Have You Been Sexually Assaulted? Understand Your Rights
If you are the victim of sexual assault in the Atlanta area, call our experienced legal team at 1-800-738-WE-WIN as soon as possible. In addition to criminal justice, you may be able to seek monetary compensation from the responsible party or parties for your pain and suffering. Such monetary awards can cover the costs of medical treatment, therapy and other damages. We know this is a difficult time for you, but it is important that you learn your rights and assert them.
Sexual assault comes in many forms: An attack by a stranger, unwanted sexual behavior from a trusted friend, rape at the hands of a spouse or romantic partner, sexual abuse, coercion by a superior or being forced into the commercial sex trade. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center states that for men, 1 out of 6 will experience “some form of sexual violence in their lifetime” and 1 out of 71 will be the victim of rape. One out of 5 women will be a victim of rape while 1 out of 3 will be exposed to sexual violence.
Atlanta has long been recognized as a major hub in the United States for sex trafficking, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. It has four main highway systems leading into the city, an international airport, and the city hosts several large high-profile events. In 2017, human trafficking in the city generated $290 million, a steep increase from 2012 when it brought in $232 million. Victims of sex trafficking have been forced to engage in commercial sex acts hundreds and thousands of time.
What Is the Difference Between A Criminal Case and A Civil Lawsuit?
Most people understand when someone is charged with committing a criminal act, they could be sentenced to serve time in jail and/or pay a restitution to the victim. In cases involving sexual offenses, the person may be ordered to register as a sex offender and abide by certain rules. Most felony cases never see the inside of a courtroom; it is estimated that over 90 percent end in a plea deal, according to The New York Times. The purpose of a civil lawsuit is to ask a court or judge to grant an alleged victim compensation for the damages caused by the party’s actions, which is a significantly greater amount than restitution.
The burden of proof is also different. Criminal defendants are considered innocent in the eyes of the law until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In cases where there is little to no physical evidence, it is common for defendants to avoid conviction. However, this standard of proof does not exist in the civil court system; the victim just needs to show the other party is more than 50 percent responsible for the damages they have incurred. A civil lawsuit also opens the door for sexual assault victims to hold others responsible, even if they did not actually commit the crime.
Why Should I File A Sexual Assault Claim?
Civil courts provide sexual assault victims with the following:
- Compensation to cover the cost of recovery (medical bills, emotional/mental therapy, lost wages)
- The means to move forward with their life emotionally, mentally and financially
- Ability to hold the other party legally responsible for their actions
Who May Be Financially Liable?
In addition to the person/persons who caused the victim direct harm, victims may also be able to claim compensation from others for negligent acts. For example, if the victim was attacked in an apartment complex, the complex’s owner may be found liable if they failed to provide sufficient lighting or if they knew the area was dangerous and did not have sufficient security to protect guests and residents. Other possible liable parties may include the following:
- Universities: Fostering a rape culture or dismissing allegations when incriminating evidence exists
- Churches – failing to run background checks on youth counselors, not having policies which prohibit religious leaders from being along with a child
- Medical facilities – not providing training for staff, allowing doctors to be alone with patients
- Nursing homes – insufficient monitoring of the facility and staff, failure to run background checks
- Anyone who forced, threatened or coerced the victim to engage in commercial sex: friend, parent, trafficker, neighbor, spouse
If the victim is a minor and was assaulted at a private home during a party, the homeowners may be liable for their negligence in providing supervision. If there was alcohol involved, the homeowners could also be found negligent if their liquor cabinets were unsecured.
What Damages Can I Recover?
Sexual abuse and assault can haunt a victim for the rest of their life through depression, anxiety, a fear to get too close to anyone, their sense of security, post-traumatic stress disorder, withdrawal and sexual diseases. Some victims are so badly damaged, they may not be able to have children. Compensation cannot fix these challenges, but it is designed to give the victim the resources they need to obtain help, whether it is medical, mental or emotional.
Victims of trafficking may be able to sue their traffickers for the revenue they earned under their control. Likewise, lost income is also recompensable under civil law. In some cases, victims may also be granted punitive damages.
Protect Your Rights Now
You have the right to hold those responsible for your pain and suffering accountable for their actions. If your case involves an insurer, it is important to seek out legal counsel before making any decisions. Insurance companies routinely offer low settlements to resolve the claim or try to deny the claim or even delay it in an effort to avoid making a payout.
For a free consultation with an experienced attorney, contact Merritt & Merritt at 1-800-738-WE-WIN or fill out our free case review form. There are no upfront costs and no fees unless we win your case.