Sexual Assault Lawyer

Last updated May 13, 2024

If you are a sexual assault survivor, our lawyers can help you pursue justice and monetary compensation by filing a civil sex abuse lawsuit.

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Key Takeaways

  • Sexual assault refers to any sexual contact that occurs without mutual consent.
  • Survivors of sexual assault have the right to file a civil sexual assault lawsuit against the perpetrator and any third party that enabled such assault.
  • A sexual assault lawyer can help survivors hold their abusers accountable and pursue compensation for the damages caused.

Sexual Assault Lawsuits

Sexual assault is a serious crime with long-lasting and traumatic consequences for survivors. Unfortunately, a large number of sexual assault cases go unreported or remain unresolved due to a lack of information about the survivors’ legal rights or proper legal representation.

Seeking help in the aftermath of sexual assault may seem difficult and intimidating. A sexual assault lawyer can help you pursue justice and hold those responsible for your suffering liable for the harm they caused you. At Edwards Henderson, we are dedicated to helping sexual abuse survivors fight for monetary compensation from perpetrators and third-party enablers. Our sexual assault lawyers have the resources and legal expertise to ensure your voice is heard and your story is taken seriously. If you or a loved one is a survivor of sexual assault, contact Edwards Henderson today for a free and confidential consultation.

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is a non-consensual sexual activity. It can occur in different ways and can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or age. Examples include:

  • Rape or attempted rape (including anal and oral sex)
  • Forcible object penetration
  • Forcing someone to perform sexual acts
  • Performing unwanted sexual acts in someone’s presence
  • Unwanted fondling, tickling, kissing, or touching

While an individual may be assaulted by anyone, sexual abusers tend to be people known to the survivor, such as a family member, friend, partner, or acquaintance.

Case Types Sexual Assault Lawyers Work With

Sexual assault is a serious crime that affects a large number of people in our society. Survivors of such abuse have the right to seek legal action against their assailants and any business or institution that enabled them by ignoring instances of sexual abuse or covering up sexual harassment or assault. If you want to file a lawsuit against the parties that have caused you harm, speak to a qualified sexual assault lawyer who can provide you with the support necessary for navigating the legal process. Lawyers typically work with the following types of cases:

What is the Statute of Limitations On Sexual Assault?

The Statute of Limitations (SOL) is the period within which a survivor can bring a case against their attacker to court. Depending on the state, the statute of limitations period for sexual assault may vary from one to 10 years after the incident. Some states do not have an SOL for sexual assault, meaning that the survivor can bring a case against their attacker at any time.

In most cases, the SOL starts from the date of the incident occurred, but some states may extend the SOL based on the date of discovery of damages resulting from the attack. This is because many survivors suffer from temporary memory losses due to trauma or drug-induced conditions. Recently, several states have amended their laws regarding civil sexual assault lawsuits by extending the deadline to file a claim for sexual assault, or doing away with the statute of limitations entirely for child sexual assault claims.

States like New York established lookback windows for survivors of assault to file claims. A lookback window allows you to file civil claims that an expired statute of limitations would have otherwise barred. For example, under the New York Adult Survivors Act, adult survivors of sexual abuse may file a lawsuit for compensation within the one-year window between November 24, 2022 to November 24, 2023.

What Should I Do if I Was Sexually Assaulted?

Sexual assault is a traumatic experience, and so it may be difficult or confusing to understand what to do in its aftermath. However, you must remember that you do have legal options available and can choose to take action. If you or a loved one has been sexually abused, here are some of the steps to consider:

  1. Find safety and emotional support: The first thing to do is to find a safe space where you can process your experience. You may want to reach out to people in your life who can provide emotional support, such as a close friend or a family member. If you do not feel comfortable talking to someone in your life, you can consult a medical professional at a hospital or a clinic who should have the necessary resources to connect you to professional help.
  2. Seek immediate medical attention: It is critical to seek medical attention right away. Many survivors are apprehensive about seeking medical attention due to intense emotions like shock, shame, guilt, panic, fear, emotional blunting, and/or anger. It is understandable you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after going through a crime as violent and intrusive as sexual assault. But it is vital to get the relevant medical aid to help manage the transmission of sexually transmitted infections and check for internal injuries. Survivors may want to consider asking for a rape kit, which can provide documentation that can be used as evidence in a criminal case. For those who are not prepared to file a report just yet, the sexual assault kits can be frozen until you are ready to come forward with your story. The window for being tested, however, is only 72 hours, so it is important to act fast.
  3. Focus on healing and recovery: After seeking medical attention, the next step is to focus on healing and recovery. This may involve seeking counseling, therapy, or both. You should consider taking some time for yourself to recover from the trauma. Many survivors undergo dialectical behavior therapy or cognitive behavior therapy with a licensed counselor to treat trauma-based disorders or symptoms. Depending on your situation, you may be advised to practice healing techniques including journaling, art therapy, pranayama (breathing exercises), yoga, and/or meditation. You may also consider joining a support group or engaging in activities that make you feel secure and help you reclaim a sense of ownership over your life.
  4. Filing a sexual assault lawsuit: Many sexual assault survivors pursue justice by filing a civil sexual assault lawsuit to pursue compensation for the losses endured due to the assault. By holding those who are responsible accountable for their actions, you may feel a sense of justice, closure, and empowerment. If you decide to pursue legal action, you should contact an experienced and skillful sexual assault attorney who can give you the right advice and guide you through the legal process.

