Given the depravity of the act, it is no surprise that we think of prison as the most common form of punishment for individuals who commit sexual assault. In a criminal proceeding, the prosecutor focuses on proving that a crime was committed and that the defendant should be locked up. While the victim’s testimony may be instrumental to a conviction, the criminal justice system cannot do anything to financially compensate the victim for the trauma they suffered. However, there are other ways for victims of sexual assault to get the justice they deserve. The only way for a victim to be financially compensated for the harm they suffered is by bringing a civil lawsuit.
There is no cause of action specifically called “sexual assault,” but an individual can assert a claim under a theory of assault. To prove a case alleging assault, an individual must provide evidence proving all three of the following elements:
1. The defendant acted intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly;
2. The defendant made contact with the victim; and
3. The defendant’s contact caused bodily injury to the victim.
In these types of cases, individuals can recover compensation for physical pain, mental anguish, medical care, loss of earning capacity, physical impairment, and disfigurement, and in some cases, even punitive damages. It is also important to note that in civil cases, the burden of proof is much lower. Unlike a criminal case, where the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the burden in a civil case is merely “more likely than not.”
In addition to bringing a case against just the perpetrator, a civil suit can be brought against other parties as well. For example, if the victim and abuser were coworkers, and the attack occurred at their employer’s place of business, the employer could also be held liable for failing to properly supervise employees, or for hiring the attacker in the first place.