Victims of sexual assault rely on the criminal justice system to punish their abusers and make sure others are not harmed by their attackers. But punishment and deterrence do not go far enough for many victims, who must suffer a lifetime of mental, emotional, and physical consequences from their attacks. That is where the court’s civil system comes in, and why victims should consider hiring a civil litigation attorney who has knowledge in sexual assault cases.
Many victims of sexual assault understandably experience fear, embarrassment, or even shame after the crime takes place. This can result from a feeling of “victim shaming”. But, victims must remember they have a right to seek justice and compensation for their injuries. At Hale & Monico, we fight to hold the perpetrators of sexual assault personally and financially responsible for their actions.
What Is Sexual Assault?
The phrase “sexual assault” is often used interchangeably with “sexual abuse,” and indeed the two share many similarities. While sexual abuse includes a wide range of wrongful behaviors, sexual assault usually describes certain physical offenses that amount to non-consensual sexual contact.
Under Illinois law, a person is guilty of criminal sexual assault if that person commits an act of sexual penetration and:
- Uses force or the threat of force;
- Knows that the victim is unable to understand the nature of the sexual act, or is unable to give knowing consent to it;
- Is a family member of the victim, and the victim is under 18 years of age; or
- Is 17 years of age or over and holds a position of trust, authority, or supervision in relation to the victim, and the victim is at least 13 years of age but under 18 years of age
Common acts that are covered by the state’s sexual assault statute include:
- Date rape (including the use of drugs)
- Sexual acts committed on a minor
The Illinois statutes outline the criminal penalties a person will face if convicted of sexual assault. But the assailant may also be sued civilly for damages suffered by the victim. These stem from the immense mental, emotional, psychological, and physical harm inflicted through sexual assault.
What Are the Effects of Sexual Assault?
Victims of sexual assault often feel embarrassed or ashamed about their experience, and attempt to suppress what happened rather than report it. They may fear reprisals if the assailant is in a position of authority or power or may worry that their attacker might harm them again. Violent attacks can cause physical injury to the victim or may leave the victim with a sexually transmitted disease.
Far too many sexual assaults go unreported for these and other reasons. This can aggravate the trauma of the attack over time, especially if the victim does not seek professional treatment. These and other consequences are common:
- Depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety
- Changes in behavior at work, in school, around friends and family, and in other settings
- Poor grades and performance in school
- Distraction and declining productivity at work
- Withdrawal from athletic, extracurricular, and social activities
- Unhealthy or abnormal attitudes about sex, including promiscuity and difficulty forming or maintaining sexual relationships with partners
- Suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts
Recovery can be a difficult, lifelong process. Victims may seek counseling, therapy, and support from family, friends, religious and cultural institutions, and more. These and other resources help victims cope with what happened, manage their stress and emotions, and improve their outlook.
What Damages May A Victim Seek?
Holding the assailant civilly liable can be a difficult process, because it may force the victim to relive the nightmare all over again. This is one reason so many victims refuse to testify or drop their allegations altogether. Apart from the emotional toll of sexual assault, victims can experience significant financial costs both with their treatment and recovery. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control published a report indicating that the lifetime economic burden on rape victims averages over $122,000. For many victims, especially those who are repeatedly abused, the cost can be much higher.
For those reasons, the civil court system allows victims to hold their attackers financially responsible for their actions. Depending on the circumstances in your case, you may be able to recover the following types of damages:
Medical expenses. These generally include hospitalization and initial care after an attack. They may also include treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
Costs for therapy and mental health care. Among these are costs for treating anxiety, depression, and other disorders, including prescription drug medications.
Pain and suffering. Typically joined with these are the mental and emotional distresses that were inflicted by the assailant.
My Attacker Was Found Not Guilty in Criminal Court; Do I Still Have A Civil Case?
You will need to prove your case separate from what the prosecution does in the criminal trial. In fact, it is possible for your attacker to be found not guilty in the criminal trial but still be held civilly liable. The reason boils down to the respective burdens of proof in a criminal versus civil case.
In criminal court, the defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Depending on the circumstances in your case, this may prove difficult. However, in a civil trial, the attacker must be found liable if the case is proven by a preponderance of the evidence. That means it is more likely than not that the attack happened, a much lower burden of proof.
Contact Our Chicago Sexual Assault Civil Litigation Attorney Today
Sexual assault is dehumanizing and traumatic. If you’re a survivor, your first priority should be getting the treatment you need to recover. You deserve compensation for your attack, and we’re here to make that happen. Contact Hale & Monico today and let our compassionate team help you.