Calgary Civil Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Sexual assault or abuse is a traumatic event that can significantly impact many aspects of your life and personal wellbeing. Sexual assault does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, at any age. It is important to remember that as a survivor of sexual assault or abuse, it is never your fault and you are not alone.
Pursuing a civil lawsuit can play an important role in the healing process and for certain individuals may offer an opportunity to either confront or obtain closure on a negative chapter of your life. Some individuals may choose to pursue civil proceedings instead of criminal proceedings.
Jessica Kozak, lead of the Sexual Assault Law Team at HMC Lawyers in Calgary, has represented survivors of sexual and domestic assault and abuse in civil cases. She works diligently to provide survivors of sexual assault and abuse with an opportunity to empower themselves by taking control back from their abuser.
What is Sexual Assault?
Assault is the imposition of any physical contact by one person against another without proper consent. The sexual nature of assault is determined by contextual factors including the words and gestures used, the parts of the body involved and the motive of the contact. An absence of consent may still apply even if the victim ‘agreed’ to the contact in cases where the victim was too young to consent or was otherwise unable to provide legal consent in the situation.
How is a Civil Lawsuit Different From Criminal Proceedings for Sexual Assault or Abuse?
There are many differences between the criminal and civil court systems. One of the purposes of the criminal court system is to maintain public order and protect the public as a whole. The focus is on the accused person and the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In criminal proceedings, a survivor of sexual assault or abuse has no control over the process. You are a witness for the Crown.
In the civil court system, the purpose is to compensate people for losses or injuries that they individually have suffered. The burden of proof is on a “balance of probabilities”. A survivor of sexual assault or abuse has a lot more control over the process.
Your lawyer will explain to you the process of bringing a civil case for sexual assault or abuse and assist you in figuring out whether it is the right choice for you.
Is it Too Late to Sue? Is There a Limitation Period for Sexual Assault or Abuse Cases?
There was once a two-year limitation period in Alberta on civil claims relating to sexual assault, however Bill 2, An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, was introduced in 2017 to remove the limitation period for claims relating to sexual assault, violence or misconduct. The passing of this Bill brought Alberta in line with most of the rest of Canada in removing time restrictions for victims of sexual mistreatment.
Coming forward after being victimized is a highly personal decision; one that many people make only after enough time has passed to allow them to heal and gather the emotional strength to do so. The province took a big step forward in recognizing this and allowing a victim to bring a claim when it was right for them, rather than on a timeline dictated by legislation.
Despite the fact that a claim can be brought at any time, it is important to keep in mind that the more time that passes between the abuse or assault and filing a claim, the more challenging it can be to provide the necessary proof. For this reason, it is always better to consult with a lawyer sooner rather than later.
Who do I Sue?
In some cases, it will be obvious who to sue – the person who committed the sexual assault or abuse. This could be a family member, neighbour, caregiver, teacher, health practitioner, or coach. However, in certain cases there may be other people or institutions that could be found responsible for allowing an assault or abuse to occur or persist, once they reasonably should have intervened. An example would be in the sexual abuse of minors, when institutions such as religious institutions, school boards or government agencies had an opportunity to put a stop to the conduct or enabled it to occur in the first place.
If an employer received a complaint about one of its employees and failed to properly investigate the allegations or allowed the employee to continue having contact with potential victims after it should have known better, the employer may be liable in a civil claim as well.
It is important to speak with your lawyer who will help you figure out those to name as defendants in a civil lawsuit.
How Should I Prepare for My First Meeting with a Lawyer?
Meeting with a lawyer to talk about sexual assault or abuse can feel overwhelming and stressful. When meeting with your lawyer for the first time, it is important to provide as much information as possible. It can be helpful for you to put key points down on paper in advance.
Your lawyer will want to obtain as much detail as they can as they begin the process of building a case. They will be looking for information about what happened, who was involved, and how it has impacted you. Your lawyer will also need to obtain details to assist in establishing proof in court, including the dates and locations of the abuse itself as well as information regarding any potential witnesses. They will also want to know whether a criminal investigation is ongoing, whether criminal charges have been laid, and whether a criminal trial has taken place.
For Experienced Representation and Guidance in Your Sexual Assault Claim, Contact HMC Lawyers
The Sexual Assault Law Team at HMC Lawyers has represented many clients in civil sexual assault claims. They provide empathetic and candid guidance through the civil claim process and works with their clients to explain the realities of starting a civil claim process for sexual assault or abuse. To arrange a confidential discussion about your options for bringing a civil claim for sexual assault, abuse or misconduct, please contact us online or by phone at 1-800-480-3534.