Arkansas Sex Abuse Claims

Victims of sexual abuse assault have the right to file civil lawsuits and get financial compensation for what they went through. Arkansas has recently passed new laws making it easier for abuse victims to seek justice in the civil courts, even decades after the abuse occurred. This post will look at the process of filing sex abuse lawsuits in Arkansas and review the applicable laws related to sex abuse civil suits. We will also discuss the average settlement value of Arkansas sex abuse cases and look at recent verdicts and settlements.


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March 2024: An Arkansas federal court decided that a school’s insurance policy does not cover claims against an assistant principal accused of long-term sexual abuse, which was reported multiple times.

This case involved a former student who claimed the assistant principal abused her over more than three years. Despite multiple reports from school employees and the student’s grandfather to the principal, the abuse horrifically continued. The assistant principal had also admitted guilt in a related criminal case involving three minor victims. Just insanity.

The school had an employment practices liability insurance policy, but the insurer refused to cover the claims due to a clause that excludes coverage for incidents the insured knew or should have known about before the policy started. The court agreed with the insurer, stating that the abuse reports and the assistant principal’s conviction showed the school had prior knowledge of the risks but did not inform the insurance company when the policy began.

The court’s ruling meant that the insurance policy did not cover the lawsuit’s claims against the assistant principal, the principal, or the school district. The court’s decision focused on the policy’s specific exclusion for prior known incidents and concluded that, because the abuse was intentional, the abuser and the school officials had prior knowledge of the misconduct, thus barring coverage. So the school is on its own.

February 2024:  A new lawsuit was recently filed alleging that 8 teens were sexually abused by staff members at Timber Ridge Ranch, a youth residential facility in Benton. The lawsuit claims that staff at the facility touched the teens inappropriately, forcibly penetrated them with their fingers, and forced them to perform manual labor. When the abuse was reported, the teens were punished.

How is Sex Abuse Defined in Arkansas?

Under Arkansas law, sexual abuse is defined as any non-consensual sexual touching or contact. Sexual contact is further defined as touching of a person’s intimate parts intentionally done for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal.  Under this broad definition, anything from groping breasts at an office happy hour to forcible rape falls under the definition of sexual assault or abuse.

There are 2 critical elements that must be present in order for something to qualify as sexual battery in Arkansas: (1) sexual intent, and (2) lack of consent. The first element is sexual intent. The plaintiff must show that the defendant engaged in the unwanted touching for the purpose of sexual gratification. Accidentally touching someone’s private parts does not count.

New Arkansas Sex Abuse Laws

Arkansas has new sex abuse laws that offer a path for victims to seek redress and hold perpetrators accountable, potentially leading to broader social and legal changes that protect vulnerable individuals from abuse.

  1. Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act (2021)
  • Introduction and Purpose: In 2021, Arkansas passed the Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act, which was a significant step towards providing justice for victims of sexual abuse whose claims had previously expired due to statutes of limitations.
  • Key Provisions: The act introduced a 2-year revival window, allowing these victims to file lawsuits against all types of defendants, regardless of when the abuse occurred. This window was initially set to be open from February 1, 2022, until January 31, 2024.
  • Scope: The act covers a wide range of offenses, including Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), trafficking offenses, and the abuse of disabled adults. By doing so, it acknowledges and addresses the various forms of abuse that vulnerable individuals may face and provides a legal pathway for seeking justice against perpetrators.
  • Legislation Reference: This act is codified in the Arkansas Code Annotated § 16-118-118 and was established by the 2021 Arkansas Acts 1036 (Senate Bill 676).

This law garnered near-unanimous bipartisan support.  Arkansas lawmakers now seem committed to addressing the state’s pressing issue of childhood sexual abuse — with Arkansas reported to have the highest rate of such abuse in the country.

  1. Amendment to the Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act (2023)
  • Amendment and Extension: In 2023, the act was amended to extend the revival window for filing claims. Initially set to close at the end of January 2024, the window has now been extended until January 31, 2026. This extension provides additional time for victims to come forward and file claims that they might not have been able to file within the original timeframe.
  • Legislation Reference: The amendment is part of the 2023 Arkansas Acts 616 (Senate Bill 204) and modifies the same section of the Arkansas Code Annotated § 16-118-118, specifically extending the two-year window previously established.

The Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act now offers a second two-year period, starting February 1, 2024, for filing claims. This extension underscores the recognition of the enduring psychological impact of childhood abuse, which often delays victims’ ability to come forward until adulthood. With more than half of child sexual abuse victims reporting their abuse after the age of 50 in the United States, this law aims to provide a much-needed pathway for healing and accountability.

