Where Do I Start?
SHOULD I REPORT MY ABUSE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT?
The decision to report to law enforcement is entirely yours. Some survivors say that reporting their abuse and seeking justice helped them recover and regain a sense of control over their lives. Understanding how to report sexual abuse and learning more about the experience can take away some of the unknowns and help you feel more prepared to make a report to law enforcement.
HOW DO I REPORT MY ABUSE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT?
You should begin with your local law enforcement agency. Most law enforcement agencies have specially trained officers who effectively communicate with victims of sexual assault. You can call them or visit the agency in person. The interview process can be complex for a victim, primarily because detectives must ask deeply personal questions. Often, victims are not familiar with the criminal justice system and find it complicated and intimidating. For this reason, there are standards in place for officers investigating and preparing these cases for prosecution. It may be helpful to have an advocate or support person with you as you go through this process.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I MAKE CONTACT WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT?
The officer will ask for basic information about the incident and draft a report. If you are in danger, the investigator will help find resources to ensure your safety and well-being. The investigative officer will try to get as many details as possible about the incident(s). The investigating officer will need to know what you thought, felt, and feared at the time of the assault. The officer will also communicate resistance to the attack. Silence at the time of the assault is not consenting to the assault.
Officers may ask questions to establish whether there were elements of premeditation or grooming behavior by the perpetrator. They will also ask questions to develop behaviors consistent with threats or force and traumatic reactions during and after the incident.
Officers might take note of your trauma or post-assault behavior, which may include changes in weight, changes in routine or work performance, changes in personality, etc.
WHAT IF THE INCIDENT HAPPENED A LONG TIME AGO?
Victims need not worry about how much time has passed when contacting law enforcement to file an official report. Criminal charges will not be accepted if the statute of limitations has expired. The statute of limitations varies by state, type of crime, victim’s age, and various other factors. It is best to report the crime to law enforcement and allow the proper authorities to determine the charges.
For filing a civil case in Louisiana, as of August 1, 2021, Louisiana allows survivors of child molestation a three-year window ending August 1, 2024, to pursue allegations in civil court regardless of how long ago the incident happened. Survivors older than 28 and who haven’t previously settled a civil case can pursue a claim in civil court no matter how long ago the assault occurred.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE INTERVIEW WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT?
The goal for law enforcement is to find probable cause to make an arrest. Apart from interviewing the victim, an investigation will include collecting evidence, locating a suspect, interviewing a suspect, and possibly getting a confession from a suspect. After completing the investigation, law enforcement will move forward with filing charges and may either obtain a warrant or forward the case to the district attorney’s office. Ultimately, the decision to formally file criminal charges is up to the state.
WILL HIRING AN ATTORNEY HELP ME WITH JUSTICE AND HEALING?
The Lamothe Law Firm in New Orleans represents sexual abuse cases in Louisiana. According to their website, “Louisiana and federal criminal laws are there to protect us, but because only a small percentage of perpetrators are sent to jail, justice in the criminal courts is rarely achieved. Fortunately, victims of sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse can seek compensation from their assailants through lawsuits in civil court.”
Regardless of whether the perpetrator has been criminally charged, the victim is entitled to file a civil lawsuit to recover damages for the physical, emotional, and psychological harms they have suffered. Sometimes, a plaintiff can also bring a civil sexual abuse lawsuit against an organization such as an employer, a religious organization, or prison or correctional facility, the organization may be held responsible for the abuse when the organization’s negligence allowed the abuse to occur or when the organization turned a blind eye to the abuse.”
HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT ME?
Because of our family’s experience, we recommend that any survivor of sexual abuse or trauma seek an attorney specializing in Sexual Abuse and Sexual Trauma. You may want to consider an attorney who does not live in the Diocese where the abuse occurred.
According to Kristi Schubert with Lamothe Law Firm, “There are lots of specialized laws that only apply in sexual abuse cases. Attorneys who don’t regularly pursue these types of cases won’t always know about those types of laws. It is especially important for the plaintiff’s lawyer to know about the evidence rules that provide special protections to survivors of sexual abuse to protect their privacy and dignity. It is also important because in the general public and even among lawyers, there is an enormous amount of misinformation about how survivors of sexual violence will be affected. An attorney who is not trauma-informed may re-traumatize the survivor and may misunderstand key parts of the case because they simply don’t have the background knowledge to understand how sexual abuse is processed in the mind.”
The TentMakers of Louisiana, the website provides general information that is intended, but not guaranteed, to be correct and up to date. The information is not presented as a source of legal advice. You should not rely, for legal advice, on statements or representations made within the website or by any externally referenced Internet sites. Consult a competent, independent attorney if you need legal advice upon which you intend to rely during your legal affairs. The Tent Makers of Louisiana does not assume any responsibility for actions or non-actions taken by people who have visited this site, and no one shall be entitled to a claim for detrimental reliance on any information provided or expressed.
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