What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault occurs when a sexual act takes place without consent. Sexual assault can come in many forms and affect people of all ages and genders. Sexual assaults always have one thing in common: they are never the victim’s fault.
Sexual assault victims often struggle to come forward and seek justice. Many feel shame and powerlessness after being assaulted. It is common for victims to fear that they won’t be believed, or that they are partially at fault for the assault. This should never be the case.
By trusting Melissa Hague, a skilled sexual assault lawyer, with your story, you are choosing a warrior who will work tirelessly to obtain justice on your behalf. Melissa and her team of trauma-informed attorneys and paralegals represent survivors of sexual assault with compassion, experience, and knowledge. With their support, you will be empowered to regain your voice.
You can count on us to fight for your rights. Contact Melissa for your free, confidential consultation today and have your voice heard.
Types of Sexual Assault
Sexual assaults can take many different forms. It involves sexual behaviors or contact you didn’t consent to. Some examples are:
- Rape or attempted rape
- Unwanted touching, groping, or fondling
- Forced penetration or sodomy
- Sexual coercion (guilting, shaming, or threatening someone to have sex)
- Sexual behavior or abuse involving children
- Marital rape
- Sexual assault facilitated by drugs
- Sexual assault involving multiple perpetrators (gang-rape)
- Prison rape
- Elderly sexual assault
Sexual assault isn’t always physical. Here are some examples of non-physical forms of sexual assault:
- Sexual harassment
- Showing pornographic images/videos
- Voyeurism (watching someone naked without their consent)
Sexual assault can involve any form of unwanted sexual behavior. Sexual assault injuries can result even from non-physical forms of assault, leaving victims with lifelong negative consequences.
A sexual assault attorney can help you determine whether you or someone close to you is the victim of sexual assault.
The common theme of all types of sexual assault is that it occurs without the victim’s consent.
Consent is the act of agreeing to sexual behavior or activity. Consent to sexual activity is freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic, specific, and reversible. Participation involves an active and willing individual.
Victims who are coerced to engage in sexual activity have not given their consent. Proper consent has not been provided if the sexual activity includes:
- Intoxicated or drugged victim
- Unconscious victim
- Threat of violence
Consent is also determined by factors such as:
- Vulnerable adults (the elderly or ill)
- Victim-perpetrator relationship
Although many disabled people have the decision-making capacity to freely consent to sex, there are some who don’t.
Age is a major factor in consent. State laws vary, but a person under the legal age of consent cannot legally consent to sexual activity. Sexual assault occurs when a child is involved in physical or non-physical forms of sexual activity.
Victims of Sexual Assault
Trauma caused by sexual assault can be severe and long-lasting. Sexual assault victims may experience mental and emotional problems. Because of the long-term impact on psychological health, victims may struggle to maintain healthy relationships, trust others, and feel safe.
Sexual assault can affect anyone. Victims can include:
- Non-binary individuals
- Transgender people
- Elderly people
- Disabled people
Family members can take legal action on behalf of a child, elderly person, disabled person, or other victim who can’t do so themselves.
Victims of sexual assault often feel hesitant about speaking with a lawyer due to the sensitive and emotional nature of the crime. Often, victims fear that they won’t be believed or treated with compassion and care.
Melissa Hague and her team are trauma-informed, which means they will treat victims with dignity and compassion when they come forward.
You will always find the support and understanding you deserve when you share your story with Melissa.
The Toll of Sexual Assault
It can be difficult for victims of sexual assault to take legal action after the assault. Often, a victim wishes to move forward without dwelling on the assault. There is also a tendency for victims to feel ashamed or fearful of coming forward.
This difficult process will be made easier for you by a compassionate sexual assault attorney. Sexual assault involves a high level of trauma as well as financial burden. Sexual assault can lead to:
- Sexually transmitted disease
- Fertility problems
- Prescription medications
A sexual assault can take a significant mental and emotional toll on victims, but they may also face financial challenges as they attempt to heal and move forward.
Sexual assault lawyers can assist victims who have medical and mental health expenses due to sexual assault. By helping victims find relief from the financial burden brought about by sexual assault, Melissa Hague and her team have a proven track record in restoring justice to victims.
Gaining Compensation After Sexual Assault
The police should always be notified of sexual assaults. However, even when a perpetrator is successfully prosecuted, it does nothing to provide a sexual assault victim with compensation for the severe damage. Victims should be aware that civil lawsuits can still be pursued even if the perpetrator has not been successfully prosecuted criminally.
