Sexual Abuse

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Buffalo Sexual Abuse Lawyers

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) reports that one in five women experience a completed or attempted rape during their lifetime. In addition, nearly 25% of men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network reports that an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds in the United States.

Sexual violence and sex abuse affect hundreds of thousands of people every year. However, only roughly 25 out of 1,000 rapists will end up in prison. That means that for victims of sexual abuse, there is little justice. To help address this very real problem, The Coppola Firm is dedicated to providing victims of sexual abuse with justice. We are a woman-owned Buffalo law office that cares deeply about our clients. If you or a loved one are victims of sexual abuse, we want to help.

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What Does Buffalo, New York Consider Sexual Abuse?

Any sexual contact without the other person’s consent can be considered sexual abuse. To determine whether sexual contact occurred, you must look to New York law, which defines sexual contact as “any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either party.”

The definition applies regardless of whether the touching is by the victim or the actor and regardless of whether the contact occurred over or under clothing. Ejaculation on the victim or their clothing can also be considered sexual contact.

Offenses can vary in severity based on the circumstances of the contact, including whether the victim was capable of consent or whether force was used.

What Are the Different Types of Sexual Abuse in Buffalo, New York?

New York law classifies various types of sexual abuse into categories based on the severity of the action. Each category has a different description and penalty. Although not covered here, additional laws specifically address child sexual abuse. In most cases, child abuse has heightened penalties.

In order to file a claim under the Adult Survivors Act, the victim of sexual abuse must be over the age of 18.


New York has three “degrees” of rape, with Rape in the First Degree being the most severe.

  • Rape in the First Degree: Engaging in sexual intercourse with another person where one or more of the following applies (1) force was used; (2) the victim is unable to give consent because of physical helplessness; (3) the person was under the age of 11 years old; or (4) the person was 13 years of age or under and the actor was 18 years of age or older. Punishments for this crime can be 5 to 25 years in prison.
  • Rape in the Second Degree: Engaging in sexual intercourse when one party is 18 years of age or older and the other person is less than 15 years old, or sexual intercourse with someone mentally incapable of consent because of disability or incapacitation. Punishments for this crime can be 2 to 7 years in prison, but there are some exceptions to this general time frame.
  • Rape in the Third Degree: Engaging in sexual intercourse with another person who is incapable of consent for some reason other than that they are less than 17 years old. Sexual intercourse when someone is over 21 and the other person is under 17 years old is also classified as third-degree rape. Punishment for this crime is generally between 18 months and four years in prison, but there are some exceptions to this time frame.

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct generally includes engaging in sexual activities with another person without their consent. It includes:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Oral sexual conduct
  • Anal sexual conduct

The definition also applies to sexual conduct with an animal or a dead human body. Punishments for this crime vary, but the maximum prison time is one year.

Criminal Sexual Act

A criminal sexual act in New York is a broader category of sexual crimes that focuses on oral or anal contact. Like rape, it also includes varying degrees. Each definition is extremely similar to rape, but no actual intercourse or sexual penetration occurred.

  • Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree: Oral or anal sexual conduct with another person by force, without consent, because the person is incapable of consent, or within certain age limitations (the same as rape). Punishments are between five and 25 years in prison.
  • Criminal Sexual Act in the Second Degree: Oral sexual conduct or anal sexual conduct with someone less than 15 years old or someone incapable of consent because of mental incapacity or disability. Punishments are generally between two to seven years in prison, with some exceptions.
  • Criminal Sexual Act in the Third Degree: Oral or anal sexual conduct based on similar age brackets to rape and those who cannot consent. The punishment varies between 18 months to 4 years in prison.

Forcible Touching

Forcible touching must be intentional touching by force. The definition includes that the touching is for no legitimate purpose, and the intention is to degrade or abuse someone else for the actor’s sexual desire. This type of touching must be to the victim’s sexual or intimate parts.

It also applies to situations where the touching is sexual contact, but it occurs on public or private transportation, such as on a bus, train, or subway.

Punishment for forcible touching is for up to one year in prison. It is considered a misdemeanor.

Predatory Sexual Assault

Predatory sexual assault includes the definitions of:

  • Rape in the first degree
  • Criminal sexual act in the first degree
  • Aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree
  • Sexual conduct against a child in the first degree

While engaging in any of the above crimes, the actor also caused serious physical injury or uses or threatens to use a dangerous instrument. It can also apply where there was more than one victim to the crime, or the actor has a prior sexual felony conviction.

Punishments for this crime are severe and can include between 10 and 25 years in prison.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves sexual contact that does not rise to the level of rape or criminal sexual act. The same qualifications and degrees apply to sexual abuse as those noted above.

The punishments for sexual abuse are less severe compared to rape or criminal sexual acts. They include:

  • Sexual abuse in the First Degree: two to seven years in prison, with some exceptions.
  • Sexual abuse in the Second Degree: Maximum of one year in prison.
  • Sexual abuse in the Third Degree: Maximum sentence of three months.