How to Report Sexual Assault

If you have recently experienced any instance of sexual violence, we urge you to report the incident as soon as possible. Taking swift action can help ensure that your abuser is held accountable for their action. It may also help protect other individuals. We recommend you take the following actions:

  1. Call 911: If you have been sexually assaulted and fear immediate danger, call 911 and alert the law enforcement authorities about your situation. They should be able to help you get to a safe place, assess your physical condition, and collect evidence of the crime.
  2. Contact your local police department or campus-based law enforcement: If you do not believe you are in immediate danger, contact contact your local police department or any campus-based law enforcement.
  3. Seek medical attention: If you seek medical attention for injuries from the assault, inform the attending healthcare worker that you would like to report the assault. You can also ask to receive a sexual assault forensic exam.

Common Hesitations in Filing a Sexual Assault Report

We understand that filing a sexual assault report can be a difficult and emotionally draining experience. A large number of survivors often hesitate to come forward to file a sexual assault report for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Fear of harm to family members, loved ones, or self: Survivors may fear for their safety, as well as the safety of their family members, friends, or loved ones. It can be overwhelming to know that the abuser is out there and can possibly harm them if they come forward. This may especially be difficult when a person is assaulted by someone powerful and influential. Survivors may also fear retaliation or retribution from abusers holding positions of power, like senior colleagues or a boss at work.
  2. Knowing the perpetrator: Since the majority of perpetrators of sexual assault are someone known to the survivor, filing a report against them can be unnerving. Survivors may hesitate to come forward out of mixed emotions or fear that others would not believe them or might even side with the perpetrator. This is a common fear among child sex abuse survivors.
  3. Fear of not being believed: Survivors often fear that law enforcement won’t believe them or might even blame them for the incident. This fear may be compounded if the survivor was using drugs or alcohol prior to the assault or if they have a mental illness or disability. Keep in mind that no matter what the circumstances are, you can still file a report and seek help.
  4. Heightened emotional state: In the wake of a traumatic event like sexual assault, survivors often experience complex emotions such as shock, numbness, panic, shame, fear, disgust, anger, or a combination thereof. This can make it hard for someone to think clearly and come to terms with what happened to them. Some survivors may want to forget about the attack and not rehash it by filing a report.
  5. In a relationship with the perpetrator: Sometimes, the relationship between the survivor and perpetrator may be ongoing and/or complicated. In these cases, it can be difficult to process the trauma and report it out of complicated emotions attached to the abuse or the fear of such a relationship being exposed. Some survivors may even be gaslit in an attempt to trivialize their experiences.
  6. Legal consequences: When the perpetrator is a family member or someone the survivor otherwise knows well, they may feel guilty about the perpetrator potentially facing consequences and may want to ‘protect’ them or other members of their family from the additional trauma.

Remember, sexual assault can happen to anybody in any situation. A survivor is never at fault for being the target of an abuser. Consider reaching out to a qualified sexual abuse attorney who can answer your questions about filing a lawsuit against your abuser.

Sexual Assault Statistics

Sexual assault is a vile and heinous crime, with far-reaching impacts on the survivors:

  • An American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Each year, over 460,000 Americans the age of 12 or older are sexually assaulted or raped.
  • According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, an estimated one in five women have experienced attempted or completed rape during their lifetime, while nearly a quarter of men in the country have experienced some form of contact sexual violence.
  • RAINN reports that individuals ages 12-34 are most at risk of rape and sexual assault, with women who are 18-24 years of age in the highest risk category.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate the total lifetime cost per sexual violence survivor to be upwards of $122,000.
  • According to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, LGBTQIA+ persons over the age of 16 are nearly four times more likely to experience sexual violence, including sexual assault, than non-LGBTQIA+ people. The men in the community are twice as likely to experience sexual violence than heterosexual cisgender men.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Damages in a Sexual Assault Case?