Sexual assault victims should seek the assistance of a sexual assault lawyer who can file a civil case on their behalf. Only in this manner can a victim of sexual assault be compensated after sexual assault.
Financial Responsibility for Sexual Assault
It’s not only the perpetrator who is at fault when sexual assault occurs. In many cases, the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator or the location of the assault can provide additional compensation opportunities.
Sexual assaults are commonly committed in the following locations:
- College campus
- Public place with poor lighting
- Medical office
- Assisted living facility
- Childcare center
- Youth organization
- Sports facility
In cases like these, third parties such as businesses and organizations may be held financially responsible.
A Woman Warrior Who Fights for You
Melissa Hague and her team are dedicated to advocating for the victims of sexual assault. Melissa is a skilled sexual assault lawyer whose compassion helps victims cope with the fear and anxiety they have when seeking legal help.
Melissa’s a woman warrior, and she’s ready to defend you. Tell your story, and get your voice back. Set up a free, confidential consultation with a sexual assault lawyer today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Victims of sexual assault may have many fears about filing a lawsuit, including repercussions in the workplace, concerns that disclosing the assault and harassment may “make waves” in a friend group or family, and even the cost of hiring a sexual assault claim lawyer.
Many personal injury lawyers specializing in sexual assault cases, like those at the Joel Bieber Firm, work on a contingency basis. This means we assess our lawyer fees as a percentage of the final award after winning your case. If we don’t win, you don’t pay.
Sexual assault lawsuits are civil cases, not criminal ones, and while your abuser may face criminal charges, those won’t be handled in civil court. Civil court handles the lawsuit your lawyer files to seek compensation for damages you suffered from the person who abused you.
Lawyers deduct their fees and the costs of pursuing the case, like expert witness fees, from your final settlement.
Finding the right lawyer to protect you if you’re being stalked can be overwhelming.
Your state’s bar association website is a good place to start to find a lawyer who understands stalking laws in your state and can help you get the protection you need. The website contains a directory of lawyers, which you can sort by specialty and location so that you can find a sexual assault claim lawyer in your area.
A local sexual abuse survivors group may also be able to help you. Many of these organizations work with attorneys who represent victims and may refer you to a lawyer who understands the complexity of stalker laws and how to prove stalking.
Another option to find a good lawyer for sexual abuse is to check The National Trial Lawyers site, which provides brief bios of trial lawyers. Your case may go to trial, and in that case, look for a lawyer who has experience litigating on behalf of stalking victims.
Sexual assault lawsuits are a specific area of law and are often handled by personal injury lawyers. However, personal injury law is a broad area of law, and not every personal injury lawyer specializes in sexual assault suits.
These are often delicate matters; in many cases, the facts can fall into a gray area. And many cases also involve criminal charges. The police and prosecutor will take care of pursuing the criminal side of the case while your personal injury lawyer will offer thoughtful legal advice to help you recover the damages you’re entitled to.
No amount of money can make up for the frightening and traumatizing experience you suffered. But the compensation you receive may help you make a meaningful recovery and give you the financial cushion you may need to make changes in your life.
Sexual assault lawyers are personal injury attorneys experienced in civil tort law. A civil tort is a wrong that caused emotional or economic harm to someone and for which the at-fault party has legal liability.
Personal injury lawyers deal with sexual assault lawsuits. A personal injury lawyer is an attorney who advocates for victims who have been injured and wronged due to the reckless, negligent, or malicious acts of another party.
These are civil lawyers, not criminal lawyers, so the justice they seek on your behalf doesn’t involve the defendant (your assailant) going to jail or paying a punitive fine. Instead, personal injury and sexual assault lawyers seek financial justice on behalf of victims.
Sexual assault lawyers are a specialized subset in the personal injury law field. These cases often involve highly charged emotions and victims who need extra care and compassion.
Furthermore, many sexual assaults occur at a location that wasn’t properly secured to protect visitors or employees. Often, your lawyer isn’t litigating only against the abuser but also against the party responsible for ensuring the location was secure (this includes ensuring that sexual predators are not hired or allowed near potential victims.)
Lawsuits with multiple defendants are more complex and take more time and resources; therefore, not all personal injury lawyers specialize in sexual assault claims.
Assault involves the intent to cause physical harm to someone else. It can be physical, such as hitting, punching, kicking, or biting. Assault can also occur with a weapon — anything from a stick to a gun — or even by throwing an object at someone.
