Filing a Civil Claim for Sexual Assault

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 Can I Sue for Sexual Assault in Civil Court?

An individual can sue in civil court for sexual assault. The plaintiff will be required to choose a cause of action in order to sue a defendant.

Personal injury law does not have a cause of action for sexual assault. Because of this, a plaintiff will be required to choose one or more of the following legal theories instead to bring a civil claim against a defendant:

Can I Sue More Than One Person for My Sexual Assault?

An individual may be able to sue more than one person or party for their sexual assault. However, what parties an individual can bring a lawsuit against will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Examples of when an individual may be able to sue more than one party are if the sexual assault occurred at a school. In this type of case, the plaintiff may also be able to sue the school administration or a teacher for allowing the assault to occur in addition to suing the perpetrator who actually committed the assault.

What Is Sexual Assault?

A sexual assault occurs when an individual engages in nonconsensual contact or touching of a sexual nature with another individual. In general, this involves the threat of force, force, or violence.

In the legal context, sexual touching or contact is defined as the knowing and purposeful touching of an intimate or private part of another individual in order to arouse sexual desire. This touching may be done either directly to the individual’s body or through their clothing.

One example of an act that typically constitutes sexual touching includes inappropriately grabbing another individual’s genitals, even when they are covered by clothes. There are many states that have separate criminal laws that address cases of sexual assault.

Although the definition discussed above generally applies, the specific requirements for committing the crime may vary considerably between different states. The penalties for this offense can also vary but will typically include criminal fines, incarceration, or a combination of both.

One major difference between sexual assault laws in different states is whether a sexual assault can be punished as an aggravated assault. There are some state laws that classify sexual assault as aggravated assault if the force or violence that was used caused bodily harm or injuries to the individual who was sexually assaulted.

Aggravated assault may result in harsher penalties than compared to sexual assault, for example, with a longer prison sentence.

Are There Any Exceptions?

It is important to be aware that there are certain situations in which contact or touching involving another individual’s intimate or private parts would not be considered sexual assault, including, but not limited to:

  • The medical personnel exception: A medical professional may be performing a clinical examination of a patient that necessitates touching or contact involving the patient’s genitals. In this case, any touching of their intimate parts would not constitute contact of a sexual nature;
    • However, it is imperative to note that this does not apply if an individual is falsely representing themselves as a medical professional or when an actual medical professional touched an individual inappropriately outside of the scope of the medical treatment;
      • An example of this would be if a medical professional fondled a patient while they were under anesthesia; and
  • The parental exception: If the parent of a child is performing a necessary domestic function, such as changing a diaper or bathing the child, touching of private parts would not be considered contact of a sexual nature;
    • However, if the touching of the child is not performed for a necessary domestic function, it may be considered sexual assault in addition to child abuse.

How Is the Force Element of Sexual Assault Fulfilled?

The criminal offense of sexual assault typically requires that the contact is committed using a threat of force, force, or violence. The force, however, may be as simple as making contact and does not have to include violence.

In addition, extreme force does not have to be used in order to satisfy this element of sexual assault. In some jurisdictions, threats are considered to be sufficient to fulfill this element.

It is important to note that force may be a subjective issue. Because of this, the amount of force is relative to the individual who was touched.

For example, the force experienced by a child would be considerably different than that of an adult who had full capacity. Touching a child that is not done by their parent or for domestic care reasons will usually qualify as forceful.

The force element will also be fulfilled regardless of the actual amount of force used if the individual who was touched was not able to give community consent because they were physically helpless or incapacitated. One example of this would be if an individual has passed out due to alcohol or drug use.

These situations may also serve as grounds for rape charges.

How Is a Civil Claim for Sexual Assault Proven?

How a civil claim for sexual assault is proven often depends on whether there is also a criminal case. If a criminal case also exists, the plaintiff may be able to use the defendant’s conviction to prove their civil case.

In general, a civil case will be easier for a plaintiff to win if a defendant has already been convicted of sexual assault in criminal court. This is because it was already proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the assault. Civil cases have a lower burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

This means the plaintiff has to show it was more likely than not that the defendant committed the assault. A plaintiff can prevail in a civil sexual assault case by satisfying the elements that are required to prove the tort that the plaintiff is suing under, such as assault or battery.

How Long Do I Have to File a Civil Claim for Sexual Assault?

How long an individual has to file a civil claim for sexual assault will vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction and the type of claim being filed. It is common for the statute of limitations in a civil case to be two years.

However, an individual should consult with a local attorney to determine the exact statute of limitations for the claim they are filing.

Should I Contact a Lawyer About Filing a Civil Claim for Sexual Assault?

If you are considering filing a claim civil claim for sexual assault, it is essential to consult with a personal injury lawyer. A sexual assault civil claim is difficult to prove because of the evidence that is required, the number of parties that may be involved, and the fact that it is often one individual’s word against another.

Your lawyer will advise you of your legal rights and options under the laws of your state, what claims you may be able to bring, as well as what parties you may be able to sue. As these cases are often difficult and emotional, it is important to have the support of an attorney who will represent you and ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.

If you are being sued in civil court for sexual assault, it is important to have a lawyer defending you. Civil cases often result in monetary awards, some quite large, that may affect your future if you do not have the ability to pay.

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