Articles Posted in Sexual Abuse Injury Attorney

A bill approved Tuesday allows victims who suffered abuse at two Florida reform schools to seek financial compensation for their suffering. 

The passing of the bill (6-1 by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee) means that former inmates at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna and the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee are now eligible to get state certification for any instances of physical, mental or sexual abuse. This in turn allows the victims to file lawsuits for their claims of physical and psychological abuse that occurred at the reform schools between 1940 and 1975. 

Family members of any former inmates who have passed away would not be granted the right to file a claim on their behalf. 

teenager-422197_1920-300x199A formal apology by the Legislature for the abuse at these facilities was issued in 2017. The Dozier reform school opened its doors in 1900 and closed down in 2011. In 1995, the Okeechobee school was opened to help with overcrowding at Dozier. 

There were 55 nameless graves found at some point over the years at the Dozier School, and it is believed that the facility is responsible for at least 100 deaths. 

Reform schools were started as an alternative for jail or prison for troubled youth. These facilities are now called youth correctional institutions and are highly regimented and follow a penitentiary-like model with the hopes of providing youth that are struggling with emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues the support, structure, and personalized help they need to create a better life. However, many of these facilities are rampant with predators who harm the juveniles in their care, and sadly this abuse often goes unreported. 

Minors in reform schools or youth correctional institutions reside in dormitory-like rooms or jail cells. Administrators, police officers, teachers, and other adults working in the facility tend to become surrogate parents and spend most of the day with the youth in their care and even supervise them at night. This additional access makes it even easier for instances of abuse to occur. Sexual predators are able to abuse innocent children countless times. Due to the fact that children in these facilities are already labeled as “troubled” or “criminals” they are less likely to report any abuse because they do not think anyone will believe them or that the abuse will be worse if they do tell.  

Parents who must leave their children in these facilities must place a  great deal of trust in the institution’s ability to protect their children from harm and provide a safe haven. Our Florida Sexual Abuse Victims Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you hold the institution responsible your abuse or your child’s abuse accountabel for failing to protecting the youth left in their care. Even if the abuse occurred years ago, we are here to go over all of your legal remedies with you. We want to make sure you fully understand all of your legal options for achieving justice.  Continue reading

A youth track and field coach in Miami Gardens was recently arrested for raping a 14-year-old athlete in 2010 and molesting her sister last year, according to reports. 

The 45-year-old coach was charged with numerous counts of sexual battery on a minor and lewd and lascivious molestation on a child. 

The man’s accuser, now 24, said she recently found out the man molesting her younger sister which gave her the courage to speak up now about what the man did to her. 

race-4187747_1920-300x200The woman told police that the man sexually assaulted her three times when she was an athlete on his track team. She said he had sex with her twice in his car and once at his apartment. She was at the man’s apartment because she was spending the night due to an early track meet the next day. 

The woman told authorities she never reported the abuse when it was happening because she knew the man was well liked in the community and she did not want to get in trouble. 

The woman went on to tell police that the man made sexual advances against her younger sister in 2018 when she was 14. In July of 2019 he allegedly offered the teen $200 in exchange for sex. Then, reports indicate that later that month the man apparently came to the teen’s home unannounced while she was alone and tried to kiss her and pull her shirt down in her bedroom, but she was able to get away from the man. 

He is currently jailed with no bond. 

The man is claiming he is innocent and will fight the charges. 

Athletic coaches are placed in a position of trust and authority with children. We don’t like to think that someone that devotes their time to young kids would mistreat or harm them in any way, but the sad truth is that sexual predators are everywhere and they only think of themselves and their deviant needs. 

Those that are victims of sexual assault by their athletic coaches usually suffer emotional and psychological harm that far exceeds any physical injuries. They are often left unable to trust or build meaningful and fulfilling relationships with others, which can lead to self-destructive behavior due to their shame and low self-esteem all dating back to the abuse. 

Our Florida Athletic Coach Sexual Abuse Lawyers at Whittel & Melton have significant experience throughout the state wherein child abuse is alleged and brought to light in the courtroom. By working together we can provide you with the support, understanding, and legal expertise you need to expose what happened to you and achieve a sense of justice for the physical, emotional, and psychological damage that was unfairly inflicted upon you. 