Assault can also involve the direct threat to cause physical harm to someone, such as raising a fist with a threat to strike or verbally stating the intention to harm someone.
When an assault involves sexual contact, it’s considered sexual assault. Sexual assault can range from unwanted contact with a sexual body part to rape or forcible penetration. There are several degrees of sexual assault, including coercion to participate in sexual activity.
The exact definition of sexual assault can vary by state — each state has different statutes that encompass sexual assault, and an action that is considered sexual assault in one state may be classified as something else in another. Regardless, any non-consensual sexual act can be considered assault and is never the victim’s fault.
Sexual assault personal injury lawyers typically work on a contingency basis. This means that their attorney’s fees are assessed as a percentage of the final award.
Victims may not have the immediate wherewithal to take on a powerful assailant or a powerful organization, such as a company that should have been expected to keep its workplaces safe.
For example, a victim may have been assaulted in the workplace. Therefore, the defendants include the employer and the attacker. Proving that the organization shared liability may involve significant expenses, which your lawyer will take care of.
Any associated fees for expert witnesses or an exam to determine the extent of your injuries from the sexual assault will be deducted from the final settlement. At the Joel Bieber firm, we structure our fees on contingency and will discuss your case fees at our initial consultation. If we don’t win your case, you don’t pay!
Depending on the facts of your case, a sexual assault civil suit can take anywhere from 18 months to several years to reach a conclusion.
In some cases, your assailant may be facing criminal charges in addition to the suit your sexual assault lawyer filed. Many times, your lawyer may take their time with your civil suit pending the outcome of the criminal trial. If your assailant is convicted, then it can significantly strengthen the civil suit.
Other times, such as in cases involving an individual and another party like a school or employer, the case can be more complex and take longer to conclude.
Civil cases often start with a demand letter from your lawyer to the other party. Then, if that isn’t successful, the parties go through mediation. If no compromise is possible in mediation, then the case proceeds to trial.
Trials can easily take over a year from start to finish. Your sexual assault lawyer will give you an approximate timeline for your case but bear in mind that once you file, there is no guarantee that the process will be concluded quickly.
You’ll be working with your attorney for months or even years, so they should be someone you feel comfortable with and trust. Here are some of the questions you should ask when looking for a lawyer:
What kind of experience do you have in cases like mine? Some personal injury lawyers may have little experience representing sexual assault victims. Look for a lawyer who specializes in sexual assault lawsuits.
How often have you gone to trial for a sexual assault suit? Although many cases settle out of court, there is always the possibility of a trial. An experienced litigator may be a better advocate for you.
Will I have to testify? Understandably, you don’t want to have to relive your trauma. However, your lawyer should be able to help you feel more comfortable disclosing what happened to you.
What kinds of difficulties do you see with my case? Your lawyer should give you realistic expectations of some of the challenges in your circumstances and how they plan to overcome them with you.
Many sexual assault victims may fear retribution or harm after filing a suit. Unfortunately, the cases where a victim can file a suit anonymously are limited. Under Rule 10 of the Federal Rules for Civil Procedure, all parties in a civil suit must be named. That includes you, the victim.
However, there are some limited cases where the victim may file under a pseudonym. These limited circumstances include:
You are suing a government agency
You would have to reveal information considered of “the utmost intimacy”
You would have to admit to an intention to commit a crime, which would expose you to criminal prosecution
Your sexual assault lawyer will not have to prove all three of these conditions exist. Furthermore, a judge may grant anonymity in other cases, often if a minor child is a victim.
The judge may respect the desire of a victim to preserve their privacy and the personal details of a sexual assault, as well as the plaintiff’s right to access the justice system without intimidation.
If you’re able to, immediately after the assault, go to the nearest hospital and disclose that you’ve been sexually assaulted. Emergency department personnel have special training to compassionately treat your injuries while gathering valuable evidence from your assault.
Then, call the police or file a police report. It’s important to do this as soon as possible, while the evidence and your recollections are fresh.
Write down everything that you remember about the incident. Many times, sexual assault victims may feel like they’re to blame for the assault — this is not true! If you were coerced into sexual activity, it’s still non-consensual, and therefore, a crime.
It’s important to talk to a sexual assault claim lawyer as soon as you’re able to. You have only a limited time to file a case. The statute of limitations can range from one year to six, depending on your state. Civil statutes of limitations are separate from criminal ones, and a personal injury case usually has a shorter deadline than criminal charges for sexual assault.