Sexual abuse can have debilitating and life-changing effects on its survivors. Given the magnitude of even one incident of abuse, a survivor will likely need time to come to terms with what has happened to them and to find their voice to speak out.
If you’re a survivor of abuse, the right attorney can make sure that you don’t have to speak alone and you are treated with respect if and when you choose to take legal action. Hiring an experienced and compassionate sexual abuse lawyer can give you the support and resources you need to hold bad actors accountable for your pain.
There are multiple ways to seek justice after surviving sexual abuse. In general, you can press criminal charges against those responsible, or you can file a civil suit.
Immediate Actions To Take After Abuse
Immediately after an incident of assault or abuse, it’s important to take certain actions to protect your wellbeing and preserve your legal rights. In general, you should do the following right after enduring an abusive act:
- Avoid washing your face, mouth, body, and any other items and/or clothing you had on or with you at the time of abuse;
- Seek a sexual assault examination and medical attention immediately;
- Keep all items or articles of clothing you had on or with you at the time of abuse;
- Speak to law enforcement;
- Seek emotional support and counseling from trusted individuals; and
- Speak to a knowledgeable lawyer.
By taking these steps, you can protect your health and safeguard important evidence for use in civil and criminal actions.
What Is The DNA Bill Of Rights?
Sexual abuse survivors in California have a DNA Bill of Rights. This Bill of Rights requires law enforcement to preserve, timely handle, and timely process DNA evidence collected during sexual assault examinations and investigations. If law enforcement has not properly handled important DNA evidence in the prosecution of your case, you can file legal paperwork to make sure law enforcement respects your rights.
Filing Criminal Charges
In California, if someone suffers abuse as an adult the state has 10 years to file criminal charges. If a survivor suffered abuse before their 18th birthday, the state has until the person’s 40th birthday to file criminal charges. If you press criminal charges, the district attorney prosecutes the claim. You could be entitled to restitution through the criminal justice system. However, the main purpose of this type of prosecution is to punish the offender for their actions.
Filing A Civil Lawsuit
Participating in a criminal proceeding is not your only option. Sometimes the State does not believe the evidence is strong enough to convict the abuser of a crime. But that does not mean the perpetrator cannot face consequences. Survivors of abuse can file a lawsuit against their abuser and any institution responsible for the abuser’s behavior, like a school, church, or other institution.
A criminal case requires that the State prove an abuser is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but a civil case has a lower burden of proof. You just have to prove it is more likely than not that the person abused you.
A civil claim does not depend on what happens in a criminal case. If the perpetrator is convicted or pleads guilty to a crime, you can additionally file a civil lawsuit against them. If the State does not file criminal charges or the perpetrator is acquitted, you can likewise sue them civilly. A civil suit is an opportunity for the survivors to directly seek justice from their abusers.
A Sexual Abuse Lawyer Has The Ability Not Only To Win Justice But Help Survivors’ Wellbeing
The aftermath of abuse can be disorienting, and you might not know whom to trust while you seek justice. An experienced and sensitive sexual abuse lawyer knows that you need not only justice but healing. A skilled lawyer also knows how to secure both on your behalf. While fighting for your rights, your sexual abuse lawyer can help connect you with important support resources such as:
- Forensic nurses,
- Qualified Sexual Assault Response Team Centers and professionals, and
- Other survivor services.
It’s important for survivors of sexual assault to know that they have rights and options for seeking justice and relief. If you’re a survivor, a group of attorneys like Boucher LLP can help you find and win the specific relief you need.