Most people associate sexual assault cases with the criminal justice system; however, sexual assault victims also have the right to pursue a civil case for sexual assault.
Civil v. criminal sexual assault
There are two main differences between criminal and civil sexual assault cases. One is that criminal sexual assault penalties involve jail or prison time, while civil penalties involve an award of money damages or an injunction ordering the perpetrator to stay away from you.
The second difference is that there is a higher burden to meet in a criminal sexual assault case. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a civil case, there is no prosecutor, you bring the case on your own, or with the help of an attorney, and you must prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence.
This is a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. You must show that based on your evidence, the sexual assault likely occurred.
Get medical treatment right away
There are several things you should do to build your evidence for your civil sexual assault case. First, seek medical attention immediately.
Have a full physical exam done and get tested for any sexually transmitted diseases. You should do this not only to preserve your own health but also to collect any evidence that can potentially be used to build your case.
Additionally, your own testimony is evidence in a civil sexual assault case. Obtaining medical treatment as soon as possible after the assault strengthens your credibility as a witness.
Take photos and preserve evidence
Next, take photos of any physical injuries. Many sexual assault victims also require therapy or mental health treatment. Keep documentation of any therapy or other treatment you undergo after your assault.
Keep any physical evidence, such as ripped clothing. Do not alter it and store it in a secure place.
Finally, make sure you file your case in time. Florida has a 4-year statute of limitations for civil sexual assault cases.
The trauma of a sexual assault can last for a lifetime, and money will not heal all of your wounds. However, you have the right to pursue a civil sexual assault claim to receive compensation for your damages.