By now, everyone is familiar with the Time's Up Now Movement. Over 300 women in Hollywood have come forward with their stories of sexual assault at the hands of the entertainment industry's most powerful men; men who up until these brave women came forward, we may have unintentionally put on a pedestal for their work in movies, music, and television. We tend to romanticize the idea of Hollywood and are appalled that these powerful celebrities could be guilty of committing the crimes of which they're accused.
The truth of the matter is, that because of these fearless women (actresses, musicians, producers and more) who have come forward, the fantasy we may have held about celebrities has dissipated. We MUST believe women who come forward with their horrific ordeals and we MUST support them in continuing to come forward, because when we do, non-famous survivors of these exact same types of deplorable crimes are given the power to come forward as well.
Hiding in plain sight
Because, you see, Time's Up Now goes beyond the Hollywood bubble. Every day all across the United States, innocent people become the victim of violent sexual assault. Healthcare workers, teachers, and caregivers have all been found guilty of perpetrating this horrific act against those they were entrusted to care for. While we don't hear often enough about these attacks, they are prevalent, and they happen in front of our eyes.
Oftentimes victims stay hidden in the shadows, scared to come forward with a story of sexual assault or abuse at the hands of someone they trusted, for fear of retaliation against them. This is a real fear identified by many victims who have expressed why it took years for them to come forward. Many survivors of sexual assault are threatened with violence against them or their loved ones if they ever speak of the horrific acts perpetrated against them. This instills a level of fear in a victim that ultimately results in psychological trauma and deep mental distress.
Women have a voice–and the world is listening
The wave of Women's Rights movements in the United States and all across the world have given rise to survivors of these attacks the courage to retain legal counsel and file lawsuits against their abusers. Personal Injury attorneys who take on these cases must maintain a high level of empathy and strive for total belief in each and every client who retains them to protect their rights.
When a survivor comes forward, we MUST believe them. The mental anguish, PTSD, and lifelong agony that victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse are left to feel lifelong must be compensated to the full extent of the law. While there is no dollar amount to be placed on the lives that have been forever damaged by men such as Larry Nassar and Harvey Weinstein, it's important that the rights of the victims are front and center; as opposed to continuous coverage of the deplorable criminals who committed the acts.
Leading the charge in recent months, the gymnasts who spoke out against Larry Nassar, leading to his multiple life-sentences, have paved the way for those with less of a platform to pursue legal action against their abusers. The influx of sexual assault cases that Personal Injury attorneys have seen following the prominence of #MeToo and #TimesUp are not a coincidence. Victims now feel empowered, more hopeful that they will achieve the justice they deserve, and more willing to speak out.
The next steps
When a victim of sexual abuse or assault is ready to come forward, there are certain steps that need be taken in order to ensure they achieve the justice they rightfully deserve. The statute of limitations differs from state-to-state, and it's important to be familiar with exactly what the statutes are in the state which you reside.
However, there are certain steps that are the same everywhere, and in brief we will look at those now:
- File a police report: notify law enforcement as soon as the victim feels safe and willing to do so. It's extremely difficult to come forward about a sexual assault or prolonged sexual abuse by someone who was entrusted to care for the victim, but it's one of the most important things that need be done in order to start on the road to justice.
- Board certified legal counsel: retaining legal counsel can ensure a survivor of sexual assault will see justice. The attorney must be experienced in sexual assault cases, as they are notoriously complex. Many attorneys have used the rise of #MeToo and #TimesUp to take on cases they cannot handle. This hurts victims and slows down the legal process! The legal process can be lengthy and the road to justice prolonged by the court system, but an experienced attorney will see to it that their client's rights are protected and compensation is obtained to the full extent of the law.
- Criminal charges, in some cases: in some cases, the court may choose to charge a perpetrator of sexual assault with one or more crimes. Each and every case is different, and only an experienced attorney can advise their client on what will happen and when; they can also answer any questions the survivor and their family may have in great detail, as they fully understand the nuances of their specific case.