Sexual Abuse by the Police

When women do come forward, it’s often years after they finish, and only after they hear other people have made claims or allegations against the same person. 

Atty. Andrew Pruitt on the injustices some women experience when being persecuted by the police. Sexual Assault is a crime of violence.

One of the important things to come out of the recent “Me Too” movement is an increased understanding of just how hard it is for women who have been sexually assaulted and harassed to come forward and talk.   

Usually, these cases involve men who are in positions of power or ongoing power dynamics, the women feel like it’s hard for them to know they’ll be trusted. They feel like there will be repercussions and they’ve been taught that all of this is true because for decades.  

If you look at the history of these types of claims, women have suffered backlash for bringing these claims forward women have been fired from their jobs or had their families taken away. They have had repercussions. 

When they do come forward, we still see today women are called liars and money grabbers as the media continues to give attention to the statements that are made by the defendant’s attorneys.  

So we handle the case recently that highlighted many of these exact problems and I’m going to change her name to protect her privacy, but we had a client will call her Melissa and she was sexually assaulted by a police officer in the back of the patrol car. She had some criminal history. She had some drug offenses and the police officer who targeted her knew and understood this he instructed him to get in the back of his patrol car. He turned off his dashcam and video recording system and then he proceeded to sexually assault her. 

He then proceeded to threaten her and tell her that if she ever came forward or talk to anybody that he would have her arrested. He went a step further and said that if she ever came back to the city of Monterey Park again where this had occurred that all of the police officers there would know her car and would arrest her or her family on site and and in this Dynamic Melissa did what what most women in this situation would do she walked away feeling like she can’t do anything about it. 

She has no power and that even if she does come forward who’s going to believe her word over that of the police officer and and we know that this was reasonable for her to think because this police officer did this same thing to about 70 win and only three of them have come forward. 

This police officer was investigated and he was arrested and sentenced to prison. however, by the time all of that happens, the statute of limitations for Melissa to file a civil lawsuit had already run meaning even though this person had been criminally convicted and even though he had used his authority as a police officer to accomplish the sexual assaults against Melissa and the dozens of other women that he assaulted the statute of limitations against the city of Monterey Park the police department who failed to supervise this officer who allowed him to continue to use unconstitutional search techniques and allowed him to continue to isolate women in the back of his patrol car without any supervision or cameras on the statute of limitations had apparently past against them. 

One of the challenges that we faced in Melissa’s case was overcoming that statute of limitations, a huge problem in the vast majority. This is a huge problem in many sexual assault cases because even when women do come forward, it’s often years after they finish, and only after they hear other people have made claims or allegations against the same person. 

So we’re now seeing in the “Me Too” movement where a number of women that are emboldened and choosing to come forward, but they can’t pursue civil claims because the statute of limitations in most states says you only have two years or some similar. 

A failure of our justice system that women who have valid claims no matter how much proof they can have that it actually occurred if it happened more than a few years ago their claims are often barred and they get and they are in danger of being thrown out of court.

For example, in Melissa’s case, the test statute of limitations in California is generally two years after but we didn’t file. Soon, for example, in California the statute of limitations for sexual assault is typically most circumstances two years, but Melissa didn’t come forward until after the officer was criminally convicted which was almost five years after the assault had occurred. So by the time she contacted our office the two-year statute of limitations had had long passed. 

We need a change in the law. We need states to recognize that the statute of limitations in these sexual assault claims is preventing real Justice. It’s preventing men who undoubtedly and provably committed. 

The whole reasoning Behind These statute of limitations is the myth that people who have been wronged will come forward in a quick amount of time and that they have to do that in order to prevent wrongful and and false claims against against defendants, but the problem with that That we know that women who have been sexually assaulted and sexually harassed can’t and very rarely do come forward in such a short amount of time. And by the time they’re in a position or the person who assaulted them is no longer holding that power over them.

And so for Melissa after spending years feeling like nobody will believe her if she comes forward and that even if I do there won’t be a claim when we filed a claim on her behalf and and successfully overcame issues with the statute of limitations. We were able to obtain a large recovery for her and one that sent a couple of messages number one that Society cares and our system. Has has that that she was wrong and that she should not have had to go through what she went through and number two recognizes that the city of Monterey Park recognized that they failed in their obligation to control and supervise this police officer. And with that recovery, she will be able to have ongoing therapy and counseling to help her address the issues that have come up after this assault.

Many times women who have been assaulted feel like they can just close their eyes pretend it didn’t happen and move on with their lives and we know we know that this just doesn’t work that problems continue decades later when women don’t confront and address the trauma that they’ve gone through but for decades our society has told them to stay quiet. Don’t speak up, deal with it yourself and they’ve tried and other women feel like I can’t afford therapy. I’m struggling to keep food on my table and shelter over my head. How can I afford to pay for therapy on an ongoing basis?

So obtaining a monetary recovery for succeeding in a civil suit is about much more than simply getting an award of money. It’s about getting closure for what happened. It’s about the system recognizing understanding that you were wrong and that this Other person did something wrong and they need to be held accountable for it.

It’s about stopping it from occurring to more women in the future and it’s about giving women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed the resources to seek counseling and help to have the resources to take positive steps forward in their lives.

So that moving forward they can have a better life.

Do you know someone who has experienced sexual abuse?

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Read more related articles:

Filing a Lawsuit After Sexual Abuse

Establishing Organizational Liability for Sexual Abuse

Defining the Standards for Institutional Liability in Sexual Abuse Cases