You can file a lawsuit for monetary compensation against all parties potentially liable for sexual assault. For an assault that occurred in a business establishment, organization, or institution, you can hold the relevant third-party accountable if they neglected to enforce appropriate safety measures, ignored your complaint, or covered up the sexual abuse in any way. The sexual abuse attorneys at Edwards Henderson have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of survivors of sexual assault in cases involving institutions such as:

  • Colleges and universities: Higher education institutions can be held liable for sexual assault if they failed to provide a safe environment for students or failed to properly investigate and respond to reports of sexual misconduct within the university. Examples may include hiring staff without conducting proper screening to ensure there is no prior criminal record for sexual violence, or failing to implement sufficient campus security measures.
  • Daycares and preschools: Daycare centers and preschools can be named in a sexual assault lawsuit if they do not take the necessary steps to protect children from sexual abuse or allow a predator to access children in their care.
  • Nursing homes: These facilities may be liable if they fail to hire adequate staff or properly supervise them so as to prevent sexual assault against residents. Failing to recognize common signs that a resident is being abused may also make a nursing home partially responsible for the incident.
  • Hospitals: Hospitals can be held liable for neglecting to protect their patients from sexual assault while under their care and/or failing to adequately screen employees.
  • Medical and dental practices: Similar to hospitals, medical or dental practices may be held responsible for damages for negligent or reckless conduct resulting in sexual assault.
  • Troubled teen camps: Troubled teen camps, wilderness programs, and other behavior modification programs may be found liable for failing to take precautions to protect minors and young adults from sexual abuse.
  • Residential treatment facilities: Residential treatment centers for mental health services or addiction programs can be held liable for failing to protect patients in vulnerable conditions.
  • Rideshare services: Services like Uber and Lyft may be held responsible for sexual assault against a passenger if they fail to properly vet their drivers, fail to provide a safe environment (such as by including features for live sharing of rides) or fail to take prompt action against drivers accused of assault.
  • Negligent property or business owners: Negligent property owners and business establishments are considered responsible if they do not take appropriate measures to prevent sexual assault from occurring on their premises, such as by installing security cameras and security personnel.
  • Negligent employers: Negligent employers can also be liable if they fail to address issues of sexual harassment in the workplace or when they knew or should have known about potential risks and failed to act to prevent ongoing or further sexual harassment or assault.
  • Churches and religious organizations: Churches and religious organizations, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, may be found liable for ignoring signs of sexual abuse or covering up such abuse to prevent perpetrators from being appropriately penalized.
  • Cruise ship lines: Cruise ship lines, container ships, and similar seacraft may be held accountable if they do not maintain sufficient security measures that would prevent sexual assaults from occurring on board, or if they fail to address the issue properly.
  • Spas and massage therapy businesses: Spas and massage therapy businesses may face legal action if they employ staff members who sexually assault patrons.
  • Summer camps and youth sports leagues: Summer camps and youth sports leagues may be faced with sexual assault lawsuits for failing to ensure the safety of minors on their premises or for not taking appropriate steps when signs of abuse are reported.

What Are the Degrees of Sexual Assault?

The legal definition of sexual assault varies from state to state, but in general, there are four degrees of sexual assault:

  • First-degree sexual assault: First-degree sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault, is generally referred to as nonconsensual sexual penetration with force, the threat of force, bodily injury, or when the individual is physically helpless or mentally incapacitated due to age or intoxication. This type of sexual assault often includes aggravated factors such as physical harm, kidnapping, the use of a deadly weapon, or attempts to cause serious bodily injury.
  • Second-degree sexual assault: Second-degree sexual assault involves nonconsensual sexual contact with force or threat of force or when the individual is physically helpless or mentally incapacitated due to age or intoxication.
  • Third-degree sexual assault: Third-degree sexual assault typically involves nonconsensual sexual penetration with a person in a manner that was forced or coerced, or when the individual was incapacitated.
  • Fourth-degree sexual assault: Fourth-degree sexual assault involves nonconsensual sexual contact with a minor or an adult who was forced, coerced, or assaulted while incapacitated.

Sexual Assault Lawyer: FAQs

Can I sue for sexual assault?

Yes, survivors have the right to file a civil sexual assault lawsuit against the perpetrator and any third party that allowed or enabled the assault in some way. Depending on the circumstances of the case, survivors may be able to recover compensation for losses suffered as a result of the assault.

Do I have to press criminal charges to file a civil lawsuit for sexual assault?

No, criminal action is separate from civil remedy, so it is not necessary to press criminal charges in order to file a claim for monetary compensation.

