Forty-seven years after sexual assault, Iowa woman sues her attacker
An Iowa woman is suing the man who sexually assaulting her 47 years ago, seeking damages for a lifetime of anxiety and depression. (Photo by krisanapong detraphiphat/Getty Images)
An Iowa woman is suing the man who was convicted of sexually assaulting her 47 years ago, seeking damages for the anxiety and depression caused by the event.
The lawsuit is based on a new federal law that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in September of last year. The Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022 allows sex-abuse victims to sue their attackers decades after the fact.
Sherri Moler of Eldridge is suing Lynn Lindaman, a former athletic trainer who, after his conviction, went on to become an orthopedic surgeon in Polk County. The case was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.
Moler alleges that in July 1975, when she was 14, she attended a gymnasts’ summer sports camp at the University of Iowa. Lindaman, then 24, was at the camp, working as a counselor and athletic trainer.
According to the lawsuit, Lindaman sexually assaulted Moler while treating an injury to her back. He was later arrested, and on Feb. 26, 1976, he was convicted of lascivious acts with a person under the age of 16.
Moler alleges that on March 20, 2022, she was in Des Moines to attend a basketball game and was alone in her hotel room reading online posts on her phone when an ad for the Lindaman Orthopaedic Clinic popped up on her screen. Mole recognized the name and clicked on the post, which took her to a site depicting Lindaman’s photo.
“Upon seeing his name and picture, she freaked out, became hysterical and threw up,” the lawsuit alleges. “All the events of July 10, 1975, came rushing back into her mind and she has been distraught, upset and unable to sleep since that night.”
The lawsuit alleges Lindaman’s 1975 assault has caused Moler to experience emotional problems — including major depressive order, post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety — throughout her adult life, and that she has suffered financial injury in the form of expenses related to therapeutic services.
The lawsuit seeks actual damages of $150,000, as well as punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. Lindaman, who recently closed the Lindaman Orthopaedic Clinic in Des Moines, has yet to file a response to the lawsuit. He could not be reached for comment.
The Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022 is the result of bipartisan legislation that was initially proposed by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican and Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat. The law eliminated the statute of limitations, previously set at 10 years, for minor victims of federal sex offenses to file civil actions to recover damages.
The law applies to the victims of more than a dozen federal child sex-abuse offenses — including aggravated sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and pornography, sex trafficking, human trafficking and forced labor, and allows them to sue for damages in federal court regardless of how long it took them to process or discover the abuse they suffered.
Moler’s lawsuit, while referencing a criminal conviction that occurred in state court, alleges that Lindaman’s conduct was also in violation of federal laws pertaining to sexual abuse.
While the new federal law does not help older survivors of abuse whose claims would have already expired under the 10-year statute of limitations, that 10-year limit, at least in some cases, applies to the date the victims discovered their injuries rather than the date of the actual assault. In Moler’s case, she alleges she didn’t discover the sexual assault was the cause of her injuries and trauma until March 2020, two years prior to seeing the ad on her phone in the hotel room.
The Congressional Budget Office last year indicated that it expects only a “small” number of civil cases to be filed as a result of the new federal law.
Some of the states that have enacted similar laws enabling civil lawsuits to be pursued in state court have seen a significant number of cases filed. More than 10,000 such lawsuits were filed in New York state courts in 1999, many involving assaults by priests, with some of the cases stemming from abuse that occurred in the 1950s.
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