We know how brave abuse victims are to come forward and share their story. We encourage anyone that might be afraid to speak out to let us help. Research studies have been conducted that indicate that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 12.5 boys will be victims of child sex assault/abuse. Moreover, around 80% of child sex abuse victims will not tell anyone about their trauma until they are adults. We want to assure you that there is absolutely no shame in confronting what was done to you. We will keep your case and any details you share strictly confidential while we guide you through what to expect from the legal process. We will always strive to meet your best interests.

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The Louisiana State University athletic department is accused of ignoring numerous complaints regarding sexual assaults involving a top running back in 2016 and 2017, Derrius Guice.

Two women made complaints to LSU officials regarding the football player raping them and another said the man snapped a nude photo of her and shared it with his teammates, but the school did nothing to investigate the complaints despite the fact that the school’s own policies along with federal laws require them to take all sexual misconduct allegations seriously and report them to the Title IX office for investigation as well as campus police when these alleged incidents occur on school property. 

USA Today looked into the the school’s alleged misconduct and found that the school ignored sexual misconduct repeatedly, not just with their star running back. 

Their investigation found that at least seven LSU officials were aware of wide receiver Drake Davis strangling and physically abusing his girlfriend, but failed to take action against the man and continued to let the abuse occur. 

In another incident, a fraternity member sexually assaulted two women, but the school refused to move him out of classes he shared with one of the victims and ignored a third complaint made against him by a third female victim. 

There were three other cases where male students were found responsible for sexual assaults and LSU let them stay in school rather than suspending or expelling them. The men received a probation period called a “deferred suspension.” 

And in a fourth case, a male student who was found to be stalking and sexually harassing another student was also given a deferred suspension. 

LSU has released statements saying they are focused on putting an end to sexual assaults on campus, but their actions show otherwise. 

The school has been “hush hush” regarding how they have handled numerous sexual misconduct complaints dating back to 2016 and continuing through 2020, many involving football players that include two prized players from the 2020 national championship team. The school has refused to release several campus police reports, which has resulted in them being sued. 

You can read more about USA Today’s investigation findings here

Title IX and Sexual Misconduct on College Campus

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Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 covers sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual discrimination in high schools, colleges, and universities. Under federal laws, high schools, colleges, and universities must have procedures in place when it comes to handling claims of sexual misconduct on campus. Once the school has been made aware of a student who is the alleged victim of sexual misconduct, they are required to take immediate action and launch an investigation into the matter. They cannot ignore any of these claims as they are required by law to put an end to the misconduct and prevent any further incidents of misconduct. 

There is Help for Victims of Campus Sexual Attacks 

If you have bene the victim of a sexual assault on a college campus in Florida, you are not alone. Sexual misconduct on college campuses happens at a disturbing rate. Our Campus Sexual Assault Victims Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are ready and able to help you through this difficult time. We take these cases very seriously and will fight aggressively to make sure your abuser and the school that let this abuse happen are held accountable for their actions.  

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priest-3621038_1280-300x169Hearing about sex abuse cases against the Catholic Church is nothing new. But, a new Supreme Court ruling could affect whether individuals who were victims of sex crimes by members of the Roman Catholic Church can still proceed with their cases due to expired statutes of limitations. 

In Pennsylvania, a ruling from Blair County is currently on appeal to the state Supreme Court. The case: Rice v. Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The Blair County of Common Pleas found that the statute of limitations on this case had run out since the last instance of abuse occurred when the victim was 14 – in 1981. The court ruled that the statute of limitations expired in 1987 and dismissed the lawsuit. 

However, in June 2019, a three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed the ruling based on the fact that Rice does not claim her suffering stopped in the 70’s and 80’s with the molestation, but she developed new injuries from the civil conspiracy 2016 Grand Jury Report, which if proven could mean that she was well within her two-year statute of limitations. 

A decision is expected in this case by 2021, and could mean a rise in similar cases against the Church. 