The law in Arkansas enables victims of sex abuse to bring civil lawsuits and seek financial compensation. Victims can bring a civil lawsuit whether or not they reported the abuse to the police and regardless of whether the abuser was ever convicted (or even charged) with a crime for the abuse. In fact, abuse victims can sue and get compensation even if they never told anyone about what happened.

As long as the victim of the sexual abuse is willing to testify under oath about what happened, that is all that is really required to support a sexual abuse lawsuit. Additional supporting evidence can be brought in to make the case stronger. For example, medical records confirming physical indications of the abuse are often very helpful. Testimony from witnesses who saw evidence of the sexual abuse or were also sexually abused in the same situation can also be presented.

If you file a sexual abuse lawsuit in Arkansas, the case will be public record. However, you may be able to keep your name and identity confidential. The court rules allow victims in these situations to keep their name confidential and use “Jane Doe” or initials in the court filings.

Getting Money in Arkansas Sex Abuse Lawsuits

The primary and most direct defendant in a sex abuse civil lawsuit is always the person who committed the abuse. The problem is that in most cases suing the individual abuser won’t get you anything because they won’t have money to pay any verdict or settlement (unless the individual is someone very wealthy like Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump).

The best way to get money in a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse is to sue a third party for negligence in connection with the abuse. Common examples of third parties who can be sued in sex abuse lawsuits include schools, youth organizations (e.g., Boy Scouts), gyms, etc. These parties can be held liable in a civil case if the plaintiff can show that they their negligence somehow enabled the abuse to occur or to continue. Third parties in sex abuse lawsuits can also be held liable if they attempted to cover up abuse incidents after the fact.

Let’s consider a very typical example of how third parties can be held liable for sex abuse. Let’s say that a guard at a juvenile detention facility is sexually abusing inmates. Several of these victims file complaints, but the facility basically ignores them and allows the guard to continue his abuse. The victim can file a civil lawsuit against the detention facility (or the state agency that operates it) for negligently failing to investigate and protect them from abuse.

Arkansas Sexual Abuse Verdicts & Settlements

$73,000 Settlement: The plaintiff, a female school student, suffered emotional distress when she was sexually assaulted by an employee of the West Helena school district. The plaintiff contended that the school district failed to properly hire, train, and supervise its employees and failed to prevent the physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of their students. The school district opted to settle the case.

$67,700 Settlement: A 27-year-old female dispatcher for the sheriff’s department alleged that she was sexually assaulted by the defendant sheriff. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant picked her up from a repair shop on the pretext that he would take her back to work.  Instead, he took her back to his farm and attempted to sexually assault her. The plaintiff brought charges against him and made a tape of a conversation in which she confronted him about the assault.  The prosecutor refused to file charges, so the plaintiff sued the county and the sheriff for the assault and for failure to have personnel policies addressing sexual assault. The county settled for $2,500. The $67,700 award included $12,700 for attorney’s fees and $40,000 for punitive damages.

$342,465 Verdict: A 28-year-old female claimed that during her treatment for marital and emotional problems, which included a history of sexual abuse as a child, the defendant psychiatrist made sexual advances toward her. Two days later, the plaintiff attempted suicide. Encouraged by her husband and the defendant, the plaintiff returned for therapy and in a short time the defendant gained the plaintiff’s trust and persuaded her to have sex with him on several occasions.

$40,000 Settlement: The plaintiff was a teacher at a middle school. She alleged that she was sexually assaulted by the defendant (her principal at the middle school) and that he gave her negative evaluation reports and made her resign as coach of a drill team. The defendant denied the allegations and claimed that the sexual contact was consensual. The defendant resigned and the school board eventually voted not to renew the plaintiff’s contract.

$200,000 Verdict: The female plaintiff sued the police department and a police officer claiming that the officer coerced her into having oral sex with him. The plaintiff alleged alleged that the officer had arrested her boyfriend then locked her in the back of the patrol car and drove her to a deserted spot where he forced her to perform oral sex.

$150,000 Verdict: A 38-year-old male quadriplegic was raped by a male orderly in the defendant’s nursing home. The plaintiff contended that the defendant nursing home was negligent for hiring the orderly because they did not perform a background check. The orderly had felony convictions on his record, and none of the jobs that he had listed on his employment application were valid. The orderly eventually confessed, plead guilty at a criminal hearing, and was sentenced to 10-years in the state penitentiary. The defendant nursing home claimed it was not negligent in its hiring. The defendant nursing home called the orderly as a witness, who came from the penitentiary to testify that his confession was coerced and that he was not guilty. The defendant then alternately contended that the plaintiff consented to the sodomy. The jury awarded $150,000, which included $50,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages.

Contact Us About Arkansas Sex Abuse Lawsuits

If you have a potential lawsuit in Arkansas for sexual abuse or assault, contact our attorneys today at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.


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