“Why should I sue?”
There are a number of good reasons why you might wish to sue if you have been sexually assaulted.
First, if you have been harmed by this kind of unlawful conduct, you are entitled to compensation under the law. Often the harms caused by sexual abuse have direct financial implications, such as making a person unable to work or achieve their full income-earning potential, or requiring a person to pay for counselling or therapy. The harms also include emotional pain and psychological suffering. All of these different kinds of harms are “compensable” harms. While money can never make things right again, the courts have recognized that money may help provide some solace and comfort to victims and relieve some of the financial hardship caused or contributed to by the sexual abuse.
Second, a lawsuit can bring vindication. It can send a powerful message that you, as the victim of sexual assault, were not to blame for what happened and should not be ashamed or feel guilty. Rather, you were wronged and harmed by the unlawful conduct of another person or persons.
Third, a lawsuit can help to ensure those directly and indirectly responsible for the sexual abuse are held accountable. A civil lawsuit is a public process in which those responsible will be named and their wrongful conduct described in documents filed with the court, and ultimately, by a judge in a court decision. Those responsible risk having a judgment issued against them by a court, which is a strong statement of societal disapproval and condemnation for what they did.
Lastly, unlike a criminal proceeding in which the victim of sexual assault is not a party to the legal process (rather, the accused and the Crown are the parties) and, therefore, the victim has little say or control over what happens, in a civil lawsuit, the victim is a party (and is known as the “plaintiff” or “claimant”) and, as a result, she/he exercises significant control and decision-making power over the process.
This is general information only, and is not intended as legal advice. If you have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused, you are encouraged to contact a lawyer for advice specific to your situation.
Elizabeth Grace heads the Toronto office sexual assault group, she is a partner at the Ontario law firm, Lerners LLP, and has specialized in sexual assault matters for almost two decades now. See her professional biography for more information about Elizabeth and her work in the area of civil liability for sexual abuse.