Those who commit sexual assault can be held responsible in a criminal court, but many victims do not realize that there are other ways to obtain justice. At Ramos James Law, PLLC, we fight for victims to get the justice they are owed, even when criminal courts fail them.
Our faith in the word of our clients is what sets us apart, and we are committed to using our resources to support you. Our sexual assault attorneys are passionate about fighting for our clients in the courtroom — not only is it what we are best at, but it is an honor to help victims find their path to recovery.
Criminal Law vs. Civil Law
You may have already testified against your assailant in criminal court, or you may have been told that there’s not sufficient evidence to charge them with a sex crime. You might ask yourself, “If the criminal courts already have the matter in hand, why should I pursue a civil claim?” We can tell you: criminal law and civil law are not the same.
Criminal law is about representing the state and enforcing its laws. When an individual commits a crime, it is classified as a crime against the state’s laws, not against you as an individual. Your testimony is important for the case against your attacker, but you are not the one in control of the case. You may get personal closure from your assaulter facing punishment for their crime, but at the end of it all, you will still be left with the costs of your assault.
Civil claims, on the other hand, have to do with your injuries. You’re in control of whether you go after a civil claim, seek a jury award, or make a settlement with your assailant. Most importantly, the outcome of a civil claim is about catering to your needs.
Holding Abusers Accountable
You can work to hold your abuser fully accountable for the pain that they have caused you, and you can fight to get compensation for what you’ve had to endure. You may also be able to hold other negligent parties liable, like schools or employers who should have done more to keep you safe.
You can make a difference for future cases like yours.
Sexual assault is defined as any type of unwanted sexual contact, including sexual contact with those who are unable or too young to consent. You can file a civil suit for any type of sexual assault, commonly including:
The two key parts to filing a successful civil suit against someone who committed sexual assault are being able to prove that the person committed the assault and that the assault caused you actual harm. Of course, all sexual assault causes harm, but the law has higher standards for being able to prove that harm.
It is not uncommon for sexual assault victims to remain silent for years following the abuse. Sexual assault is psychologically and emotionally harmful, and can take years for victims to feel secure enough to stand up and call out their attacker, especially if they were assaulted by a family member or teacher, or had their case dismissed by law enforcement.
Nevertheless, even if the incident took place years ago, there is still hope that you may be able to hold your assaulter liable.
The statute of limitations for sexual assault with a victim who is 18 or older is 10 years. If the case involved a minor below the age of 17 at the time of the assault, then the statute of limitations will be advanced to 20 years from the 18th birthday of the victim. If the perpetrator’s identity is unknown in the beginning, then there is no statute of limitations. The victim can file a lawsuit as John Doe, and if the assailant is discovered months or even years later, charges can still be made.
Nothing can make up for the suffering you faced at the hands of your abuser or rapist. Still, civil courts recognize that you may be owed compensation for the harm you faced. Civil claims address the various needs of sexual assault victims when calculating financial relief, including:
Even if a criminal court found your attacker not guilty, you can still file a civil claim against the assaulter to hold them accountable for their actions.
Criminal courts have a separate standard of proof than civil claims; the party accused has to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
For civil claims, the defendant must be found reasonably likely to have caused damages. Essentially, it is much easier to prove that your assaulter caused you damage in a civil claims court.
Throughout the trial process, the evidence in your favor will hold more power and may end in a positive result. Civil trials can offer personal closure that a criminal trial failed to provide while directly supporting your needs legally and financially.