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In addition to criminal prosecution, perpetrators of sexual crimes may be sued by their survivors in civil court for damages. However, embarrassment and exposure to public scrutiny can sometimes prevent survivors from filing claims against perpetrators of sexual abuse.
Is it possible to keep your name private in a sexual abuse claim? Contact DiMarco Araujo Montevideo in Santa Ana today for a free consultation. We can assist you in filing a lawsuit while protecting your privacy rights.
The Freedom of Information Act is a federal law that keeps U.S. citizens in the know about their government. The act provides that agencies should withhold information when processing requests only if they reasonably foresee that disclosure of that information would harm an interest protected by exemption, or if it is prohibited by law. Agencies should consider partial disclosure of information whenever possible if full disclosure is not possible. This is the presumption of openness. There is a presumption in favor of naming parties to a lawsuit from the common law doctrine of open courtrooms; however, this presumption is not absolute. Courts often rule that pseudonyms can be used in sex abuse cases.
A sex crime survivor may need to bring a civil lawsuit to seek justice, recover damages, and reveal facts that were not allowed into evidence in a criminal trial. Requiring survivors of sex crimes to sacrifice their privacy in bringing a lawsuit (by not using a pseudonym) can subject them to additional emotional and psychological harm. Public revelation of sexual abuse can make the person a survivor for a second time. Requiring survivors of sex crimes to file under their own names, as opposed to a pseudonym, such as “John Doe” or “Jane Doe” can also dissuade them from filing civil claim and impinge on their fundamental rights of access to the courts.
Courts will allow the use of a pseudonym when the survivor’s privacy considerations outweigh the presumption of openness. As disclosing the name of a sexual assault survivor can slow the healing process, courts will typically rule that privacy considerations for the survivor outweigh the presumption of openness, and a pseudonym can be used for the lawsuit in lieu of the survivor’s name. The right to privacy is protected under the U.S. Constitution and under many state constitutions. This right encompasses the survivor’s interest in non-disclosure of personal information relating to a crime of a sexual nature. When disclosure of private facts is necessary, such as in a civil sexual abuse claim, the corollary right of non-disclosure of identifying information applies.
If you are a survivor of a sex crime and are worried about public exposure in filing a civil lawsuit for damages, call DiMarco Araujo Montevideo. We can assist you in petitioning the court to keep your name private. Our Orange County injury lawyers can also aid in pursuing the maximum compensation for the injuries you have suffered.