Can I sue a school for sexual assault?

PUBLISHED 16 Apr 2020

Learning institutions serve as sanctuaries, where people of all ages can go to learn and discover new skills that can help them become more well-rounded individuals. Teachers and administrators play an important role in ensuring that this goal is achieved, and more often than not, they do all of us proud.

Sadly, some faculty abuse their power and engage in heinous acts against fellow workers, students or other individuals. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, women are three times as likely as men to have been sexually assaulted in school settings or elsewhere. Additionally, 51% of students who went through this ordeal say they knew the perpetrator. These crimes leave a lasting impact on survivors, and the related mental, physical and emotional scars can be permanent. Their pain and anguish is shared by survivors’ family and close friends.

In short, sexual assault is a serious problem. Whether you’ve experienced it yourself or are close to someone who has, someone – or something – must be held accountable. It raises the question: Can you sue a school for sexual assault for pain and suffering? The short answer is yes, but it is a complex matter that must be explored carefully before moving to obtain legal recourse against such an institution.

Negligence must be proven 

Chief among these factors to be aware of is establishing negligence. In other words, there must be evidence showing that a learning institution – whether public or private – allowed the abuse to occur in one form or another. Schools don’t necessarily need to have known about it beforehand, but rather failed to take proper measures that could have prevented it from occurring in the first place.

Another aspect in determining if a school must pay compensation to survivors is who is affected by it and when the incident first occurred. For example, if you or a loved one experienced sexual assault as a child, there is no statute of limitations. So you may be entitled to compensation from the school regardless of when the incident took place.

However, if the sexual assault occurred while you or a loved one was an adult, a lawsuit must be filed within three years of the incident. Where the crime transpired may also factor into whether a school can be held financially responsible. Per the Australian Human Rights Commission, 10% of students who were sexually assaulted stated that incidents occurred on university grounds.

GMP can help

If sexual assault has affected you or a loved one personally and you’re considering legal action against a learning institution, contact Gerard Malouf and Partners for a free consultation. We’ll provide you with expertise and advice you can use as a guide for how to proceed.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.