judgment from the court or a settlement. Call Mike McNeil or Darrell Cochran at (253) 289-1412.


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