Sexual Assault Victims Have Rights too
If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, rape or molestation, it can feel like your attacker is the one with all the rights. They have the right to an attorney, the right to a defense, a presumption of innocence, the right to remain silent, and various rights in the criminal case. But, you have rights too. In addition to the criminal justice consequences for their actions, your attacker may be liable in civil court for the harm they have caused you. You have the right to sue your attacker and to seek civil damages, and can sue anyone who caused or contributed to the sexual battery or assault.
Florida law provides various rights for the victim of rape, molestation and assault.What are Civil Damages?
There are typically two sides to your court system. The criminal side requires that someone accused of a crime has a right to a jury trial and that the prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that they committed the crime. This is a high burden to meet. This is why you often see the case presented as State of Florida v. Defendant. It is really the State of Florida bringing the case for a crime committed against the State, where you are looked at as a witness and one with evidence to satisfy certain elements of the crime.
There is also a civil side to our justice system. In civil court, the consequences of losing aren’t jail, instead they are typically monetary damages or injunctive relief. The prosecutor isn’t in charge of a civil case. You are in charge of your own case. You can sue your attacker and ask the court to order your attacker to pay you money to compensate you for not only your medical costs, but also for your pain and suffering. In civil court you only have to show what is called a greater weight of the evidence that your attacker assaulted you. This is a much lower burden than is needed in criminal court.
In Florida, you can also sue any other person or business who contributed to the incident. For example, let's say a bank failed to have adequate lighting or placed an ATM in a location where is is dark. You may have a civil claim against the bank for contributing the Florida ATM rape case. Let's say your young child is molested in day care. If they failed to adequately supervise their staff or children, or failed to run a background check on the molester and one would have turned up other incidents rendering them unfit to work around children, you may have a civil claim against the day care center for failing to prevent the molestation. Other examples may include:
- Pastor who molests a young child
- Church of God youth molested by a youth pastor who failed to have more than one adult present during routine functions
- Daycare worker molesting a child in private school
- Neighborhood friend's father molesting a young girl visiting at the house
- Apartment complex rape of a guest
- Security guard raping a resident or guest
- Cruise passenger raped by another passenger or crew member
- Woman raped after being served at a bar or party underage
The money you are seeking in a civil case is known as civil damages.What You Need to Know About a Civil Suit for a Sexual Assault
You do not have to wait on police action to bring a civil suit. You are, however, limited in the amount of time you have to bring a civil claim. It is usually easier to win a civil case with more than just your own testimony. The more evidence, the better.
If you have been assaulted, you should seek medical care as quickly as possible. The most important reason to do this is for your own health and to preserve evidence. You will need to make sure you do not have any internal injuries and you should be screened and treated for any diseases, such as HIV, your attacker could have transmitted to you. Another reason to seek care as soon as possible is that hospital records can verify your story and help prove that you were sexually assaulted. This may help both law enforcement and your own civil case.
You should also try and preserve any evidence, such as ripped clothes, any witnesses, and any other evidence you may have.
You also need to discuss your case with a lawyer as soon as possible. Because sexual assault cases are often evidence driven, the sooner your lawyer has a chance to start building and investigating a case, the easier it may be to preserve evidence and develop the case.
Just because you have been the victim of a sexual assault doesn’t mean you have to be victimized by the legal system. Protect your rights and talk to an experienced lawyer who handles sexual assault civil cases right away.
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