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Helping Sexual Assault Survivors Seek Closure

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (#SAAPM). To help victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse and their families, we’d like to take this opportunity to promote awareness through statistical information and let survivors know there is the possibility for closure and retribution.

Sex crimes are more common than society would like to admit- or even feels comfortable acknowledging. We’d all like to think it could never happen to us or the ones we love, but, truth is, everyone is vulnerable.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 98 seconds another American, from all walks of life, is sexually assaulted. Anyone can become a victim. These statistics prove that:

  • Of the victims of sexual violence each year in the US, over 80 thousand are inmates, nearly 19 thousand are military personnel, 60 thousand are children, and over 320 thousand are 12 and older.
  • Women, children, and men are all affected by sexual violence each year. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men become the victims of attempted or completed rape annually.

A Victim’s Right to Retribution

Sexual assault and abuse offenders are more likely to go free than receive a conviction in criminal court. For instance, less than one percent of reported rapes result in a criminal conviction.

Despite these discouraging results, victims and their families can still seek recompense in civil court even if the offender was never brought to trial or found guilty in criminal court. If the perpetrator was found guilty, victims may still seek monetary compensation and may even have a better chance at winning their civil suit, as a legal theory called “collateral estoppel” may allow plaintiffs to use a guilty conviction as evidence to support their claim.

While there is no cause of action- legal grounds for a civil suit- explicitly referring to sexual assault, abuse, or molestation, victims can still file a personal injury claim under other applicable categories, such as “assault and battery” or “intentional infliction of emotional distress”.

Furthermore, victims can seek financial compensation for both physical injuries and ongoing emotional and psychological torment resulting from their assault or abuse. The psychological effects and medical conditions caused by sexual violence vary from person to person but often prevent victims from accomplishing even their basic daily routines. Victims often suffer from depression, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).

A personal injury claim can be easier to win than achieving a criminal conviction, as the burden of proof in civil courts is lighter than in criminal courts. When seeking convictions, prosecutors must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the acts in question. When attempting to win a claim, the victim must only prove it is “more likely than not”, meaning greater than a 50 percent chance, that the defendant committed the sex crime.

While civil courts afford victims the chance to seek justice in the form of financial compensation, the perpetrator’s personal assets are generally the only source from which to draw damages, as most insurance policies do not cover intentional acts. If a criminal’s financial resources are insufficient to appropriately compensate the victims, a third party may be held accountable for the sexual assault or abuse. Depending on the circumstances of the assault, places of businesses, schools, or other institutions could pay damages if they did not take reasonable actions within their scope of responsibility to prevent the abuse.

Seeking financial compensation for sexual assault or sexual abuse isn’t just about the money. It’s about holding abusers accountable when the criminal courts fail the victims. It’s about providing victims access to ongoing psychological and medical care to overcome the trauma of sexual violence.

If you or a loved one has suffered from sexual assault, abuse, or molestation, call our experienced personal injury lawyers at Crane Flores, LLP anytime, day or night, at (805) 628-4967. We advocate for victims of sexual abuse, ensuring predators are held accountable to give survivors the closure they deserve.