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Under no circumstances are instances of sexual assault justified. If you have been sexually assaulted, it is not your fault and you are not to blame.

The trauma caused by sexual abuse is unlike many injuries. It’s more than physical. It is emotional, mental and psychological. It is permanent and it is real. It’s a violation of your emotional and mental safety and well-being. Its normal to feel alone, ashamed, embarrassed and confused.

Trauma from sexual assault is real, and many survivors struggle with lifelong effects. You deserve justice and justice may be available to you through the civil court system.

At The Joel Bieber Firm, these special injuries are entrusted to a dedicated team led by Melissa Hague. Melissa and her team understand the trauma caused by sexual assault. They are here to LISTEN to you and will BELIEVE you.

Melissa and her team want to hear your story. We will fight to hold your perpetrator accountable. Our team will stand by you and guide you through every step of the process.

You are not alone. We want to help you get justice. Talk to Melissa to find out your options.

All conversations are private and confidential. Many of these cases can be resolved confidentially and without filing a lawsuit.

Call Melissa directly at 804-315-3559 or you can email us privately.

Sexual Assault Statistics

  • One in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 16.
  • 1 out of every 3 American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
  • 1 in 7 women who are married to men will be raped by her husband.
  • 6 out of 10 rapes/sexual assaults occurred in the homes of the victim, family members, or friends.
  • 1,871 rapes occur per day in America.
  • 3 women in the U.S. are raped every minute.
  • Three out of five rapes happen before age 18.
  • Three out of ten rapes happen before age 11.
  • Between 80 – 90% of sexual assault victims knew their attacker.
  • An American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds
  • Ages 12-34 at the highest risk of being sexually assaulted.

Melissa is Here for You

Melissa Hague|For Her
Melissa Hague|For Her

What is Sexual Assault

According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” The legal definition of sexual assault varies from state to state. Click here for information about the sexual assault laws in your state. Sexual assault comes in many different forms – from sexual taunting and harassment to rape.

Types of Sexual Violence

According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” The legal definition of sexual assault varies from state to state. Click here for information about the sexual assault laws in your state. Sexual assault comes in many different forms – from sexual taunting and harassment to rape.

Melissa Hague|For Her

Some examples of sexual assault include, but are not limited to:

Sexual Coercion

making someone feel obligated to have sex by using guilt, pressure, drugs/alcohol or force

Drug-facilitated Sexual Assault

Often associated with the use of date rape drugs or when ability to consent is compromised due to drugs or alcohol whether consumption was voluntary or not

Sexual shaming among kids and teens

Bullying in a sexual nature. These instances often occur in schools, athletic locker rooms, or among teammates.


Pattern of repeated harassment, unwanted contact and attention. Can include repeated unwanted calls, emails, messages, gifts, etc. Some states that specifically allow civil lawsuits for stalking: CA, AR, KY, MI, NE, OR, RI, SD, TN, TX, VA, WA, WY


Unwanted touching and fondling of another person’s body parts


penetration without consent

Intimate partner Violence

A.k.a. spousal rape, marital rape, etc.: wide range of violence from physical abuse to rape. A 2007 study showed that most women who were physically abused by their partner have also been sexually assaulted by that same partner.

Child sexual abuse

ANY sexual activity between a child/adolescent and an adult with or without sexual touching. Include forcing child to touch themselves, exposing self to child, viewing or violating private behaviors of a child or teen, taking or showing explicit photos of a child or teen.


Any sexual contact between two family members that wouldn’t be legally allowed to marry

Elderly sexual assault

When perpetrator engages in sexual activity without the others consent. Often occurs when the elder was unable to provide consent due to medical condition, like dementia or Alzheimer’s, and perpetrated by a loved one or caretake, person in a position of power.

Prisoner Rape

Typically, the perpetrator is another inmate, guard, or staff in a position of power over the inmate

Multiple perpetrator assault

commonly called “gang rape.” Can start out as consensual act between 2 partners, but then others join without one partner’s consent. Can be used as form of initiation into a group (e.g. gang, club, etc.).

Melissa Hague|For Her
Melissa Hague|For Her

What is Consent?

There is no one legal definition for consent because each state has its own laws that determine how consent is defined. However, there are three main ways that states analyze consent in relation to sexual acts:

Affirmative consent:
Did the person express overt actions or words indicating agreement for sexual acts?

Freely given consent:
Was the consent offered of the person’s own free will, without being induced by fraud, coercion, violence, or threat of violence?

Did the individual have the capacity, or legal ability, to consent?
The capacity to consent takes the following, among other things, into consideration:

Age: Is the person at or above the age of consent for that state? Does the age difference between the perpetrator and victim affect the age of consent in that state?

