Frequently Asked Questions About Civil Justice for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

We have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions and answers regarding civil litigation rights for survivors of human trafficking or sexual abuse. Browse our FAQs to learn more about what options are available for your case, then call our office to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
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  • How Can I Report Human Trafficking?

    Closeup of girls hands holding a cell phone

    I want to help survivors of sex trafficking seek justice against those that profited off their pain. Hotels, night clubs, strip clubs and individuals often turn a blind eye and may be pocketing cash on the side. Suing the businesses that profited can provide some justice and hopefully a financial reward that can start a brighter future. 

    The first step in the fight to end sex trafficking, is knowing the signs and reporting when you suspect something wrong. The following numbers will conect survivors to a network of great people and organizations that exist to help. 

    Human Trafficking of a Child in Florida

    If you suspect human trafficking of a child in Florida or are a victim call:

    Florida Abuse Hotline

    1-800-96-ABUSE 

     (1-800-962-2873)

    Human Trafficking of an adult anywhere in the United States or of a child outside of Florida 

    Contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center:

    1-888-373-7888

    U.S. Department of Justice:

    1-888-428-7581

    Warning Signs of Sex Trafficking

    The Florida Department of Children and Families has compiled the following list of possible signs of sex trafficking. Don't turn a blind eye, if you think something is wrong, report it. 

    • Physical and sexual violence signs of abuse, such as: unexplained bruises, black eyes, cuts, or marks.
    • Exhibit behaviors including fear, anxiety, depression, submission, tension, and/or nervousness.
    • Exhibit “hyper-vigilance” or paranoid behavior.
    • Sexually exploited children and youth often express interest in, or are in relationships with, adults or older men.
    • Evidence of controlling or dominating relationships, including: repeated phone calls from a “boyfriend” and/or excessive concern about displeasing partner.
    • Unexplained shopping trips or possession of expensive clothing, jewelry, or a cell phone could indicate the manipulation of an exploiter.
    • Not in control of their own money.
    • Use of lingo or slang from “the life” among peers, or referring to a boyfriend as “Daddy.”
    • Secrecy about whereabouts.
    • Unaccounted for time, vagueness concerning whereabouts, and/or defensiveness in response to questions or concern.
    • Keeping late-night or unusual hours.
    • A tattoo that he or she is reluctant to explain may the result of tattooing or branding by a pimp. Pimps and other sexual exploiters often tattoo or brand children and youth, particularly girls. Youth are commonly branded with their exploiter’s name tattooed on the neck, chest, or arms.
    • Wearing sexually provocative clothing can be an indicator of sexual exploitation. But it should be noted, so as not to rely on stereotypes, that not all children in the commercial sex industry wear such clothing. Sexually provocative clothing is not a warning sign in and of itself. Wearing new clothes of any style, or getting hair or nails done with no financial means to this independently, is a more general indicator of potential sexual exploitation.
    • Most sexually exploited children have been trained to lie about their age. Sometimes a child’s appearance and/or actions can contradict the information they give. Be sensitive to clues in behavior or appearance that could indicate that a child is underage.
    • Personal information such as: age, name, and/or date of birth – might change with each telling of his or her story, or the information given might contradict itself.
    • Has no identification or is not in control of his or her identification documents.

    If You Have Questions Regarding Your Rights as a Survivor of Rape or Sexual Abuse

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

  • Do I Have To Use My Real Name In A Sexual Assault Law Suit?

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    Do I Have To Use My Real Name In A Law Suit For Rape?

    A survivor of sexual assault, abuse or trafficking  may file a civil lawsuit  under a pseudonym or fake name, such as John Doe or Jane Doe, with the permission of the court. In determining whether to allow a plaintiff to proceed under a pseudonym, the court must weigh the victim’s privacy interests against the need for an open judicial proceeding

    *The leading case on this subject is Doe v. Frank, which sets forth factors the court may consider when determining whether a plaintiff may proceed anonymously. In the trafficking context, one court allowed plaintiffs to proceed using pseudonyms based on the defendants’ previous use of threats as alleged in a parallel criminal indictment, and because of the
    government’s interest in protecting the identity of potential witnesses in the criminal case. In another human trafficking lawsuit, the Court allowed the plaintiffs to proceed anonymously where law enforcement officers found firearms in the home of one of the traffickers, a paralegal working for the plaintiffs’ counsel overheard family members of the defendants making threatening comments about the plaintiffs, and the Complaint includes “allegations of violence and coercion by the contractor defendants against the
    plaintiffs.” This was “sufficient to overcome the presumption of open judicial proceedings.”

