There is no amount of money that can “fairly” compensate a survivor of sexual abuse. No amount of money will ever erase the memories or change what happened. Nevertheless, if you are or if you have been a victim of sexual abuse in Halifax – or anywhere in Nova Scotia – you should schedule a consultation at once with a Halifax sexual abuse lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options.

Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual activity that is imposed on someone without that person’s consent. Most studies indicate that sexual abuse victims usually know the abuser personally. Abusers use coercion, threats, physical force, and violence to commit the abuse and to keep victims silent.

Sexual abuse survivors may experience lasting depression or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Sexual abuse can happen either as a single incident or as a pattern of regular assaults or part of an ongoing human trafficking or domestic violence situation.

What Is Institutional Sexual Abuse?

When sexual abuse is institutional, it means that someone has used a position of authority in an institution to carry out abuse against someone under the care of the institution. In certain cases, the institution’s leadership may be found to be at fault and liable for the damages suffered by the victim.

Who may file a sexual abuse claim in Nova Scotia? Is there a deadline or statute of limitations for filing a sexual abuse claim? What compensation can a survivor of sexual abuse expect to receive if that survivor’s claim prevails? Keep reading. These questions will be answered below.

Who Commits Sexual Abuse? Who Are the Victims?

The impacts of sexual abuse and the link between mental health and sexual abuse is different for every survivor. Not all sexual abuse victims suffer long-term emotional anguish, but researchers consistently find a strong link between ongoing mental health issues and abuse.

Sexual abuse may leave psychological scars that last for a lifetime, but there isn’t any reliable way to detect who may or may not be an abuser. An abuser could be a teacher, a neighbour, a coach, family member, family friend, an employer or co-worker, or even a member of the clergy.

However, a review of sexual abuse reports, arrests, convictions, and civil lawsuits in Nova Scotia leads to some general conclusions:

  1. Sexual abuse happens more frequently in Nova Scotia than most persons realize.
  2. Most sexual abuse incidents in Nova Scotia probably are not reported to authorities.
  3. The most frequent sexual abuse victims are young or otherwise vulnerable women.
  4. Most sexual abuse is committed by a person the victim knows – and not by a stranger.

What Steps Should Sexual Abuse Victims Take?

Any victim of sexual abuse in Nova Scotia may file a civil sexual abuse claim. Nova Scotia abolished its statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse claims in 2015. Sexual abuse victims, including those who were victimized as children, may sue for compensation without a deadline.

If you have been a sexual abuse victim in Nova Scotia, and if you have not already sought a counselor’s help, it is imperative to do so and to begin the healing process right away. There are two ways that the justice system may be able to help survivors of sexual abuse: bringing a sexual abuse lawsuit to seek compensation and/or seeking a criminal prosecution.

If you report sexual abuse to the police as a crime, the police will investigate your claim, and if the police find evidence that supports your claim, they will forward that evidence to the crown prosecutor. After reviewing the evidence, a crown prosecutor will make the final decision about whether or not to prosecute the alleged abuser. It is possible that the abuser could receive a conviction and be sent to prison.

However, and especially if years have passed, sometimes the abuser may be dead. Or if the abuser is still alive, there may not be any evidence that the abuse happened, only your word against the abuser’s, and winning a criminal conviction may be difficult given the evidentiary standard of “proof beyond reasonable doubt”.

Should You File a Civil Claim for Sexual Abuse?

However, prevailing with a civil sexual abuse claim – with a lawyer’s help – may not be as difficult as winning a criminal conviction, and if the abuse survivor succeeds with a civil claim, the survivor may recover monetary compensation for pain and suffering, counseling, treatment costs, and related damages.

To file a sexual abuse claim in a civil court, you will need the advice and services of a Nova Scotia sexual abuse lawyer, but you won’t pay any legal fees or out-of-pocket expenses or “up front.” It will not cost you anything to find out everything you need to know about your legal rights and to have a lawyer review your case.

A Halifax sexual abuse lawyer represents clients on a contingency fee basis. Our clients don’t pay any lawyer’s fee until or unless that victim receives compensation and justice. We provide the legal consultation – and the opportunity to learn more about your rights – at no charge without cost.

What Is a Sexual Abuse Survivor’s Best Option?

Survivors of sexual abuse may pursue justice in Nova Scotia’s criminal courts, or through the civil courts with a lawsuit, or both. If an abuser is found guilty of a criminal charge, the abuser’s conviction may be offered as evidence in a civil proceeding. But if an abuser is prosecuted on a criminal charge and found not guilty, it doesn’t impact the ability to bring a civil suit.

Your best option for seeking justice is discussing your case – before you take any other action – with a Nova Scotia sexual abuse lawyer who can review the details of your sexual abuse claim and offer you personalized advice about the most effective way for you to proceed legally.

What Else Should Sexual Abuse Survivors Know?

As mentioned above, there is no longer a statute of limitations for bringing sexual abuse claims in Nova Scotia. Since 2015, Nova Scotia’s Limitation of Actions Act does not place a time limit on any claims arising from “misconduct of a sexual nature”.

No one deserves justice more than a survivor of sexual abuse. However, if you are a sexual abuse victim, it is imperative to discuss your case with a sexual abuse lawyer as soon as possible. It’s important to begin gathering evidence and identifying witnesses before any more time goes by.

If you are a sexual abuse survivor in or near the Halifax area, no matter how much time has passed since the sexual abuse occurred, exercise your legal rights, and speak to a lawyer about seeking justice and about recovering the compensation you are entitled to under the law.