Persistent Sexual Abuse

This crime involves repeat offenders. If someone commits one or more of the following crimes more than once in a ten-year period, they might also be charged with persistent sexual abuse in addition to the other crimes.

  • Forcible touching
  • Sexual abuse in the third degree
  • Sexual abuse in the second degree

Punishment is generally an additional 18 months to four years in prison.

Aggravated Sexual Abuse

Aggravated sexual abuse involves inserting a foreign object (or finger in the case of Fourth Degree Sexual Abuse) into the vagina, urethra, penis, rectum, or anus of another person. Like rape and criminal sexual acts, it has varying degrees based on age and consent. Punishments vary by severity, with up to 25 years in prison or as little as 18 months in prison.

New Adult Survivors Act Helps Victims of Sexual Abuse

At The Coppola Firm, we help all victims of sexual abuse in Western New York. This includes helping people file a claim under the Adult Survivors Act. Beginning November 24, 2022, victims of sexual assault can take civil action against institutions regardless of when the event took place.

Governor Hochul signed the New York Adult Survivors Act into law on May 24 of this year, which alters the statute of limitations for certain sexual offenses committed against someone over 18. Essentially, it starts a one-year window to sue institutions (such as an employer) and individuals for negligent or intentional sexual acts, regardless of when those acts occurred.

Who Can Sue Under the Adult Survivors Act?

Any adult sexual abuse victim can file a civil lawsuit against both the abuser and any institutions that failed to act on behalf of the victim. The lawsuits can be based on either negligence or intentional acts.

What Other Rights Do You Have as a Sexual Abuse Survivor in Buffalo, New York?

Sexual crimes involve criminal prosecution, but victims are not really the true beneficiary in those situations. Instead, criminal prosecution focuses on punishing wrongdoers without much regard for the victim. However, victims can turn to other New York laws related to sexual assault.

New York State Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights

The New York Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights includes a listing of rights available to sexual abuse victims. Various laws make up this bill, but it is certainly worth reviewing if you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual assault.

It describes rights such as:

  • Deciding whether to report the incident to the police or not
  • Having an advocate from the local rape crisis program to be with you during any physical exam
  • Getting information for appropriate medical follow-up care

Child Victims Act

The Adult Survivors Act was modeled after the New York Child Victims Act (CVA), which was enacted in 2019. Like the Adult Survivors Act, the CVA provided a one-year window for those who were previously outside the statute of limitations to file claims. While the one-year window under the Child Victims Act was supposed to close in August 2020, Governor Cuomo extended it to August 13, 2021. During that period, over 10,000 cases were filed in New York.

Laws like these allow victims to pursue justice for the trauma and shame they may have faced. However, filing a claim can be a confusing process. When you employ the legal assistance of a dedicated attorney, you will no longer have to worry about incomplete documentation and possible retaliation. We handle these details for you.

Does Sexual Abuse Fall Under Civil or Criminal Law in Buffalo, New York?

This is a common question, especially in regard to the Adult Survivors Act. Sexual abuse can involve both criminal and civil law. Sexual abuse victims can assert a civil case even if an abuser receives a not guilty verdict in a criminal trial. Likewise, an abuser can also be charged with a crime regardless of the outcome of their civil case. However, a personal injury attorney can help you file a case, as well.

What Compensation is Available for Victims of Sexual Abuse in Buffalo, New York?

In civil cases, those who have been the victim of sexual abuse can sue for monetary damages that might include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Medical and counseling bills
  • Lost wages
  • Punitive damages

These damages are similar to those that might be available in other types of personal injury cases or civil claims, including car accidents and similar practice areas.

Who Is Held Liable in Sexual Abuse Cases in Buffalo, New York?

The sexual abuser is generally the person who will be held responsible for their actions. However, in some cases, the abuser could perpetrate the abuse because of their role in employment or as a representative of an institution. Examples might include:

  • Hotels
  • Management, coworkers, or owners (related to employment)
  • Schools and colleges
  • Nursing homes
  • Landlords
  • Churches
  • Civic organizations (such as the Boy Scouts, Catholic Dioceses, or Catholic church)

You Do Not Have to be Silent About Your Abuse

New laws allow survivors of sexual abuse to seek justice for past sexual abuse, regardless of when it occurred. However, you only have one year to assert legal action, so you need to act quickly to meet this time limit. Hire The Coppola Firm, trustworthy sexual abuse lawyers at a women-owned law firm dedicated to doing right by plaintiffs, including victims of sexual violence.

Our experienced attorneys provide sound legal advice that focuses on you. We have a confidential consultation process that you can trust. Once you hire our team, we create a conscientious attorney-client relationship you know is completely private. Call our sex abuse lawyer team at 716-839-9700 for a consultation in our Buffalo office.

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