    * Info from Civil Litigation on Behalf of Victims of Human Trafficking | Southern Poverty Law Center

    Doe v. Frank 

    "A plaintiff should be permitted to proceed anonymously only in those exceptional cases involving matters of a highly sensitive and personal nature, real danger of physical harm, or where the injury litigated against would be incurred as a result of the disclosure of the plaintiff's identity. The risk that a plaintiff may suffer some embarrassment is not enough." 

    I would certainly argue that a case involving sexual assault, abuse or trafficking would qualify as "matters of a highly sensitive and personal nature," in addition to the obvious safety concerns. 

    If You Have Questions Regarding Your Rights as a Survivor of Rape or Sexual Abuse

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

     

  • Do I Have To Press Charges If I Report a Rape?

    Black and white photo of hands holding a wooden heart

    You Do Not Have To Press Charges If You Call The Police Or A Victim Advocate To Report A Rape.

    A very common belief, and a very real reason why people don't want to report a sexual assault, is they think they will have to press charges and go through a criminal proceeding if they contact the police or even a victim advocate. THIS IS NOT TRUE.

    Calling the police or the Rape Crisis Hotline, (904) 721-7273, only guarantees you will get the help and support you need. The Women's Center of Jacksonville Rape Recovery Team will respond quickly and compassionately whether or not you chose to report the crime to the police. 

    The Women's Center of Jacksonville

    The team at the Women's Center will be immediate help when you call the Crisis Hotline. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Services provided will include:

    • Emotional support to survivors and their loved ones at any stage of the recovery process.
    • Inform survivors of their rights and options
    • Provide information, referrals, and long-term follow-up to assist survivors with their recovery.
    • Peer-led, empowerment-based support groups for survivors.
    • Assist survivors, who have reported the assault to the police, with navigating the criminal justice system. 
    • Advocacy services are available for non-English speakers. 

    The Women's Center also provides the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (Safe) Program.

    • Provides sexual assault forensic exams to survivors of sexual violence ages 18 and older whether or not you chose to report the crime to the police.
    • Process includes a head-to-toe medical check, including injury documentation and collection of physical evidence.
    • Exams are available within 120 hours (5 days) from the time of the assault. 

    Calling the Rape Crisis Hotline will be a great first step in an often long recovery. You will never be forced to report the assault to the police and even if you call the police, you will never be forced to press charges. You have up to two years, after having a rape kit done, to decide whether or not you want to report the crime. 

    The services provided by the Women's Center are offered free of charge to survivors of all genders in Duval, Baker and Nassau counties. 

    * information above provided by Women's Center of Jacksonville Rape Recovery Team brochure

    If You Have Questions Regarding Your Rights as a Survivor of Rape or Sexual Abuse

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

  • How Can I Report Catholic Priest Sexual Abuse in Florida?

    Inside Catholic Church

    How Can I Report Catholic Priest Sexual Abuse in Florida?

    The Attorney General's Office of Florida has launched an investigation in the past sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic Priest in Florida. This investigation rides on the tail of a similar and highly damaging and informative investigation completed in Pennsylvania where more than 1000 children had been molested since the 1940s. 

    Attorney General Pam Bondi has stated she has already received complaints from victims and that her office has spoken to several bishops overlooking the Roman Catholic Diocese in Florida. 

    This investigation is good news and a long time coming. The allegations against priest are not isolated to only certain areas of the country, they are all over the world. While the majority of priest are good people, it has been shown that there were decisions made by the church and it's leaders that helped facilitate abuse and cover it up. 

    How to Report Catholic Priest Sexual Abuse in Florida

    If you have been abused or know someone who has you can visit the Attorney General's Office website and press on the tip link. You can click here for the tip form. 

    Statute of Limitations for Claim of Sexual Abuse 

    • 7 years after age of 18
    • 4 years after leaving the dependency of the abuser
    • 4 years from the time of discovery by the injured party of both the injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the abuse, whichever occurs later.

    That last one is obviously the most confusing. The Florida legislature thankfully took into account the unique nature of sexual abuse and the often seen scenario of repressed memories. What the law allows is what is commonly called the "delayed discover rule". The 4 years statute of limitations does not begin until the victim either knows or reasonably should know of the wrongful act giving rise to the claim. So an adult who finds out many years later that he/she was abused as a child, can still sue as long as they do it within 4 years of making the discovery of the abuse. As is often the case, the issue of when someone knew or should of known, is going to be argued over. You should find an attorney who can begin putting together the timeline and building any arguments necessary to make sure your claim survives. Just know that you may still have a lawsuit even though the abuse happened years ago and you should not hesitate to reach out to an attorney for a free consultation.  