Disability: Of course, most people with disabilities are just as capable of consenting to sexual activity as people without disabilities, but understanding someone’s disability is key to obtaining consent. Does the person have a developmental or cognitive disability, such as a traumatic brain injury, which may inhibit their decision-making capacity at that time?

Intoxication: Was the person intoxicated? Different states have different definitions of intoxication, and in some states, it matters whether you voluntarily or involuntarily became intoxicated.

Relationship of victim/perpetrator: Was the alleged perpetrator in a position of authority, such as such as a boss, teacher, doctor, care-giver, or correctional officer?

Unconsciousness: Was the person sleeping, sedated, strangulated, or suffering from physical trauma/illness?

Vulnerable adults: Is the person considered a vulnerable adult, such as an elderly or ill person? Is this adult dependent on others for care?

Consent is an active, sober, verbally and/or physically communicated yes – not the absence of no.

What Rights Do Sexual Assault Victims Have?

The civil legal system provides recourse for abuse victims to both recover compensation to rebuild their lives, and to hold perpetrators accountable. Taking action against abusers or the institutions that protect them may help prevent others from being victimized in the future. 

The civil legal system resolves disputes between parties through lawsuits. In most cases, you will seek damages and even changes to the church’s structure or governance to get justice for your sexual assault injury.

In a typical case, your sexual assault attorney may begin the process by sending a letter to the church outlining your accusations and identifying your demands. The church’s leadership will pass the letter to their lawyers and insurers.

Occasionally, the church will do the right thing and attempt to resolve the case. If the case is not resolved pre-suit you will need to file a lawsuit. A lawsuit places strict deadlines on both parties. It also allows you and your sexual assault lawyer to gather evidence from the church.

Your lawyer will use this evidence to fight for you. The lawyer will present this evidence to a jury. If you and your lawyer prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence, the jury will award you damages.

A civil suit can give you the ability to regain your voice. Melissa Hague has built her practice around listening to stories from church abuse victims. She believes her clients and fights for justice on their behalf. Schedule your free, confidential consultation today.

Getting Damages for a Sexual Assault Injury

You can recover damages from any person or entity that breached its legal duties to you. A civil lawsuit can give you the compensation you need to help manage the effects of the emotional trauma. It can also push the church to make the changes necessary to protect future generations.

Time Limits for Civil Lawsuits

A “statute of limitations” can place time limits on the filing of civil lawsuits in Pennsylvania, but there are many elements involved in determining what that time limit is. The considerations may include the victim’s age when the abuse occurred, the victim’s age at the time of the lawsuit, and numerous other factors.

You should contact a sexual assault attorney as soon as possible upon deciding that you want to pursue a civil lawsuit. The lawyer will analyze your circumstances and make sure you comply with any statutes of limitations in your case.

Legal Theories for Recovering Damages

Your case is about more than the abuser. Entities like churches have many controls in place to prevent these awful situations from arising. Depending on your particular circumstances, you might have claims against the following parties:

  • The abuser
  • The abuser’s supervisor
  • The church
  • Other church members

Some legal theories you can use to pursue your claims include:


Battery includes any form of offensive or harmful touching.


Assault happens when the abuser causes fear of an imminent battery.

False Imprisonment

You can claim false imprisonment if an abuser wrongfully detains you without your consent.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

You suffer from intentional infliction of emotional distress when an abuser or the enablers do something so outrageous that it causes you emotional distress.


Negligence happens when someone fails to act with a reasonable degree of care. As a result, you suffer an injury.

You will typically allege negligence against the abuser’s enablers. Some common negligence claims include:

  • Negligent hiring and retention
  • Negligent supervision
  • Negligent investigation of abuse

In many cases, the evidence might not clearly show whether the church’s failure to stop or prevent abuse was deliberate or merely negligent. By alleging negligence, you can prove your case without having to establish anyone’s intent.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Negligent infliction of emotional distress happens when a church’s negligence causes you emotional distress.

Amount of Damages Recoverable

In a church abuse case, you can recover damages for:

  • Medical bills for physical, mental, and emotional injuries
  • Lost income due to your injuries
  • Diminished earning capacity from long-term disabilities
  • Physical pain
  • Mental anguish
  • Reduced enjoyment of life

Calculated over your lifetime, you could suffer considerable damages. These damages would justify your sexual assault lawyer seeking substantial compensation in your case.

Hiring a Sexual Assault Attorney

Sexual assault lawyers are dedicated and skilled lawyers with the compassion and experience to fight on behalf of survivors. Most sexual assault attorneys offer a free consultation to review your case.

To schedule your free, confidential consultation with a lawyer prepared to fight for you, contact Melissa Hague today.

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