Can Victims of Sexual Assault Sue their Attackers for Damages? 

Over the past month, the topic of sexual assault has received heavy media attention after it was revealed that a major Hollywood producer had allegedly been sexually assaulting actresses for many years. After this initial revelation, the floodgates of sexual assault allegations seemed to have been opened, with accusations being leveled against other Hollywood celebrities, business executives, and even a former president. These types of incidents are normally handled through the criminal law system, but there are several avenues in which the victims of sexual assault can also recover through civil actions.

Below, we’ll take a look at the differences between criminal and civil actions for sexual assault and then examine a few types of civil actions that are available to victims.

Difference Between Criminal and Civil Actions for Sexual Assault

When the state charges a defendant with a sexual offense, he or she is granted all of the constitutional rights that every criminal defendant in the United States is entitled to, including the presumption of innocence and the requirement that the jury find him or her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” standard is the highest burden of proof in our legal system. It means that the jury must find the defendant not guilty if they have any legitimate doubts about his or her innocence. Put another way, it requires that the jury be roughly 98-100% sure that the defendant actually did what he or she was charged with.

Defendants in civil suits are not entitled to such a high burden of proof. Rather, they are afforded the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, in which the jury must find for the plaintiff if they determine that the defendant is more likely than not to have done whatever he or she is alleged to have done. To put it another way, a jury can find for the plaintiff if they are over 50% sure that the defendant is liable. Thus, it is much easier for the plaintiff to prevail in a civil suit than it is for the state to prevail in a criminal action.

Types of Civil Actions Available to Sexual Assault Victims

Unlike criminal law, there is no “sexual assault” cause of action in civil law so the victim will not be able to file a lawsuit against the defendant for sexual assault explicitly. Instead, the victim will file a lawsuit for one of several intentional torts, which are wrongful acts that the defendant committed intentionally to harm the plaintiff. Some of the civil causes of action that sexual assault victims can use against defendants include:

  • Assault and battery
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • False imprisonment
  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress

Besides enjoying a lower burden of proof, plaintiffs in civil actions are also entitled to recover monetary damages from defendants. Thus, a civil action might prove attractive to the victim of a sexual assault because the damages can help them recover from the physical and emotional harm that they suffered as a result of the abuse.

Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney

Sexual assault is a very serious matter, and if you have been the victim of a sexual assault, you deserve compensation. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Rossville, Loganville, and Dalton.

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