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Compensation for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

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The burden of sexual abuse can be physical, mental, and financial. Sexually abused children and adults are often forced to cope with unwanted conditions caused by trauma that infiltrate every area of their lives. The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault says the lifetime cost of one sexual assault is $122,000, and many experience multiple traumatic events of this nature.

The best therapy options suited for trauma (like sex abuse) are ongoing: New situations may trigger older memories and create a need for additional treatment, time off work, or extra support. Survivors can struggle with personal relationships, lost wages, addiction issues, anxiety, depression, or eating disorders, among others.

In such cases, filing a civil sex abuse lawsuit can be helpful. Successful civil lawsuits can provide compensation for sex abuse survivors suffering from long-term pain and financial losses due to medical bills, lifestyle changes, and job loss. is a resource and community that helps sex abuse survivors pursue different legal options, recover from their losses, and connect with other meaningful programs that help with healing and recovery.

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The lifetime cost of one sexual assault is $122,000, according to The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Survivors need the financial resources to heal from traumatic events of this nature.

Why Compensation for Sex Abuse Survivors Matters

The effects of sex abuse can be lifelong. Survivors of sexual abuse can experience physical, psychological, and emotional pain that may require ongoing care and counseling to improve their quality of life. Recovery can be a financial burden as there are often medical expenses, therapy bills, lost wages, and more to grapple with.

Compensation is not intended to erase trauma, but it does give survivors a fighting chance at a wholesome life free of unexpected debt for a crime they did not commit.

Types of Compensatory Damages

Often, survivors do not know they might be entitled to damages (compensation) or what the rules are in pursuing them. There are specific laws and timelines to abide by. These unknowns can be daunting without an experienced sex abuse lawyer by your side.

Survivors may be able to recover economic and non-economic damages in a civil sex abuse lawsuit. The total sexual assault compensation awarded usually depends on the extent of the abuse, the age of the survivor, the frequency of abuse, physical injuries, and pain and suffering.

Economic damages are tied to specific losses, such as medical and mental health expenses, counseling, relocation, and current and future lost wages. Non-economic damages are equally as important but might be harder to win for those unfamiliar with the legal system.

For non-economic damages, one must prove that the sexual abuse caused a mental or physical ailment. Those might include physical pain and discomfort, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, decrease in quality of life, scarring and disfigurement, disabilities, or permanent impairments.

In rare cases, punitive damages are available where evidence shows that a perpetrator committed particularly willful behavior. Punitive damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer further and discourage similar actions.

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Survivors can sue their abuser (including third-party institutions like hotels, hospitals, daycares, and more) in civil court, where sex abusers can be forced to pay for their crimes.

Financial Relief Through Civil Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Accused sex abusers can be forced to pay for their crimes in civil and/or criminal court. Notably, civil charges are still possible regardless of the outcome of a criminal lawsuit. In some cases, a person can face prison time and also owe a survivor compensation for their harmful actions.

However, criminal charges are not the best means for recovering compensation for survivors. In addition to the ability to recover higher amounts of money, sexual abuse civil tort remedies let survivors access funds directly, whereas that is unlikely in criminal court. A person can essentially be sued for sexual abuse and face civil and criminal penalties, but it isn’t considered double jeopardy. Civil cases have a lower burden of proof requirement, and the legal system embraces a broader definition of accountability. This can make civil cases easier to win.

Can I Sue the Person Who Sexually Abused Me?

Survivors can sue their abuser in civil court for their injuries. Other parties, such as schools, hospitals, daycares, nursing homes, athletic organizations, and other third parties, might also be found liable and named as a defendant in a lawsuit. It is also possible to sue the estate of a deceased individual.

In criminal cases, a lawyer must present enough evidence (a preponderance of the evidence) to convince the court the survivor’s injuries were caused by the alleged abuser’s sexual abuse to encourage them to pursue serious criminal charges. It’s harder to prove guilt in criminal cases, so it’s easier for perpetrators to walk away without punishment. RAINN reports that out of 1,000 instances of sexual assault, there will be only 28 felony convictions and only 25 sent to jail.

On the other hand, civil proceedings give survivors access to funds that help them rebuild their lives and heal. Most cases are settled outside of court, but choosing a proven trial lawyer is essential if an abuse settlement is not reached.

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Sexual abuse doesn’t define you – healing is possible.

How Much Can You Sue for Sexual Abuse?

Sex abuse survivors can sue for restitution. Often, the best chance of recovering damages is through a civil sex abuse lawsuit. Compensation for illness and injuries vary.

Various factors are considered reach a settlement or verdict amount. These factors may include jurisdiction and any relevant damages caps, severity of abuse, age of the survivor, time length of abuse, available evidence, the effect of the abuse on the survivor, and ability of the abuser to pay.

Sex abuse compensation is likely to increase in cases involving third party institutions, like schools, churches, and large corporations. Famous cases include those against the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, and large universities like Michigan State University in the Larry Nassar case.

How To Get Compensation After Being Sexually Assaulted

Injuries, such as permanent scars, unwanted pregnancy, emotional distress, and addiction issues, may affect sex abuse survivors long after the abuse stops. Sex abuse lawyers are knowledgable in facilitating civil lawsuits and have essential knowledge regarding details like relevant state lookback windows, the statute of limitations, filing requirements, and applicable laws.

