Civil Litigation Information
Increased news coverage and awareness of child sexual abuse has prompted many states to take action to afford victims new or expanded rights. Many states have amended their civil and/or criminal statutes of limitation (SOL) for child sexual abuse through Child Victims Act (CVA) legislation, which has created expanded opportunities for survivors to access justice, sometimes regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
The Tip Sheets, videos, and interactive flowcharts, and Question & Explanation graphics provide information on all aspects of the civil litigation process, including determining whether what happened to you constitutes abuse, what to expect in the civil litigation process, and how to choose a lawyer. The interactive map provides state-specific information about criminal and civil legislation.
Civil vs. Criminal Cases
- The victim can seek justice against their abuser and/or any party that is legally responsible for the abuse.
- Compensation owed to the victim from person or persons found accountable for pain, suffering, and medical bills.
- Must be found liable “more likely than not.”
- The state brings charges against the accused.
- If found guilty, the accused faces jail time & possibly fines. This helps keep abusers from hurting more people.
- Must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Civil vs. Criminal
In general, civil cases and criminal cases have different purposes and standards of proof. A civil case is a legal action that seeks compensation or resolution for harm or damages caused by another person or entity, and the standard of proof is typically “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that something is more likely than not. On the other hand, a criminal case is a legal action brought by the state or federal government to punish a person for committing a crime, and the standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” meaning there is no other reasonable explanation that can come from the evidence presented at trial.
Adult survivors of child sexual abuse seeking justice can pursue both civil and criminal cases. A civil case may seek financial compensation or an order to stop the abuse, while a criminal case may result in criminal charges against the abuser and, if found guilty, potentially incarceration. Ultimately, the decision to pursue a civil case or criminal case depends on the specific circumstances of the abuse and the goals of the person seeking justice.
The interactive flowchart below provides information about the civil litigation process, delayed disclosure, and how civil lawsuits may offer justice to survivors of child sexual abuse. Click through the interactive flowchart to learn more and to see a visual of what the civil litigation process looks like.
The interactive flowchart below details each step in the civil litigation process to help you make an informed decision about whether you may want to consider civil action. Click through the interactive flowchart to learn more about the process, from talking to an attorney to preparing for trial to verdicts and damages.
Questions to Ask Yourself If Considering Civil Action
Sample Intake Form
Here on SurvivorSpace, survivors have access to a fillable sample intake form for adult survivors of CSA. Intake forms are often used by law firms and legal organizations to gather important information from clients seeking legal representation. The purpose of this form is to provide attorneys with a comprehensive overview of the client’s situation, so that they can determine whether or not they are able to assist the client and develop an effective strategy for resolving the legal matter at hand.
Our form is designed to feature sensitive and comprehensive questions, as the subject matter can be particularly traumatic and difficult for survivors to discuss. This form is intended to provide a safe and supportive environment for survivors to disclose details about their experience prior to meeting with an attorney, and may include questions about the type of abuse they experienced, when and where it occurred, and who the perpetrator(s) may have been.
Questions a Civil Attorney May Ask You About Your Abuse
Survivors of child sexual abuse who choose to pursue justice in civil court will begin by speaking to one or more law firms. Law firms and attorneys often need to ask a survivor a series of personal questions as part of the civil litigation process. Answering those questions may be difficult for survivors, so it may be helpful to see those questions and prepare answers to them in advance.
The questions below give an example of the types of questions you may be asked if you decide to pursue action in civil court. By clicking on each question, you can see an explanation as to why an attorney may need to ask that question.