Helping Victims of Sexual Assault
A full range of emotions may run through the mind of a victim who has been sexually assaulted: fear, embarrassment, anger and hopelessness. Questions may ring through the victim's mind: Should I report it? Who should I tell? Will anyone believe me? What will happen to the person that did this to me? Finding the answers to these questions can seem impossible. In fact, according to statistics presented by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. A victim may fear for his or her life, may be embarrassed or may not know where to turn or what to do. At Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, LLP we believe in providing the legal counsel that these victims need to begin putting their lives back together.
In addition to filing criminal charges against the person that assaulted you, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit. A civil lawsuit imposes financial penalties on the defendant, the person that stands accused of causing you harm. Considering the cost of medical care and therapy that may be associated with an incident of this kind, not to mention the lasting psychological trauma a victim may experience, financial compensation can help him or her rebuild and move forward. Because civil and criminal court proceedings operate independently of one another, the defendant may face penalties in both courts without this being considered double jeopardy. The perpetrator may face jail time and other criminal penalties, such as sex offender registration, as well as the payment of financial compensation to the victim.
More About Sexual Assault
The term sexual assault may have different meanings depending on the jurisdiction, but the general definition is some form of unwanted or forced sexual contact with another person. Nonconsensual contact may also be considered sexual assault or abuse, due to the age of the victim or the victim's inability to consent due to a mental and/or physical disability. Some forms of sexual assault and similar acts include: forcible rape, date rape, molestation, improper touching, child sexual abuse, incest, sexual harassment and domestic violence.
Following are some sobering facts on sexual assault in the U.S.:
The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this is the case in at least 70% of cases. It may be a friend, co-worker, boss, teacher, acquaintance, neighbor, coach or other familiar person.
Sexual assault is a very common crime, particularly against children. According to the National Victim Center, approximately one in ten boys and one in four girls will experience some form of sexual assault before they turn 18.
According to statistics presented by RAINN, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every two minutes. There are approximately 200,000 victims of sexual assault every year.
RAINN also states that 44% of assault victims are under the age of 18, and 80% are under the age of 30.
What You Can Do
Men, women, boys and girls may all be victims of sexual violence or abuse. If you were abused or know someone who has been the victim of abuse, it is important to report the incident or incidents to law enforcement. There are ways to seek help without drawing unwanted attention. Your local law enforcement agency should be very aware of your needs. You can also find helpful information online at http://www.rainn.org/get-help or by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE. There are a number of resources available to you that can help you learn more about this crime, your legal options and what you can do to get the assistance you need.