Survivors should find a lawyer with a history of successful sexual abuse cases and examples of settlement results, like the lawyers working with While there’s never any guarantee of recovering compensation when pursuing a lawsuit, there could be a greater chance of success when a seasoned sex abuse lawyer is involved.

Federal Assistance

Sex abuse survivors need different kinds of assistance and support following ongoing trauma and years of suffering. The following federal laws and programs are available to ensure people can mentally and financially get back on their feet.

Crime Victims Compensation

The Crime Victims Fund, established by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), is a $1 billion fund that helps sex abuse survivors with out-of-pocket expenses. It also supports mental health professionals and other allies with training and education services to help improve the lives of sex abuse survivors.

The Fund awards eligible survivors compensation to cover medical costs, relevant funeral and burial costs, lost wages, crisis intervention, emergency shelter transportation, and counseling.

How Much Does Victim Compensation Pay?

Victim compensation is a direct reimbursement to a sex abuse survivor for an expense caused by a crime. Every state offers a Crime Victim Compensation program and allocates certain funds to help with mental health counseling, medical costs, lost wages, or loss of support. Usually, financial assistance is capped at $25,000, so it can be difficult for every survivor to get the support they need.

Where Does Victim Compensation Money Come From?

The VOCA is a 1984 funding program President Biden recently enhanced in 2021. There are many measures in place to get the funding. In many cases, survivors must report the crime according to their state’s statute of limitations and adhere to strict reporting requirements (like a 72-hour filing window, for instance).

There are a few caveats related to the Crime Victims Fund. Survivors must cooperate with law enforcement even when the suspect has not been arrested, except in cases where the survivor fears for their safety.

Every state has requirements and claims deadlines, usually between 180 days and two years. States often only approve funding through the Crime Victims Compensation Program when insurance is exhausted.

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Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)

The TVPA is the government’s legislative tool to help eliminate modern forms of slavery, both domestically and internationally. Its foundation is grounded in the Four Ps: prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships.

The TVPA works with organizations worldwide to address trafficking through thoughtful campaigns, resources, and programs that serve survivors. The law also allows foreign sex trafficking survivors to access health benefits and other federal assistance, regardless of immigration status.

Non-Profit Assistance

Non-profit organizations help connect survivors with local resources and information, educate the public, improve public policy, and offer consulting and training to industry professionals who support recovery efforts. Non-profits don’t typically provide financial assistance like some government-funded programs do, however, they can be an important lifeline for survivors who are looking for temporary housing, food, and other essentials.


RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. It operates in tandem with the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) and partners with more than 1,0000 sexual assault service providers across the country.

Both are designed to connect survivors with local resources, and they offer information to help allies and secondary survivors, like a partner of a sexually abused survivor, get help. While they may not offer formal financial assistance, they can help connect survivors with other nonprofits and legal resources to help them on the path towards recovery.

The Polaris Resilience Fund

The Polaris Resilience Fund works to provide financial assistance through direct cash payments and benefits programs (like help with finding care resources) to survivors of human trafficking. The Polaris Resilience Fund aims to empower survivors with tools to boost their financial well-being and ultimately weaken the barriers that perpetuate the cycle of trafficking.

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State and City Relief Funds

Financial support through state relief funds is often limited; not everyone can get assistance as they would through Victim Compensation programs. States handle funding programs differently.

Sometimes, survivors might only have access to temporary or short-term assistance measures that don’t account for long-term pain and suffering or punitive damages. Nor do these (typically smaller) sums hold the guilty party financially responsible like a civil lawsuit does.

Examples of State and City Relief Programs

State and city-level relief programs embrace different financial assistance opportunities to help survivors of sex abuse and other crimes.

  • Survivor Emergency Relief Fund

In Arizona, the Survivor Emergency Relief Fund gives one-time payments for costs related to food, medical care, counseling, housing, childcare, pet and moving expenses, and utilities. This is not an exhaustive list of everything a survivor might need in the future, but it covers many fundamentals.

  • Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) for Gender-Based Violence and Human Trafficking (GBV/HT) Survivors

Located in Chicago, the EFA issues one-time, $1,000 payments to qualified individuals at or below 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Evidence is not required, but the individual must self-attest or connect the program to an advocate or service provider who can provide information.

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Talk With an Expert on Compensation for Sex Abuse Survivors

Many sex abuse survivors consider filing a civil lawsuit when their losses start negatively impacting their finances. Sex abuse survivors, for instance, faced nearly $4,000 in medical costs in 2022. The same year, pregnant sex abuse survivors were responsible for almost $5,000 in health care charges.

There is more to managing abuse-related injuries than medical care, as illnesses and injuries can be long-term and more complex, especially mental health complications. It always helps to speak with a legal expert to learn more about options, including possible compensatory damages.

Survivors can tap into‘s network of professionals for different trauma-related resources and programs, including legal assistance. One of our trusted sex abuse lawyers can help you learn more about civil lawsuits and how a successful sex abuse lawsuit can help you recover your financial losses.