What if I froze and didn’t fight back during my sexual assault?

Many survivors of sexual assault do not fight back due to being “frozen” out of fear, confusion, or shock. Regardless of whether you fought back or not, the perpetrator’s actions still constitute a crime, and you have the right to pursue legal action against them.

What is the difference between a criminal sexual assault case and a civil sexual assault case?

In a criminal sexual assault case, charges are brought by the state to punish perpetrators who have been found guilty of the crime. A defendant who is found guilty is likely to be punished with a prison sentencing and a fine.

In a civil sexual assault case, the survivor brings a claim in a civil court for compensation for damages caused by the assault, such as for pain and suffering.

If I have an ongoing sexual assault criminal case, can I also file a civil sexual assault lawsuit?

Yes. Since civil lawsuits are separate from criminal proceedings, survivors have the right to file a civil sexual assault lawsuit whether or not there is an ongoing criminal case. However, it may be advisable to wait to file a civil sexual assault lawsuit until after the criminal case is over. This is because a criminal conviction could potentially increase the chances of recovering money in a civil lawsuit.

Why do I need a civil sexual assault lawyer if I am already working with a criminal sexual assault lawyer?

In a criminal case, the lawyer pursuing charges against the offender is the prosecutor who does not work for the survivor but acts on behalf of the state. Because prosecutors are not retained or hired by the survivor, the prosecutor owes a duty towards the state or the general public, and is not there to serve your personal interests in the matter. When you work with a qualified sexual assault lawyer, your attorney in the civil lawsuit is there to protect your interests. You also have the right to invoke attorney-client privilege over qualified communication shared with your attorney.

What are the pros and cons of filing a sexual assault lawsuit?

By filing a sexual assault lawsuit, survivors could potentially receive significant compensation for the trauma and injuries endured as a result of sexual assault. They can also help prevent further abuse from potentially occurring in the future. Civil sexual assault lawsuits also have a lower burden of proof than criminal cases. In a civil claim, a defendant may be found guilty “by a preponderance of evidence,” or the “more likely than not” standard. On the contrary, in a criminal case, the defendant must be found guilty “beyond all reasonable doubt.”

At the same time, note that survivors do experience a loss of privacy in civil proceedings and may experience a host of uncomfortable emotions. There may also be people in your life who doubt your story or do not stand up for you. While recounting what took place may be difficult, a successful sexual assault lawsuit can also provide you justice and financial compensation for what you had to endure, and help you reclaim a sense of ownership over your life and your story.

What factors should I consider before filing a sexual assault lawsuit?

Aside from the loss of privacy that may come with filing a sexual assault lawsuit, other factors to consider include time and financial assets of the defendants. Civil lawsuits can take anywhere between six months to two years or longer to resolve. Also, if the perpetrator or an enabling third party does not have a sufficient amount of money to their name, you may not get the appropriate amount of financial compensation for your suffering.

Is it possible to heal from sexual assault?

Sexual assault is a horrific crime that may leave physical, mental and/or emotional scars for years after the incident. However, it is possible to heal from the trauma caused with the right resources and support. Common treatment methods include cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, group therapy, spiritual practices, meditation, and much more.

In many ways, filing a civil sexual assault lawsuit helps survivors heal as well. A sexual assault claim can potentially provide you with compensation that can be used to access the resources you need as you heal. Holding perpetrators accountable can also help you achieve a sense of justice that can aid in the healing process.

Sexual Assault Resources

There are many hotlines, chats, and support groups available to survivors of sexual assault. It is important to know that you are not alone in your suffering and there are people who can help you:

  • RAINN: This is a national hotline available 24/7 to provide survivors with counseling and other resources. They also have a live chat feature available on their website.
  • 1in6: 1in6 provides weekly group support sessions for male survivors of sexual assault.
  • LGBTQIA+ Crisis Hotline: The Trevor Project provides 24/7 support for LGBTQIA+ individuals experiencing any form of crisis.
  • MenHealing: MenHealing is a group specifically designed to offer men and boys who have experienced sexual assault or abuse with resources other than crisis counseling services.
  • VictimConnect: This is a nationwide organization providing free peer-support groups for survivors of sexual violence.

We Believe You: Speak to a Compassionate Sexual Assault Lawyer

At Edwards Henderson, we are committed to defending the rights of sexual assault survivors and achieving justice on their behalf. Our sexual assault lawyers have a proven track record of success in achieving favorable settlements on behalf of survivors, including a $71 million verdict which is among the largest sexual abuse verdicts in US history.

If you or a loved one has been affected by sexual assault, contact us today for free legal consultation.

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