An annual audit of Catholic Church sex abuse conducted every year since 2002 shows that 4,434 allegations of sex abuse involving minors was reported for 2019. In 2018, there were 1,451 cases of sexual misconduct reported. In 2017, 693 cases. In 2016, 1,318 cases and in 2015, 903 cases. 

Sexual abuse cases involving the Catholic Church are rampant across the United States. Sadly, the Church made the decision to try and cover up these cases rather than do the right thing and hold abusers accountable for their inappropriate sexual conduct. The cycle of abuse has continued for so long that it is impossible to know exactly how many survivors of this abuse there really are. 

Sexual abuse can involve any type of unwanted or unwelcome sexual activity, such as molestation, rape, sexual assault, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, unwelcome touching with our without clothing, etc. 

The aftermath of sexual abuse can be absolutely devastating. The injuries suffered do not stop when the abuse does, as this case demonstrates. Being the victim of sexual abuse can last a lifetime. Sleep disorders and depression are all common after surviving sexual abuse as well as substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide. Minors that are victims of sex abuse may experience all kind of behavioral changes, such as eating disorders, partaking in risky behavior, using drugs and alcohol, and even become overly sexualized. 

If you or someone you care about has been the victim of sexual abuse, our Florida Church Sex Abuse Lawyers at Whittel & Melton want to help you file a lawsuit against the person responsible for your abuse as well as the institution who failed to prevent the abuse. You may have the right to seek financial compensation for various damages, such as medical bills, bills related to therapy, and loss of income. You may also be eligible to recover punitive damages from your abuser. This is a financial award meant to punish those who have committed sexual abuse as well as the insitututions that allowed the abuse to take place or even tried to hide the fact that it was happening. 

We understand how hard it can be to speak up about what happened to you, but we encourage all abuse survivors to do so as it can hold the person as well as the organization responsible for their actions as well as protect the rights of others who have suffered abuse. When you stand up to an organization, like the Catholic Church, you are fighting for justice for your abuse, but also protecting others from suffering from the same type of abuse. 

We want to help you speak your truth and find some peace. We know that nothing can ever change what was done to you, but we want your voice to be heard so that you can continue to move forward with your life. We want to see you compensated appropriately for your suffering and try and prevent any episodes of further sexual abuse. We want you to know that we are here for you and will fight for your rights. 

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Changes to Title IX laws are slated to go into effect August 14 that are binding for K-12 and post-secondary institutions. 

The revision, which is 2,033 pages, no longer requires college coaches and other staff members to report any cases of sexual abuse or harassment to the Title IX office. 

football-557565_1280-300x200The new regulations also give schools the choice of what standard of proof they wish to follow and award more protections to those accused. Our Sex Assault Victims Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have outlined everything you need to know to understand the new changes. 

Under the current Title IX laws, college coaches and other staff members are mandated to report any findings of sexual assault or sexual discrimination to the Title IX office or any other appropriate channels. This is what has contributed to so many schools being found liable in numerous high-profile sex crimes cases. A recent case involving Michigan State resulted in the school being fined $4.5 million for failing to handle sex assault allegations appropriately against Larry Nassar, a former sports medicine physician for Michigan State University. 

These new changes are being implemented for the sheer sake of protecting the victim, according to Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education and other government officials. The government believes that many sex crimes victims might wish to keep quiet about their sexual assault incident. The new regulations support a student’s right to not share their personal information or wish to have a formal investigation launched. 

Employees of K-12 schools are required to report any allegations of sexual assault when minors are involved and they must investigate once a formal complaint is filed. 

The goal of the new regulations is to create an environment where all students can learn free from sex discrimination and strengthen protections for victims of sexual assault. However, this could mean the exact opposite for victims. The new regulations could make it more difficult for survivors of sexual assault on campus. 

Title IX revisions may not keep coaches and other staff members from reporting any allegations of sexual abuse. NCAA and the U.S. Center for SafeSport mandate that all coaches, administrators, all other athletics staff, and student athletes report any suspected crimes of sexual violence to campus police or appropriate campus  offices for further investigation. The NCAA recently added on a new policy requiring any sexual acts of violence that resulted in investigation or a criminal conviction to be added into an annual report. This is their effort to address violent sex crimes and keep student athletes from transferring to a different school without them being aware of the transgression. 