    If You Have Questions Regarding Your Rights as a Survivor of Rape or Sexual Abuse

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

     

  • How can I Protect My Child Against Sexual Abuse?

    Internet security sign

    As a naturally suspicious person and father of two young boys, I have a hard time trusting anyone around my children. The stories are endless about the horrors that some kids endure at the hands of family, friends and those they are supposed to trust. I have begun my certification process to become a Guardian Ad Litem here in Jacksonville and in the process have been studying a lot more material. 

    The Child Welfare Information Gateway has an enormous amount of information regarding sexual and physical abuse of children. The below information was compiled on one of the tip sheets provided on their website. 

    What You Can Do To Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

    It is important to keep the focus on adult responsibility while teaching children skills to help them protect themselves. Consider the following tips:

    • Take an active role in your children’s lives. Learn about their activities and people with whom they are involved. Stay alert for possible problems.
    • Watch for “grooming” behaviors in adults who spend time with your child. Warning signs may include frequently finding ways to be alone with your child, ignoring your child’s need for privacy (e.g., in the bathroom), or giving gifts or money for no particular occasion.
    • Ensure that organizations, groups, and teams that your children are involved with minimize one-on-one time between children and adults. Ask how staff and volunteers are screened and supervised.
    • Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about anything that bothers or confuses them.
    • Teach children accurate names of private body parts and the difference between touches that are “okay” and “not okay.”
    • Empower children to make decisions about their bodies by allowing them age-appropriate privacy and encouraging them to say “no” when they do not want to touch or be touched by others—even in nonsexual ways.
    • Teach children to take care of their own bodies (e.g., bathing or using the bathroom) so they do not have to rely on adults or older children for help.
    • Educate children about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe or uncomfortable).
    • Monitor children’s use of technology, including cell phones, social networking sites, and messaging. Review contact lists regularly and ask about any people you don’t recognize.
    • Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving your child with someone, don’t do it. If you are concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.
    • If your child tells you that he or she has been abused, stay calm, listen carefully, and never blame the child. Thank your child for telling you. Report the abuse right away.

    This tip sheet was created using information from Prevent Child Abuse America, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the Enough Abuse Campaign, and Stop It Now. At https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/resources/tip-sheets/, you can download this tip sheet and get more parenting tips, or call 800.394.3366.  

    If You or a Loved One Has Been the Victim of Sexual Abuse and You Have Questions

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

  • Are There Time Limitations on Suing for Sexual Abuse?

    close up of clock

    Are There Time Limitations on Suing for Sexual Abuse? 

    Yes. Florida has Statutes of Limitations for both civil and criminal cases. A statute of limitations provides how long you have in order to file a suit, once the limitations time period is over, you may be barred from ever seeking justice through the courts. Below I will provide a brief overview of the time limits placed upon suing your sexual abuser and/or having them prosecuted in criminal court. 

    Statute of Limitations for Claim of Sexual Abuse. 

    • 7 years after age of 18
    • 4 years after leaving the dependency of the abuser
    • 4 years from the time of discovery by the injured party of both the injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the abuse, whichever occurs later.

    That last one is obviously the most confusing. The Florida legislature thankfully took into account the unique nature of sexual abuse and the often seen scenario of repressed memories. What the law allows is what is commonly called the "delayed discover rule". The 4 years statute of limitations does not begin until the victim either knows or reasonably should know of the wrongful act giving rise to the claim. So an adult who finds out many years later that he/she was abused as a child, can still sue as long as they do it within 4 years of making the discovery of the abuse. As is often the case, the issue of when someone knew or should of known, is going to be argued over. You should find an attorney who can begin putting together the timeline and building any arguments necessary to make sure your claim survives. Just know that you may still have a lawsuit even though the abuse happened years ago. 

    If you want to report your case to the police and have the person prosecuted, there are also statutes of limitations.

    Statute of Limitations for a Criminal Case 

    • No statute of limitations for aggravated rape cases. These cases involve serious physical injury, weapons or sometimes more than one person.
    • No statute of limitations for for sexual battery on minor.
    • 8 years for a prosecution for a first or second degree felony violation of sexual battery, if the victim is 16 years of age or older at the time of the offense.
    • There is a DNA exception that allows for prosecution of a rapist within 1 year of discovery of the DNA match. 

    This post is only a brief summary and these laws can and do change, so help yourself by contacting an attorney who can do the proper research on any issues. 

    If You Have Questions Regarding Your Rights as a Survivor of Rape or Sexual Abuse

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.