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Survivor Maria Escamilla was awarded $40 million in a decision that domestic violence experts are calling monumental. The Dallas victim’s decision to pursue her ex-boyfriend in civil court may have other survivors lining up to make them pay for their pain and suffering.
Survivors like Lakeesha Moton, newly out of an abusive relationship for a month. She’s getting back on her feet thanks to Hope’s Door in Plano. The 28-year-old mother of two said she’s also considering a civil lawsuit against her ex-boyfriend after hearing about the Escamilla case.
“I’ve never heard of anyone being able to sue their abuser,” said Moton. “I know that if I had the opportunity to sue I probably would.”
Escamilla lost 40 percent of the blood in her body after the 2011 attack. The man responsible, Jose Arreola, beat, stabbed and raped her before sexually mutilating her at the Lancaster home they had shared. Arreola broke many of the bones in Escamilla’s face. Doctors said Escamilla almost bled to death and needed 500 stitches to close the wounds. Despite a criminal conviction for Arreola, 28 years in prison and a $5,000 fine, Escamilla filed a civil suit for the pain, suffering and medical costs.
The decision by a Dallas jury on Wednesday could give abusers more than just prison to worry about. “When you start to hurt their pockets, that’s when they really feel it,” said Escamilla,.“It makes me feel like my life mattered to the jurors.”
It also sends a message that civil courts could become very sympathetic to other women like Escamilla.
“It really sets the tone in many ways clarifying that the system is behind women,”said Susan Hoff, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. Women like Moton who said she lost her job and home while piliing up medical bills from her injuries and could use whatever money she can get from the man in jail who caused it.
“It’s so deep the depression you lose everything,” said Moton.
But there are risks for women who file civil cases. Many of the men they sue won’t have more money than the cost of a lawyer. There are also concerns in some rare cases it could provoke a backlash from an abuser.
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