Steps to Take After Sexual Assault Has Occurred
Sexual assault is an extremely traumatic experience to endure, and many victims reasonably have trouble discussing their assault for some time following the event. Understandably, it is often difficult to know or recall what to do after an assault as occurred. Regardless of how long it takes to acknowledge your traumatic experience, you have the option to follow several steps towards recovering compensation to address the pain and suffering you’ve endured.
Sexual Violence Statistics
Sexual assault can happen to anyone. Predators attack victims who come from an array of different backgrounds, ages, genders, or ethnicities. In America, certain demographics are the target in the incidence of sexual violence more than others. Though it might not be fair, vulnerable groups should remain overtly cautious when taking part in social activities, traveling, or even going on dates.
- 93% of all sexual predators know their victim. Though you might want to exercise benefit of the doubt with everyone you meet, it is wise to stay away of the reality of proximity when it comes to abuse cases.
- 90% of all adult sexual assault victims are women.
- 69% of assault victims are between the ages of 12 and 34.
- 82% of all youth sexual assault victims are girls, with girls between the ages of 16 and 19 at four times the risk for violence than all other females.
- Individuals with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault.
Though rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone, according to studies from the Foundation for Rape Information & Services (FRIS) the target demographic includes females between the ages of 12 and 24, with girls between the ages of 16 and 19 possessing the highest risk.
What Does Sexual Assault Look Like?
Though many cases are straightforward in whether they count as sexual assault, certain contextual aspects might make a victim question if their abuse would have grounds in a court of law. This often occurs when the victim is in a relationship with the perpetrator. Different types of sexual assault are as follows:
- Sexual intercourse (rape), including anal and oral sex, that happens against one member’s will – This even applies to individuals in relationships
- Forcibly penetrating an individual with any foreign object
- Unconsented sexual contact
- Sexual contact with minors
- Possession of child pornography
- Selling sex from minors
- Sexual harassment
Acquaintance rape is the most common type of rape, accounting for 80% of all rape cases. It occurs when someone the victim knows and trusts forces them to have sexual intercourse. This perpetrator can be a friend, family member, teacher, coworker, doctor, or significant other. In fact, more than 50% of all acquaintance rapes happen on dates.
Drug-facilitated sexual assault is common at bars, nightclubs, parties, and other social gatherings. This perpetrator carries out this type of assault by drugging the victim’s drink. These drugs are often tasteless, making drug-facilitated rape extremely dangerous. Oftentimes, victims don’t know what’s going on before becoming too incapacitated to stand up for themselves.
All cases of sexual assault and rape have one thing in common: they do not operate on consent. Many sexual assault perpetrators cite the “she didn’t say no” argument when defending themselves. However, not saying anything is not a form of consent. Especially in the context of a drug-facilitated sexual assault, in which victims can’t say no.
One of the first aspects of seeking help is treating the bodily damage the abuser caused. This typically happens right after the assault when an individual goes to the emergency room. Though it might be disorienting, try to remember to keep all evidence of treatment, like bills and receipts.
After receiving treatment for your immediate injuries, file a police report if you are well enough to do so. It takes some victims with severe cases a considerable amount of time to press charges for sexual assault, especially when they know the perpetrator. However, when you are able to gather the courage, file a report and request a copy for your files.
After experiencing an instance of sexual abuse and/or rape, it can take some time to recover enough emotionally to open up about the experience. Some victims require years to pass before actively acknowledging the damage caused by the assault. In the meantime, several symptoms may manifest:
- Issues at work or school. This can be a lack of focus, withdrawal from social structures, or even irritability that causes arguments with peers.
- Mood swings
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-related symptoms
- Psychosomatic symptoms, like ulcers or heart palpitations
- Risky behavior
If you or someone you know experienced an assault, symptoms like these indicate you should seek professional help in addressing any psychological/emotional trauma. This often means initiating therapy sessions to begin discussing your experience. This is often a turning point for many survivors in which they can finally begin the healing process.