With that said, despite the new Title IX revision, colleges and universities very well may still require coaches and athletic staff members to still report any allegations of sexual abuse. Schools can adopt their own reporting policies.  

Unde the new Title IX revisions, schools are now only required to report alleged incidents that happen on campus or during off campus school events, such as a fraternity or sorority event or even a football or basketball away game at another campus. This excludes any students studying abroad as well as any students that are the victims of sex crimes in off campus apartments or houses. 

All allegation of sexual abuse, harassment or assault will require the school to have a live hearing that is quite similar to legal proceedings in criminal court. Cross examinations will be allowed, but students will not be permitted to question one another.  

The new Title IX rules state that college and universities can choose what standard of proof they want to follow: 

  1. Clear and convincing evidence: the evidence is more likely to be true than false. 
  2. Preponderance of evidence: 51% of the evidence demonstrates the accused committed the crime.

It is actually quite common for sexual assaults to happen on college campuses. Often, these cases involve students, athletes, and coaches or team doctors. Doctors, coaches, and other administrative staff are in positions of power and trust, and they can use their authority to take advantage of young adults or even underage minors. 

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A well-known team doctor at the University of Michigan has been accused of sexually abusing former students while performing medical exams. Coaches and other staff members are also accused of being aware of the misconduct, but looked the other way. 

In total, 53 students have accused Dr. Robert Anderson of molesting them. These former students also say they reported the sex crimes to the football coach Bo Schembechler and athletic director Don Canham, as well as others. 

The doctor was with the school for nearly 40 years until 2003. 

The President of the University of South Florida, Steven Currall, along with other school officials, have launched an investigation into alleged sexual assaults that took place on campus involving both former and current students. 

There have been numerous women recounting stories of sexual assault amongst the Greek community on the USF campus. The allegations have all come after a former student took to her Twitter account recently to tell her story. 

people-3154439_1920-300x200The 23-year-old said she was attacked in 2017 by a friend and member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. She said she was taken advantage of after a night of partying led to her having too much to drink.  

pinewood-derby-736434_1920-300x200A new string of lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) were filed Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court related to the organization letting sex abuse to repeatedly happen for decades dating back to its founding in 1910. 

A total of 21 new lawsuits filed charge 14 adult scout leaders with partaking in the sex abuse of children multiple times starting in 1954.

The lawsuit says sexual abuse within the BSA has been going on throughout the organization’s 110 years. 

Joaquin Garcia, 50, the leader of the Guadalajara-based La Luz del Mundo — The Light of the World — was arrested Monday at Los Angeles International Airport and was being held in lieu of $25 million bail after being accused of human trafficking and much more.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced on Tuesday that mega-church leader Joaquin Garcia and others associated with him face charges of human trafficking, production of child pornography, forcible rape of a minor, among other felonies.

Becerra says Garcia committed the crimes between 2015 and 2018 while leading La Luz Del Mundo, an international religious organization headquartered in Mexico with over one million followers reported worldwide.

In the criminal complaint, it is alleged that García and his “co-defendants” allegedly coerced victims into performing sexual acts by telling them that if they went against any of his desires or wishes as “the Apostle,” that they were going against God.

The criminal complaint alleges, among other acts, that Ocampo directed minors to perform “flirty” dances for Garcia “wearing as little clothing as possible.” Ocampo also allegedly ordered various minors to “take off their clothing and touch each other sexually.”

The complaint also alleges that Garcia kissed and groped a 15-year-old girl in his office, and that he and Ocampo forcibly raped an underage girl. Garcia, Ocampo and Oaxaca also allegedly performed sex acts on an underage girl, according to the complaint.

Ocampo also allegedly instructed three underage girls to take nude photos of themselves to send to Garcia, telling them to “take photos without their underwear and with their legs open.”

 

The other individuals named in the complaint are Alondra Ocampo, Azalea Rangel Melendez, and Susana Medina Oaxaca, all of whom are affiliated with La Luz Del Mundo. In addition to García, Alondra Ocampo and Susana Medina Oaxaca were also arrested.

