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Benefits of Civil Action for Sexual Assault Survivors

NCJ Number
Sexual Assault Report Volume: 5 Issue: 3 Dated: January/February 2002 Pages: 33,44,45
Mark Kelegian
Date Published
3 pages
This article focuses on civil prosecution of perpetrators by sexual assault survivors.
The only legal means to recover some measure of personal loss caused by the trauma of sexual assault and its emotional effects is a civil lawsuit. Financial restitution of any meaningful amount can support the survivor on the long road to recovery. A financial recovery could allow the survivor to find a new less stressful career or not work at all to benefit her through the healing process. It can lift the weight of other responsibilities adding to the emotional distress, such as improved childcare or residential security. A survivor need not incur financial loss to recover emotional distress damages. The emotional distress damages comprise the bulk of an award or settlement. Government funded financial assistance is available but can be little more than a small amount. It sometimes takes months or even more than a year to recover this money. These funds are conditioned on the survivor cooperating fully with the law enforcement authorities. All the foregoing types of damages that may be incurred in the future may be recovered in a civil lawsuit. Cases of non-stranger sexual assault are the most difficult to win in the criminal court system. Perhaps the knowledge that they will have to financially pay for the consequences of their actions will cause at least some perpetrators to stop. The advocate’s job is to help the survivor find information that will help in the healing process. The first stage in dealing with the issue of civil prosecution includes advising the survivor that part of the healing process can be found in criminal and civil prosecutions. The second stage involves contacting and meeting with an attorney. The third stage involves helping the survivor throughout litigation. Some survivors mistakenly believe that since the perpetrator does not appear to have money, there is no point. This is not true. A perpetrator who owns a residence has assets and income. It is unlikely the survivor will know this without some level of legal and investigative analysis.