Emotional Damages After a Sexual Abuse From a Coach or Therapist
The emotional harm caused by sexual abuse from a coach or therapist can be debilitating long after physical injuries have healed. Therefore, in many cases, survivors are entitled to emotional damages to compensate them for the severe psychological repercussions inflicted upon them.
What is Emotional Distress?
Emotional distress describes the mental pain and conditions caused by a traumatic event. The symptoms can vary widely, but some common ones include:
- Appetite changes
- Weight loss
- Lack of energy
- Memory issues
- Loss of sexual desire
- Increased alcohol use
- Sleep disturbances
- PTSD (i.e., severe anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, and uncontrollable thoughts about the abuse)
- Trouble focusing on daily life
Non-Economic Damages & Therapist Abuse
Sexual abuse survivors can obtain compensation for their economic damages, such as medical bills or lost income, and are also often entitled to non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are compensation for subjective losses that are not easy to calculate, for example:
- Pain and suffering
- The memory of living with the abuse and injury
- Any disfigurement or disability beyond repair
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Damage to reputation
- Loss of consortium and companionship with a spouse, family members, children, and friends
Since it is difficult to assign a monetary value to these losses, a jury will typically consider:
- The victim’s age;
- The severity of the crime;
- The extent to which the abuse has impacted the survivor’s life and future;
- The number of expenses incurred as a result of the abuse;
- Projected costs of future treatment;
- The physical and emotional pain caused;
- The strength of evidence against the therapist or coach; and,
- Their degree of negligence.
Sexual abuse committed by a therapist or coach is particularly atrocious. As a result, the court may award punitive damages as well, which are meant to punish the defendant and deter others from similar acts.
How to Prove Emotional Damages
The primary hurdle in suing a coach or therapist for emotional damages caused by abuse is providing proof of what happened and documentation of losses. However, the standard of proof is much lower in civil cases than criminal cases, so a survivor must only establish that the defendant, more likely than not, committed the alleged sexual abuse. If there was a corresponding criminal case, a civil lawsuit has a much better chance of success.
When a sexual abuse case for emotional damages proceeds to trial, they will almost always require expert testimony from a therapist or psychiatrist who has treated the survivor since the abuse occurred. Testimony from family, friends, or co-workers may also be necessary to attest to the victim’s mental state and how they have changed due to the coach or therapist’s lewd acts. Additional evidence that can assist in proving a claim are:
- Diary or journal entries of daily symptoms and impact of the abuse on everyday life.
- Email messages.
- Medical and therapy bills.
- Prescription receipts.
- Records of missed work and lost wages.
- Statements from eyewitnesses to the abuse.
In Minnesota, sexual abuse lawsuits against a coach or therapist can be filed at any point if the victim was under 24 years old on or after 5/23/2013. In adult sexual abuse cases, a lawsuit must be filed within six years, and vicarious liability suits against an organization have to be pursued before the victim’s 24th birthday.