Sexual violence continues to plague our society, as sexual abuse and sexual assault victims remain in a pattern or “cycle of abuse.” Virginia’s Anonymous Plaintiff Statute, Va. Code §8.01-15.1, permits a blanket of privacy for victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
The Anonymous Plaintiff Statute allows a person to file suit using a pseudonym, pen name, or alias (e.g. Jane Doe, or initials). If the defendant does not challenge the use of the pseudonym, the case proceeds as filed, and the name of the sexual abuse or sexual assault victim remains confidential. If the defendant challenges the use of the pseudonym, the court will schedule a hearing and make a determination based upon the arguments of both parties, through their attorneys.
Defendant’s challenge to the pseudonym
Once the defendant notes his or her challenge to the pseudonym, the sexual abuse or sexual assault victim has the burden or responsibility to prove to the court that the pseudonym is necessary. The court will assess the special circumstances of the case and weigh the public interest in knowing the identity of the sexual abuse or sexual assault victim against any prejudice the defendant may suffer. In reaching its decision, the court will ask:
- Whether the anonymity is intended to avoid the annoyance and criticism of filing a lawsuit
- Whether the anonymity is intended to preserve privacy in a sensitive and highly personal matter
- Whether identifying the sexual abuse or sexual assault victim would pose a risk of physical or mental harm
- The age of the sexual abuse or sexual assault victim
- Whether the lawsuit involves an individual person or governmental entity
- The risk of unfairness if anonymity is maintained
A court may impose additional orders to ensure that using the pseudonym doesn’t otherwise interfere with either party’s access to its usual rights and procedures of trial.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a sexual assault, follow these important steps before calling a sexual assault attorney. At Allen & Allen, we offer free and confidential consultations for sexual abuse cases. Call today at 866-388-1307.