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Sexual assault, also known as sexual battery in Florida, is all too common in today’s society. In the United States, one in three women will experience sexual assault in some capacity. If you or someone you know was the victim of sexual assault, the Lopez Law Group attorneys are here to assist.
Sexual predators should be brought to justice, and our attorneys will not stop fighting on your behalf until you get the justice you deserve. The aftermath of a sexual assault can have a devastating impact on the victim that can stay with them for the rest of their life. Knowing your rights and taking action to bring the assailant to justice can help bring you closure and relieve some of the pain and trauma resulting from a sexual assault.
What Is Sexual Assault?
The term sexual assault encompasses several forms of abuse, including sexual harassment, molestation, and rape. Unfortunately, most acts of sexual assault are perpetrated by someone known to the victim, whether it be a friend, a colleague, or a family member they know and trust. While women can and do commit sexual assault, more than 90% of people who commit sexual assault are men.
Types of sexual assault include:
- Sexual harassment is defined as any non-consensual conduct relating to sex, including verbal, physical, and written sexual misconduct. Unwanted advances and disparaging sexual jokes are considered sexual harassment.
- Rape and attempted rape
- Any non-consensual and sexual physical touches, regardless of where it is on the body
- Coercing a victim into touching you or engaging in sexual activity
- Any instance of force or violence in a non-consensual sexual context
- Any sexual act that occurred while a victim was unable to give consent
Sexual assault also covers sexual intimidation, including stalking and threatening to commit an unwanted sexual act against a victim. Indecent exposure is also a form of sexual assault.
All in all, sexual assault is any sexual activity you for which you do not give consent. Sexual assault can still occur with someone you regularly have sex with, like a partner or a spouse, and is even common.
Not only is the physical impact of a sexual assault severe, but sexual assault can also result in serious psychological trauma that can affect the victim’s daily life forever. Seeking treatment with a registered therapist or psychologist is one of the best ways to assuage the impact of a sexual assault.
What Should You Do If You Were the Victim of Sexual Assault?
The most important thing you can do after a sexual assault is to get to safety and distance yourself from the perpetrator if it is feasible. Cases where the victim knows the abuser can get complicated. If you are unable to remove yourself from a dangerous situation, you can call the police or a local or national sexual assault hotline.
If you have been raped, get to safety as soon as possible and do not wash your body. It will not be easy to resist the urge to do so but showering or bathing away evidence makes the abuser more likely to go free. Try to avoid combing your hair or brushing your teeth and try to keep the same clothes on to preserve evidence for police.
If you were raped, seek medical attention at your nearest emergency room. You may have injuries, even if there are none visible. You may be given medication to prevent some sexually transmitted infections or an emergency contraceptive.
A nurse or doctor will then collect evidence using a rape kit, which samples hair, saliva, semen, and fibers from clothing. The rape kit will be useful if you decide to press charges.
Often sexual assault cases involve both civil and criminal aspects. The criminal aspect subjects the abuser to potential jail time, possible fines, and probation, while the civil aspect allows the victim to recover financially from the damage they suffered.
The issue with pursuing an abuser for the damages they caused in a sexual assault is that the abuser often does not have the money available to pay any judgment you may receive. If they are unable to pay, you might be able to go after their assets to satisfy the judgment.
One of the reasons it is difficult to recover damages in a sexual assault is because it is an intentional tort. Most insurance companies do not offer coverage for sexual assaults like they would in the case of an automobile accident or a slip and fall.
The decision to file a civil suit is up to the victim. In a civil suit, a victim has the potential to file several claims against the perpetrator, including battery, false imprisonment, libel, slander, stalking, intentional infliction of emotional distress, the negligent transmission of sexually transmitted infections, or wrongful death. The settlement can be negotiated in or out of court based on the victim’s wishes.
If no settlement is reached, a formal lawsuit begins. The victim’s attorney files documents at the courthouse, and both plaintiff and defendant are questioned by the attorneys. However, most cases are settled out of court to avoid the risk of a considerable monetary judgment and a public trial.
In some cases, a victim can file an action against a third party involved in the sexual assault. In such a case, the victim must prove that the third party breached a legal duty to them, resulting in damages.
Economic damages resulting from a sexual assault can include:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Hindered earning capacity
- Other expenses including transportation or babysitting fees
Non-economic damages include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental distress
- Fright or paranoia
- Exacerbation of a pre-existing condition
- Loss of consortium (filed by the victim’s spouse)
If you wish to press charges after a sexual assault, consult an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can advise you on whether or not a settlement is in your best interest.
Penalties for Sexual Assault
Penalties for sexual assault vary depending on the circumstances of the crime and the parties’ ages.
For adults who commit sexual assault against a victim younger than 12, the punishment may be a fine, life in prison, or both, as the offense is considered a felony. Perpetrators are required to serve a minimum of 25 years before being eligible for parole, and in some cases, the death penalty may be applied.
A minor who commits a sexual assault against a victim under the age of 12 is also guilty of a felony. Punishment includes a fine and a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Penalties for sexual assaults where both parties are over the age of 18 include a fine and up to 30 years in prison. In such cases, specific circumstances must exist. Circumstances include victims being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated, or offenders using threats or violence to intimidate the victim.
How Long can you Wait to File a Sexual Assault Claim?
Florida law states that a person filing a claim for sexual assault in civil court must do so within the following timeline:
- Seven years after the victim reaches the age of majority, which is 18 years old in the state of Florida
- Within four years of a realization that a link exists between an injury and abuse, or within four years from when the victim leaves the abuser’s dependency
- There is no limitation for victims under 18 years of age.
Many states have waived limitations on child molestation. In 2020, Donna’s Law came into effect. Donna’s Law removes limitations on prosecuting sexual assault against victims under 18 but does not apply to crimes committed before July 1, 2020.
Before Donna’s Law, limitations were only waived for victims under 16 years of age, and old laws had stipulations about how long a victim aged 16 to 18 had to report a sexual crime. Victims within that age range had a 72-hour window to report the crime to authorities. If they failed to do so, they were often unable to file a suit.
Should You Hire an Attorney to Pursue A Sexual Assault Claim?
If you or someone you know was the victim of a sexual assault, you should consult with an attorney regarding your rights and potential remedies. An experienced sexual assault attorney can review the facts of your case and determine if you have a valid claim. They will be able to sit down with you and discuss this very difficult situation and give you candid advice about the specifics.
Our attorneys can be reached at 727-933-0015. Our consultations are always free, and our attorneys are standing by ready to assist. If you were the victim of sexual assault, you deserve justice. You should not have to go through life with a constant reminder of what happened. Holding the abuser accountable is one form of justice available. Give us a call today, and we would be more than happy to speak with you and point you in the right direction.