We completely understand that many survivors can be discouraged, disgusted, and disheartened by the lack of systemic institutional change in organizations like the Catholic Church, public and private schools and the Boy Scouts. It’s easy to look around and say, “Why should I even bother filing a lawsuit? It’s not going to make any difference.”
We’re here to tell you: You can make a HUGE difference by coming forward and filing a civil claim, even if you do so anonymously, as a John or Jane Doe.
Here is what happens when you call us and seek justice for what happened to you:
Kids are kept safer, even if the perpetrator is dead.
How can this be, you ask, if the perpetrator is dead? There are several ways. First, the name of the perpetrator, the location of the abuse, and most importantly, the institution that covered up that abuse becomes public. This is the case even if you file as a Jane or John Doe. That means that parents who send their children to the location where the abuse took place know that there was a significant danger to children at that location. They (and the public) will learn about the people and the entity that covered up the abuse. They (along with you in your lawsuit) can demand to know what, if anything, has changed to keep kids safe. Everyone can come together to demand accountability and that the organization take responsibility for the well-being and safety of youth.
If the perpetrator is alive, then the communities where that perpetrator now works and lives can be alerted to the potential risk posed by both the perpetrator and the organization that employs that perpetrator.
Law enforcement gains access to valuable evidence of the crime of child sexual abuse, even if your statute of limitations has passed.
Because of the time when your abuse occurred, you may not be able to file criminal charges against the person who hurt you. But that does not mean that evidence unearthed in your civil case is off-limits to law enforcement who may be investigating the perpetrator or the organization. Grand Juries, district attorneys, attorneys general, and law enforcement agents everywhere know that predators don’t retire, and if the perpetrator is still alive and around kids, there may be younger victims. Your lawsuit may be the corroboration that another, younger victim needs to be able to put the predator behind bars. Additionally, some jurisdictions have even pursued criminal charges for cover-up against institutions, and your lawsuit can be a valuable part of the evidence that can prove the case.
Civil suits are uniquely able to “unpeel the layers” of the onion of cover-up.
In the criminal justice system, charges for child sexual abuse are only filed against the person who committed the actual crime. The investigation and prosecution focus solely on that. But civil cases can dig deeper into the cover-up, exposing and punishing (through legal fees, settlements, fines, and very public and embarrassing litigation) all the entities and individuals who allowed and covered up the abuse. Predators often have as many as 50 victims or more, and some institutions may have several, even dozens of predators. With those numbers, accountability and exposing the truth is key. Your civil lawsuit does that.
Civil lawsuits encourage other survivors to come forward, especially if they are currently being victimized.
Even if you file your case as a Jane or John Doe, the fact that the perpetrator is being sued for sex crimes against children is public information. When one, two, or three individuals use the civil courts to expose what happened to them, they each help foster the healthy discussion about abuse, healing, and helping survivors. The more we talk about abuse, the more we empower someone being abused RIGHT NOW to talk about it and get help. By talking about the abuse, we empower and educate children and communities to stop the abuse before it even starts.
You can help other survivors of the person who hurt you, even if you never know who those other survivors are.
Child sexual abuse is a crime of shame and secrecy. Predators and those who cover up for the crimes work very hard to make sure that the survivor believes he or she is the only one and/or the abuse was their own fault. When survivors use the courts to come forward, they are doing two very important things: they are telling other survivors that they are NOT the only one, and they are asserting the fact that the abuse was NEVER their fault. Other survivors will see this and gain the strength to come forward. Others, who may not be ready, will still know that they are safe, believed, and that there is a community of other survivors to support them.
You help survivors in other states show that the demand for victim-friendly laws is REAL and that every survivor—no matter when or where they were abused—should have the right to use the courts and seek accountability.
When survivors and advocates fight to change laws that currently protect child predators, they look to survivors in states that have already passed Child Victim’s Acts to show lawmakers how necessary these laws are for public safety, survivor healing, and discouraging crime. By coming forward and filing a lawsuit, even when you file anonymously as a John or Jane Doe, you are being heard and seen, not only in your communities, but across the country where other survivors are fighting for rights.
Through the legal system, you force real change to how organizations who care for children do business.
Most organizations, like we have seen in the Catholic Church, only make changes to policies, disclose names of abusers, and work to end the cover-up when brave survivors force them in to the justice system. Child sex abuse and cover-up lawsuits are very embarrassing and very expensive to the churches and other organizations that are sued. They lose donations, credibility, and cash when more and more survivors are empowered to file. Also, survivors can make non-monetary demands as a part of their settlement agreements. As a result, we see enforceable change.
Even if you don’t want or care about the money, by filing a lawsuit, you can change the world.
Many survivors feel uncomfortable at the thought of receiving compensation for suing an organization that may still mean so much to them. But just because you like or admire your church, or the Boy Scouts does not mean that these organizations should get a “free pass” if they knew that children were sexually abused in their care and they allowed it to happen. Everyone should be subject to consequences for bad behavior, especially when that behavior results in child sex crimes. You are suing people, not your faith.
Lawsuits are not about the money. They are about accountability, exposing crimes, and healing. They are about forcing positive change and protecting children.