An arrest warrant has also been issued for Azalea Rangel Melendez, who is currently at large.

Anyone who believed they may have been a victim of sexual abuse or have information about incidents of sexual misconduct related to anyone who may be involved in this case is asked to call 323-765-2100 or you can file a complaint online here.

Sexual abuse by any member of the church or clergy, regardless of the faith, is very tough on victims. Our Florida Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are highly aware of the importance of faith in peoples’ lives and how devastating it can be when abuse shakes that faith. We have seen how priests and clergy members abuse their positions of power, just like other sexual abusers, to take advantage of their congregation members to commit their crimes. Their victims are both female and male, adults and children.

When you have been abused by a church member and are brave enough to come forward, you are not turning your back on your faith. Asking your church, temple, synagogue or mosque to take your claim of clergy sex abuse seriously is a matter of enforcing the law. Religious institutions in the state of Florida, or elsewhere in the country, are not above the law when it comes to sexual assaults and sexual abuse.

We are very familiar with the process of “grooming,” in which a trusted person in authority pays extra special attention to a potential victim, often for months before the abuse starts. Grooming is what bonds the victim to the abuser, so that when the abuse starts, the victim feels helpless to do anything about it. The grooming process may involve attacking the victim’s self-esteem and attempts to isolate the victim from family and friends, so that the victim will not feel like they can tell them what is happening.

Victims of church or clergy abuse, sexual assault, and sex abuse deserve justice, which can be obtained in the civil justice system. By filing a civil suit, this allows victims to seek financial compensation for the physical, mental, emotional and economic damages caused by the abuse. Sadly, many sex abuse victims don’t know of their right to seek monetary damages. 

Sexual abuse, child molestation, priest and clergy abuse, sexual assault, and other sex crimes are all too common and are often perpetrated by people we trust such as:

  • Teachers
  • Coaches
  • Day care center employees
  • Priests or religious leaders
  • Camp counselors
  • Doctors, dentists, counselors, psychologists and therapists

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Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis was first elected to the City Commission in 1996, became mayor in 2004 and has been reelected three times, twice unopposed.

Now, as Ortis campaigns for what he says could be his final term at age 76, he faces not only his biggest political challenge yet from Commissioner Angelo Castillo, but also an allegation of sexual assault in a civil lawsuit that will play out in Broward County court as the March election approaches.

A former employee at a Pembroke Pines restaurant that Ortis co-owns, Mayor’s Cafe & Bagel Emporium, says the mayor sexually assaulted her in his car in April 2016 and then harassed her repeatedly at work. The mayor claims the incidents never happened and is counter-suing for defamation.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the claims after the accuser reported them to Pembroke Pines police in late 2017. The department said last October that it couldn’t find enough evidence to charge him with a crime.

The woman is pushing ahead with the civil suit, which she filed in March 2018.

She says that shortly after she was hired as a cashier at the restaurant, Ortis asked her to meet him in the parking lot of nearby Pembroke Lakes Golf and Racquet Club after her shift ended. After Ortis told her to get into his car, she says, Ortis repeatedly tried to initiate a sexual encounter.

According to the complaint, Ortis grabbed her hand and forced it onto his pants. He then tried to unbuckle his pants and pull her hand back onto his groin, the complaint says, as the woman moved her hand away. She says Ortis then tried to unbuckle her pants, touched one of her breasts, and “forced his tongue into her mouth.”

The woman says she pulled away multiple times and kept asking Ortis “why he was doing this.”

Ortis told the Herald last week that the claims were entirely fabricated. He added that FDLE “completely exonerated [him] of any wrongdoing.”

After the woman’s lawsuit was filed, Ortis produced travel documents showing he was in Washington, D.C., for business on April 19, 2016, the day the woman initially said the assault took place. In an amended complaint, she said she incorrectly recalled the date and that the incident had actually taken place a week earlier.

There has yet to be a court hearing in the civil suit almost 21 months after it was filed. A trial has not been scheduled.