Statute of Limitations
After filing a police report and initiating treatment for your physical and emotional damages, you might want to file a personal injury lawsuit. Each state possesses a statute of limitations that dictates the timeframe a claimant can pursue legal action after an incident. However, many states make exceptions for cases of sexual abuse and assault. Several circumstances grant extensions to a state’s statute of limitations. For instance, if the claimant discovers the true damage caused by the assault through means such as therapy, this discovery date acts in place of the date of the assault.
Remember that each state makes their own laws regarding sexual abuse cases. Research your state’s specific laws to determine if you are within their statute of limitations or check with an attorney.
Personal Injury Law
Sexual assault cases fall under personal injury law. Because there is no specific sexual abuse category under personal injury, it falls under different, related categories like intentional infliction of emotional distress or civil assault/battery. In either case, you must provide evidence that supports your claim.
For instance, claiming assault/battery requires your case to satisfy the following criteria:
- An intentional act by the defendant to create a state of fear or danger. Accidental infliction of fear does not count.
- The victim must possess the reasonable belief they are in danger. The plaintiff must only perceive danger to satisfy this criterion.
- The plaintiff must have experienced fear to this imminent threat. Future threats do not satisfy this criterion.
- The defendant’s actions must present either a physical threat or otherwise offensive behavior to the plaintiff.
Filing a claim for assault/battery lends itself more to assault cases where the victim sustains physical damage caused by force. The victim’s bodily harm and the forcible nature of sexual assault provide grounds for an assault/battery claim.
Claiming emotional distress requires the victim’s case to meet different criteria:
- The defendant must have acted intentionally or recklessly.
- The defendant’s behavior must have been outrageous/extreme.
- The defendant’s behavior must have caused severe emotional distress in the victim.
- The victim possesses verifiable emotional distress directly caused by the defendant’s behavior.
Emotional distress claims differ from assault/battery cases because they cater more toward the psychological aspect of sexual assault. Even if the defendant does not cause physical harm to the victim, the victim can still press charges based on the emotional turmoil their actions caused.
What Damages Can I Claim?
Regardless of the type of claim a victim chooses to pursue, they can claim the following damages in their case:
- Immediate medical expenses
- Recurring medical expenses, including therapy and prescription mediation
- Lost wages for time spent recovering
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Attorney’s fees
- Court fees
Any personal injury claim provides plaintiff’s the opportunity to receive compensation for physical and emotional damages.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Pressing charges against someone who inflicted emotional harm is not easy for everyone. Sometimes survivors fear repercussion, or the court not believing their case. These fears and anxieties can get in the way of effectively pursuing legal action against the defendant. A sexual assault lawyer provides priceless assistance in this regard.
While a survivor of assault is tending to their own physical and emotional injuries, a lawyer can help by filing their client’s claim and offering advice on how to go about gathering evidence. In most cases, individual insurance does not cover the intentional infliction of harm. This means your case will most likely go to court. Attorneys who have experience in personal injury law, and more specifically in sexual assault cases, can offer relevant advice about how to give statements and will advise their clients about how the court processes these claims.
Moreover, lawyers offer resources and services that can help build a victim’s case:
- Witness interviewing
- Evidence gathering
- Expert witness consultation
- Examining previously presented evidence
- Negotiating settlements in mediation
Addressing sexual assault is emotionally demanding and can be difficult to face on your own. Much like a therapist can help you progress through the emotional trauma caused by sexual abuse; a lawyer can help guide you through the legal process when filing a lawsuit. Utilizing the resources and support available to you as a sexual assault survivor is key in healthily addressing the situation. Even if it takes weeks to acknowledge the damage the perpetrator caused, any step toward facing the situation head-on is a step in the right direction. If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual assault, you are not alone, contact Estey & Bomberger at (888) 675-8555 for a free and confidential consultation.