Victims of sexual abuse have the right to seek justice against perpetrators. While this can be an exhausting and emotional process, it’s good to know what to expect during a sexual abuse lawsuit.
This guide will help you prepare for the process of this legal battle.
The Process of Reporting Sexual Assault
Following an experience of sexual abuse, you may qualify for a civil order of protection. This free option will require the assailant to stay away from you and your household, giving you safety and time to prepare for a court hearing. You can issue a Restraining Order, Stalking Protection Order, or an EPPDAPA Protection Order.
As a victim of sexual assault, you can file a personal injury-based lawsuit. This lawsuit against the perpetrator would be handled in civil court, and it’s typically the only option the victim has to seek compensation for damages. This is separate from any criminal prosecution against the offender that may include jail time, fines, and probation.
Proving a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
You’ll typically have better success in a rape trial process if the defendant was convicted. This means that initial criminal prosecution entitles you to collateral estoppel, which prevents the defendant from rearguing the same legal issue they were convicted of. As the victim, you’ll have an easier time proving that the defendant is liable with a lower standard of proof in a civil case.
For the court to find the defendant civilly liable, you need to prove the likelihood that the defendant committed the wrongful act (by a preponderance of the evidence). This differs from criminal cases to prove guilt. This includes legal proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which is a rather difficult standard of law to prove.
The Statute of Limitations
In a sexual assault case, you’ll often have to deal with the statute of limitations. This is a state law that requires you to file a lawsuit for damages within a certain amount of time. So, in many US states, you can’t seek damages after a certain amount of time has passed.
Some states have also enacted a specific time frame for filing civil lawsuits over older abuse cases. This is called “lookback windows,” and it may be advantageous if you’re looking to file a lawsuit for a crime that occurred decades ago. Talking to a personal injury lawyer will point you in the right direction and help you learn more about the statute of limitations deadlines for your state.
Facing the Perpetrator
Filing a sexual assault lawsuit against your abuser is a way for you to take back control. This does come with plenty of emotional effort that can feel taxing, so it’s good to prepare for the possibility of reliving a painful experience in court. There are many advocates and resources that you can use to get counseling.
When taking the stand take brief pauses to collect yourself during emotional moments, answer only what is asked, tell the truth, and stay hydrated. You can also ask the judge or prosecutor to take a short break if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It can also be helpful to focus your attention on the person asking questions, and not look at the perpetrator.
Find More Resources
Dealing with a sexual abuse lawsuit is no easy task, and there are organizations here to help. You can prepare for handling specific state laws and proving liability and talk to a counselor to get ready to take the stand.
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