Lawyer urges women to sue their abusers for damages

Attorney Tracey Lomax-Nixon has urged women to sue their abusers for damages.

The call for action follows the scourge of femicide and the news of Uyinene Mrwetyana's murder this week.

Lomax-Nixon is also calling on insurers to develop a product aimed at funding medical and legal bills linked to gender abuse.

She says very few cases result in convictions and that there has to be a way to protect survivors.

We have been discussing for a while the idea of dilectual damages because sexual assault is assault.

Tracey Lomax-Nixon, attorney

The criminal justice system is not the best place to deal with gender-based violence and sexual offences because the criminal justice system is accused-centric, it centres the right of the accused to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. The corollary of that is that the survivor is treated like just any witness, there is no protection against re-traumatisation...

Tracey Lomax-Nixon, Attorney

There has got to be a way to do this where the rape survivor can be protected and be part of the process rather than just a witness.

Tracey Lomax-Nixon, Attorney

Just as you can sue somebody who punches you, you can sue somebody who rapes you in civil courts for damages.

Tracey Lomax-Nixon, Attorney

She says this method of justice has been tried before and that there is a precedent for it. Lomax-Nixon says, however, there are positives and negatives to it.

The positive is that the survivor would be the plaintiff and the plaintiff drives the action.

Tracey Lomax-Nixon, Attorney

Because the accused is not facing incarceration or imprisonment, his rights are not as stringently protected as they are in a criminal hearing.

Tracey Lomax-Nixon, Attorney

The downside is that claims prescribe after three years and once your claim has been prescribed you can never revive it.

Tracey Lomax-Nixon, Attorney

The other difficulty is that not all of the accused people are going to have the funds to pay damages.

Tracey Lomax-Nixon, Attorney

We may well be getting empty judgments but those judgments are still empowering for a woman, it is still a judgment where a court has said: 'I believe you.'

Tracey Lomax-Nixon, Attorney

She explains how a judgment of this nature will affect the accused.

It has the same effect as any judgment on your credit rating and depending on how it is captured, sometimes they capture the cause of action. So the cause of action may come up on your credit bureau history. That may affect your affordability.

Tracey Lomax-Nixon, attorney

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