Ohio Ruling Expected on Capping Awards for Juvenile Sexual Abuse Victims
Public News Service
March 24, 2016
An Ohio Supreme Court decision is expected soon that could impact the amount of financial compensation child sexual abuse victims can receive. Jessica Simpkins was raped at the age of 15 by her church pastor – a man hired by Grace Brethren Church in Sunbury despite the knowledge that he had previously sexually abused two girls. In a civil suit, a jury awarded Simpkins $3.5 million for pain and suffering, but the amount was reduced to $250,000 due to a state law that caps damages. She says she's being re-victimized and took the case to the Ohio Supreme Court. "I just feel like they're protecting the church,” she states. “When they had the accusations made against him previous, if they wouldn't have let him start this church, it would never have happened. " Simpkins' attorney argues the law is unconstitutional as applied to juvenile sexual abuse victims, as they can suffer more emotional damages than physical or economic harm. But attorneys for the church maintain large awards on non-economic injuries are subjective and difficult to quantify. Arguments were heard in December and a decision is expected any day now. Sexual assault victims often face a long, hard road of recovery, and Simpkins says she can't get over the horror of her attack. "There's like two to three times a week it's like a whole tape of the day will just replay in my head and it's like I have to freeze for a while because I can't do anything, I can't stop it,” she relates. “I know I need counseling, but I know I'm not ready to talk about it. I have a big problem with trusting people and I have an alcohol problem." Some supporters contend caps benefit the state's economy by creating a fairer and more predictable civil justice system. But Simpkins' attorney, John Fitch, says it's bad public policy that shields those who engage in the sexual abuse of children. "The law actually protects those who are responsible for the rape of the child, be it the rapist on in this case, an employer who does nothing in the face of accusations of sexually predatory conduct,” he states. “That's just outrageous and it's immoral."