First, it’s important to recognize that the vast majority of victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault remain quiet throughout their lives — and they carry the burden of that solitude with them. That means increased stress, depression, anxiety, and a higher likelihood of turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with pain. Only a minute percentage of sexual assault cases result in the defendant prosecuted at all, much less in jail. But what does that mean for civil suits?
The process for obtaining compensation via civil litigation is easier than it is for criminal law, and the burden of proof isn’t as great. So are sexual abuse or sexual assault settlements as rare as criminal prosecution?
In a word: Yes. But they’re “less rare” than the percentage of prosecuted criminal cases, which means whenever you’re ready to tell your story, you should tell it. One California lawyer recently won millions for survivors of boy scout sexual abuse. To those kids who went through the pain and anguish associated with that abuse, the payments were probably worth it.
A recent settlement was approved for Harvey Weinstein’s victims, which means that the survivors won’t go through the pain of being dragged into the courtroom to confront him. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mary Walrath said, “Eighty-three percent of the victims have expressed very loudly that they want closure through acceptance of this plan.”
The settlement was reached after victims and their attorneys decided that further litigation would likely be unpredictable in court, and that the settlement was indeed fair.
Walrath said, “I will not get into an analysis of whether one victim’s claim has more validity or more value than another’s. Every victim of Harvey Weinstein was victimized and deserves to have a say into the plan confirmation. If they choose not to release Mr. Weinstein, they have the right to a have a jury trial. … Eighty-three percent of the victims have expressed very loudly that they want closure through acceptance of this plan.”
Although sometimes victims will want to look at an abuser in the eye to show strength in the face of fear and weakness, others will not. The reaction is completely natural. But not every victim felt the same in Weinstein’s case, nor did every attorney.
Attorneys Douglas Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer displayed their feelings in The Hollywood Reporter recently: “We look forward to continuing this fight on behalf of survivors who seek to hold Harvey Weinstein and his corporate enablers accountable.”
Counselor Beth Fegan said on behalf of the class-action suit: “This bankruptcy plan guarantees that Harvey Weinstein’s survivors will have the opportunity to be heard in a safe and confidential process. Although there will never be enough compensation or redress to right these wrongs, we’re immeasurably honored to represent our brave and resilient clients who, in the face of adverse rulings, continued to advocate for a fund for all survivors.”