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Can Sexual Assault Victims Sue Their Attackers for Damages?

Ever since a wide array of accusations from Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein have been brought to light a few months ago, the #MeToo movement and the subject of sexual assault has attracted an enormous amount of media attention, as well as a flood of sexual assault allegations not only swept the film and television industry, but also in the political realm and in places of business.

Although sexual assault cases are generally handled through the criminal justice system, the civil court offers them an opportunity to recover monetary damages. The following is an overview of civil actions available to sexual assault victims.

Criminal vs. Civil Actions for Sexual Assault

When Ohio court charges a defendant with rape or sexual battery, he or she is granted all of the constitutional rights entitled to every criminal defendant in the U.S., such as the presumption of “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that the jury must find the defendant not guilty if they have any legitimate doubts about his or her innocence.

On the other hand, civil suits are not entitled to such a high burden of proof. Instead, they are afforded the “preponderance of the evidence standard,” meaning the jury must determine that the defendant is more likely than not to have done whatever he or she is alleged to have done. Therefore, it is significantly easier for the plaintiff to succeed in a civil suit in comparison to the state to prevail in a criminal case.

Civil Damages Available to Sexual Assault Victims

There is no “sexual assault” cause of action in civil law, which means that the victim will not be able to file a lawsuit against the defendant for the crime/action. Rather, the victim will file a lawsuit for one of several intentional torts, which are wrongful acts that the defendant committed intentionally to harm the plaintiff.

Common civil causes of action that sexual assault victims use against defendants include:

  • Assault and battery
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress
  • False imprisonment

While plaintiffs have a lower burden of proof in civil actions, they are also entitled to recover financial compensation from the defendants. These damages can help sexual assault victims recover from the physical and emotional harm that they suffered as a result of the criminal offense.

For more information, contact our Cleveland criminal defense attorneys at Patituce & Associates today.

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