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Jail Sexual Assault Lawsuits

Sexual assault is a horrific crime, regardless of the setting. Unfortunately, sexual assault inside correctional facilities, where victims often feel powerless and voiceless already, is all too common. It is alarming when people trusted to maintain order and safety abuse their power and exploit vulnerable prisoners. However, when it happens, it’s important to know that survivors have rights and that pursuing jail sexual assault lawsuits can provide a path toward healing. To learn more about suing a jail for sexual assault and addressing the issue of sexual assault from prison guards, keep reading.

Can Prisoners or Loved Ones File Jail Sexual Assault Lawsuits?

If you or your loved one suffered sexual assault in a correctional facility, you may be able to sue for negligence and failure to protect against the incident. However, suing a jail for sexual assault can be sticky, so seeking guidance from an experienced prison rights attorney is crucial.

Generally, the Eighth Amendment to United States Constitution guarantees every inmate protection from “cruel and unusual punishment,” which encompasses sexual assault. The Civil Rights Act protects individuals from being deprived of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws by people acting under the color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any state or territory. In this context, an inmate can hold the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) accountable for violating their constitutional rights, paving the way for a civil lawsuit against the state or county.

Furthermore, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), passed in 2003, established national standards to protect inmates from sexual assault and harassment, including mandatory reporting of sexual abuse in correctional facilities and investigation protocols. If the facility fails to follow these standards and protocols, it could strengthen an inmate’s sexual assault case.

Can Prison Guards Be Held Accountable?

Under federal law (18 U.S.C. § 2241, 2243, and 2244), an inmate cannot legally consent to sexual relations or contact with prison staff. This means that whether a sexual act between prison staff and an inmate is forced or consensual, it is illegal. And in all cases, you have the right to pursue criminal and civil actions against the guard and the institution that employed them.

However, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) restricts when and how a federal inmate can sue a federal prison or guard for sexual assault. For example, inmates must show they suffered physical injuries, which could complicate cases involving unwanted sexual touching or assault without injury. They often also have to pursue all other avenues before filing a claim, such as reporting the issue to the prison.

The PLRA and other requirements can make it harder for inmates to sue in certain circumstances. But working with an experienced attorney can help ensure your claim goes forward and that the guard faces appropriate consequences for their disgraceful and illegal behavior.

How Do I Establish Liability?

In Indiana, suing a jail for sexual assault also requires establishing liability. This involves proving that the facility was negligent in preventing or addressing the assault, leading to the harm the victim suffered.

To establish negligence, you must prove that the jail had a duty to protect the victim from sexual assault and that it breached this duty. This may involve establishing that facility has a history of similar incidents or inadequate security measures. You must also show a direct link between the jail’s negligence and the victim’s harm. Lastly, you must demonstrate that the victim suffered damages from the assault, including physical injuries, emotional trauma, and medical expenses.

Establishing liability requires a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the assault, including gathering evidence, such as witness testimonies, medical reports, surveillance footage, the guard’s history of misconduct and disciplinary records, and any other tangible proof that can significantly bolster a sexual assault claim. An experienced attorney will know how to gather and present this evidence to strengthen your case, increasing your chances of obtaining justice.

Trust Gerling Law to Get the Job Done

A lawsuit cannot erase the sexual assault a victim suffers, but it can right a wrong, promote closure, and help to change a flawed system. At Gerling Law, our compassionate advocates understand the profound emotional toll sexual assault has on an inmate and are sensitive to the intricacies that these types of cases present. Our award-winning, AV-preeminent sexual assault team has substantial experience handling delicate sexual assault claims and will fight for your rights while guiding you through the process with empathy and consideration. With Gerling Law on your side, justice isn’t just a pipedream. Call us 24/7 at 866-312-1884 for a free consultation.

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Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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