Victims’ Rights: Child Abuse and Sexual Assault

by Frank E. Lamothe, III

Figures from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) show that on average there are 433,648 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. In 2016, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated that 57,329 children were subjected to sexual abuse. Abuse of children, whether sexual, physical, or psychological, is something that goes against every moral fiber of our being, and this can be especially true if you are a parent.

While much of the focus, especially by the media, is on the perpetrators of these crimes, it is also essential that the victims are not forgotten. And, most importantly, there has to be recognition of what rights the victims in cases like these have, and what compensation they are entitled to.

Compensation for victims is covered by the National Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) passed in 1984.

Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)

VOCA was proposed to recognize that victims of crimes faced financial issues, as well as adverse effects on their physical or mental health. VOCA is mostly funded through the collection of fines, forfeited bail bonds, and other penalties on convicted criminals, though since 2002, a small proportion has come from donations and bequests.

Funds are dispersed to both victims and to service providers who support victims, such as counseling services. Victims can claim for expenses already incurred, or for expenses expected to be incurred. These expenses can include medical or counseling costs.

Each state has its own National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Board, which supervises and oversees the collection of the fund and distribution. In Louisiana, the program not only receives an annual VOCA grant, but it also collects a minimum figure of $50 per felony conviction and $7.50 per misdemeanor.

The crime must be reported to a law enforcement agency within 72 hours. Each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes has a National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Board staff liaison to help with any application.

Rights of Victims

Beyond the rights of victims to claim compensation for any of these crimes committed against them, they also have certain rights based on the Louisiana State Constitution. The primary part of these rights, under Article I, § 25 of the Declaration of Rights states:

“Any person who is a victim of crime shall be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect, and shall be informed of the rights accorded under this Section.”

The Constitution also provides the right of anonymity for all victims under the age of 18 or victims of sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault can choose to waive their right to anonymity.

Restitution for Exploitation in Film or Pictures

In 2018, President Trump signed the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Assistance Act into law. The AVAA allows victims to pursue civil litigation against each person who is convicted of downloading and possessing images of the victim’s abuse. The minimum amount a victim can pursue against each defendant is $3,000, or they can choose a one-time payment of $35,000 from the fund established by the AVAA. Some victims choose the single payment from this fund instead of pursuing each convicted offender in court.

Contact Us

At Lamothe Law Firm, we recognize the devastating effects that child abuse or sexual assault can have on a victim and their loved ones. We deal with all victims with empathy and compassion while still bringing a high degree of legal professionalism to your case to advise and assist you. We will treat your case in complete confidentiality and that we will move proceedings at a pace that suits you.

With low conviction rates for child abuse and sexual assault crimes, a civil lawsuit may often be the only route of redress. The regulations surrounding these cases can be complicated, and the need for an attorney experienced in this field is essential. If you would like to arrange a complimentary consultation with us, call us toll-free at (877) 249-6801 or on our local number at (504) 332-0284.

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