The lawsuit focuses on the alleged incident in the mayor’s car, but the woman’s report to local police and the subsequent FDLE investigation also delved into her claims about Ortis’ behavior at his restaurant.

The November 2017 police report says that, when she returned to work after the incident in the car, Ortis began asking her crude questions, touching her inappropriately, and pressuring her to send him nude pictures of herself.

The woman told police that Ortis asked her, “Do you want to have anal sex?” and told her, “You have nice tits.” She also said that, in the narrow area behind the counter at the cafe, Ortis would sometimes “grab her buttocks.”

The police report says the woman “was afraid to confront Ortis because she did not want to lose her job.”

Ortis’ counterclaim says the woman posted defamatory reviews of Mayor’s Cafe online that referred to Ortis’ inappropriate behavior.

In a Google review, according to court documents, the woman wrote: “mayor is too busy sexually harassing his female employees.” On Yelp, Benjamin wrote a comment referencing Ortis and the #MeToo movement.

These statements, Ortis’ counterclaim says, “were intended to wrongfully extract monies from [Ortis], who [the woman] knew was a public figure in the community and could potentially be harmed by the false and salacious allegations.”

In an October 2018 close-out memorandum detailing the FDLE investigation, Broward County Assistant State Attorney Christopher Killoran said investigators couldn’t find enough evidence to corroborate the woman’s claims.

Investigators interviewed the woman’s boyfriend, who said the woman relayed to him that Ortis “constantly harassed her and touched her.”

A forensic analysis of the boyfriend’s phone turned up two relevant text messages, including one on an unspecified date in which the woman said she was “filing sexual harassment on [the] mayor.”

In another message from March 17, 2017, the woman told her boyfriend: “I didn’t tell u mayor pulled out his [expletive] and grabbed my hand and put it on his [expletive] and I pulled it off and got so fast out his car.”

Killoran said the fact that the message was sent almost a year after the alleged incident “is not an issue.” Rather, he wrote, the two text messages were not enough to corroborate the woman’s testimony that she had “repeatedly” told her boyfriend about the mayor’s behavior.

“Both the lack of text messages reflecting this coupled with only one text being sent 11 months later contradicts her testimony,” Killoran wrote.

FDLE investigators also took statements from at least three female employees and a manager at Mayor’s Cafe. According to the close-out memo, none of them said they had seen inappropriate behavior by Ortis.

Several employees, however, told investigators they knew the woman had once sent a nude photo to Ortis and the manager.

Ortis acknowledged that he received a nude photo from the woman, but he said it was unsolicited. He told investigators that he and the woman “were friendly and texted,” but that nothing inappropriate ever happened.

The woman told police that Ortis was “constantly pressuring her” to send him nude photos and that he persisted even after she said no. She said she finally sent him a picture of herself in a bathing suit because she was afraid of losing her job.

The police report says the woman believes she was ultimately fired from the restaurant in June 2016 because she “rebuffed Ortis’ sexual advances.”

After the woman’s boyfriend visited the restaurant one day, Ortis asked her if the man was her boyfriend and asked a crude question about their relationship, according to the police report. She says she was fired the next time she showed up for work when the manager claimed $70 had gone missing from her cash drawer.

The woman denied taking any money from the restaurant and said she thought the manager was acting at Ortis’ direction. Ortis told investigators that wasn’t true and that he briefly rehired the woman “because he felt sorry for her,” but that she put in her notice a week later.

The woman also filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2017, according to the police report. An EEOC spokesperson said the agency doesn’t comment on the complaints it receives.

Ortis said that, in his more than 20 years in office, he has never faced any complaints for harassment. A copy of his personnel file obtained by the Herald through a public records request did not include any complaints.

In the state of Florida, victims of sexual abuse can take their abusers to civil court to recover financial compensation for their suffering. If you or someone you love is considering taking an abuser to court, our Florida Sexual Abuse Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to help you. 

Criminal charges are different from civil suits. Criminal charges are only meant to punish the abuser, so that they do not commit further crimes in the community. A civil suit on the other hand, focuses on the harm done to you. Your civil suit will be all about you, your suffering, and the compensation you deserve. 

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