How to Pursue a Civil Action for Sexual Assault
Without a doubt, sexual assault is one of the most devastating crimes done onto both men and women. The damages are not only physical; the emotional scarring is indisputably endless. The first course of legal action is done in criminal court. Notwithstanding, there is also the possibility for civil action to pursue money damages.
It is important to understand what constitutes sexual assault in New Jersey. The full definition of sexual assault is described in NJSA 2C:14-2. Included in the definition is a charge of sexual penetration using physical force or coercion. It goes without saying that rape is considered sexual assault.
When a sexual assault victim brings a case against his or her assailant, someone from the county prosecutor’s office is assigned to the matter. In criminal court, the prosecutor’s job is to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Simply stated, the defendant is assumed innocent, until the proofs show his or her guilt. The jury will be guided by the judge in making their findings.
The criminal penalties for those found guilty of sexual assault are extensive. Nevertheless, the victim will not receive money damages as a result of a criminal trial. For this reason, it is important to speak with an attorney with experience handling sexual assault victim cases.
Sexual Assault Victims and Damages
Here’s a frightening statistic published by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, many will be too ashamed to bring the matter to court.
Of course, the news is also filled with child sex abuse cases. Some involve former teachers or clergy members. Unlike some states, New Jersey courts are more lenient when it comes to the statute of limitations. Take a look at this news source that refers to the law as “victim friendly.” According to the article, a 46-year-old man was permitted to pursue a case against his high school teacher. The reason cited for the time delay was the victim’s claim that he did not realize he was actually raped.
The standard for proving a civil case is considered easier than the one used in criminal cases. The defendant must be found guilty by a preponderance of the evidence. Your attorney can explain the difference as it pertains to your case.
Once again, the prosecutor will not help you pursue a case for money damages. You will need to retain the services of a personal attorney, preferably one who has experience working with sexual assault cases.
What happens in a civil case? Your lawyer will review the evidence with you and conduct an extensive investigation. Obtaining testimony from the parties and any witnesses may be necessary. Medical records, including psychological treatment, will all become an important part of the case.
In addition to filing a lawsuit against the person or persons who sexually assaulted you, there may be other potential defendants. Here are some examples:
- Property owner failed to keep area safe to prevent foreseeable sexual assault
- School or employer did not properly vet teacher or employee
- Business failed to secure dangerous area or provide adequate lighting
You may be concerned that the perpetrator does not have the financial means to pay out monetary damages. Nevertheless, you should always review the circumstances of the sexual assault with legal counsel.