Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Abuse Claims

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Sexual Abuse Lawyer FAQ

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), sexual assault is so common that 33 percent of women and 25 percent of men report being a victim of it. Additionally, 20 percent of women and one man out of every 38 reports they are victims of a sexual crime via attempted or completed rape. The CDC goes on to say that victims of sexual assault often report that the first occurrence happened early in life, usually even before puberty starts. Tragically, the typical sexual assault victim loses over $120,000 to medical costs, dealing with the judicial system, and reduced productivity.

Are You a Sexual Assault Victim? Raphaelson & Levine Can Help

"Raphaelson & Levine understand that sexual assault is a unique type of personal injury. It can be traumatic on both a physical and emotional level in addition to leaving you with expenses you would otherwise not have incurred. We are sorry you have experienced this and want you to know that our sexual assault attorneys are here for you." — Howard Raphaelson, partner at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm

We encourage you to take advantage of our free consultation to learn more about filing a lawsuit against the responsible party and the types of compensation you can expect if successful. Before you meet with a sexual assault lawyer for the first time, we invite you to review the questions and answers about this all too common crime below.

What is the Definition of Sexual Assault?

The CDC defines sexual abuse or assault as any type of sexual content initiated against a person who has not given their verbal consent. Although it disproportionately affects minors under age 17, people can become victims of sexual abuse at any time. It affects both males and females, heterosexual individuals, and those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. 

The perpetrator can be a loved one or at least someone the victim knows. This scenario is more common than sexual violence committed by a stranger according to the CDC. The serious physical and emotional health consequences, along with the significant monetary loss, makes this crime a current public health crisis.

What Are Some Specific Examples of Sexual Assault?

Sexual abuse comes in many forms. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Unwanted sexual penetration
  • Unwanted groping or fondling
  • Sexual battery
  • A legal adult initiating sexual contact with someone too young to consent to it
  • Forced sexual contact with a person who cannot consent due to drunkenness, mental illness, cognitive impairment, or who is under the influence of drugs, legal or otherwise
  • Coercing abuse victims to perform sexual acts against their will through threats, intimidation, or physical force

Keep in mind the above only represents a small percentage of sex crimes. If you feel that someone has violated you or a loved one in a sexual manner, please don't hesitate to seek legal advice from our NYC law offices by calling today for a free private consultation at 212-268-3222.

How Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Work with Sexual Assault?

This question can cause a lot of confusion for people because unwanted sexual contact is a crime as well as a civil case matter. We are not involved in prosecuting the sex offender who abused or assaulted you. Instead, we help you file a lawsuit against the perpetrator as a victim of sexual abuse. 

You can also consider suing those who displayed negligence in protecting you from becoming a victim of sex crimes. As an example, assume that a co-worker sexually harassed you and made inappropriate physical contact. You reported it to your boss and a human resources representative, neither of whom took any action. They could both be liable for failing to protect your right to a safe work environment. This is especially important to know when the perpetrator has few assets or the insurance company representing him or her refuses to pay a claim for deliberate actions. 

How Long Do I Have to Hire a Sexual Abuse Lawyer and File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in New York?

New York enforces a three-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit against the responsible party in cases of general personal injury. The three-year window starts counting down from the date the injury took place. The statute of limitations may be different in certain situations, however. New York, New Jersey, and California all passed legislation recently that expands rights for people claiming sexual abuse, sexual assault, or sexual harassment that occurred while the victim was part of an organization such as his or her place of employment.

"New York passed legislation in August 2019 that positively impacts victims of sexual abuse by expanding their right to sue. The new legislation, which goes into effect in February 2020, allows workers who have been the victim of sexual harassment three years instead of one year to seek financial compensation for their ordeal." — Howard Raphaelson, partner at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm

The law also makes it mandatory for courts hearing workplace sexual harassment cases to liberally interpret the New York Human Rights Law. This is true regardless of the status of federal laws. It also extends to non-employees who have experienced sexual harassment such as vendors and independent contractors. 

What Types of Compensation Can I Expect in My Sexual Assault Case?

As every case is different, it is impossible for our injury attorney to provide you with a specific amount of financial compensation you might receive or the categories from which you could receive it. However, our personal injury attorneys have worked with numerous sexual abuse victims to the point we see the same categories of financial compensation appear repeatedly. These include:

  • Lost wages from any time you missed at work while recovering from a physical assault and/or emotional trauma
  • Medical expenses associated with the abuse or assault, including past expenses and those you have not yet incurred
  • Reimbursement for the cost of receiving psychiatric services related to unwanted sexual contact
  • Damages related to your experience of emotional distress, physical pain, and physical and emotional pain and suffering
  • Damages for your reduced quality of life due to the criminal actions of another party
  • Loss of consortium for your spouse or partner, which refers to the change or absence of a sexual relationship due to the traumatic event you experienced

When a sexual assault is particularly heinous, our personal injury lawyers may present evidence showing that you should receive punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are an amount the judge hearing the case orders the perpetrator to pay you in addition to any of the above categories of financial compensation that you qualify to receive. It is meant to punish the perpetrator and act as a deterrent to others from committing the same type of crime. 

How Can I Ensure That I Have a Strong Sex Abuse Lawsuit

Proving your case and receiving the compensation that you deserve can be especially challenging for sex abuse cases. The biggest reason for this is that the only witnesses to the crime are typically the perpetrator and the victim. It becomes a case of your word against the claims of the other party. While the burden of proof in a civil case is not as high as it is in a criminal case, you need more than your account of events to obtain a successful settlement in your lawsuit.

The following are some types of evidence we will pursue and present on your behalf if they are available:

  • Fibers, bodily fluid samples, clothing, and other evidence from the crime scene
  • Testimony from the people closest to you such as your partner, friends, co-workers, and family that proves the sexual assault affects you in the ways that you claim
  • Expert testimony from one or more providers of mental health services that define emotional trauma and provide examples of how it currently plays out in your life
  • Medical evidence such as DNA belonging to the perpetrator of your sexual abuse
  • Previous criminal history of the defendant as it pertains to other sexual assault victims

While this list does not represent all evidence we may present at your trial, you can feel rest assured that we will aggressively demonstrate the guilt of the perpetrator for validation purposes as well as to obtain financial compensation for you. We understand how important it is for victims of sex crimes to feel heard and respected, regardless of whether you receive compensation or how much you receive.

Can I Still File a Civil Lawsuit if a Jury Found the Defendant Not Guilty in a Criminal Trial?

Yes, because a criminal trial for any offense requires the prosecution to prove the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Also referred to as moral certainty, the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt is the American legal system's highest burden of proof. This can be difficult to achieve, even when the prosecution calls one or more law enforcement officials as witnesses. It goes back to the fact that most sexual crimes have no witnesses other than the victim and the person who perpetrated the offense. All members of the jury must find the defendant guilty or the judge has no choice but to dismiss the criminal sexual assault case.

A civil trial, on the other hand, only requires your sexual assault lawyer to demonstrate a preponderance of the evidence. This means the evidence presented shows a higher likelihood that the victim's version of events demonstrates greater truth than those of the defendant. The good news about filing a civil lawsuit is that much of the work gathering evidence against the perpetrator and locating experts or witnesses has already taken place. 

Where Does Sexual Abuse Typically Take Place?

Unwanted sexual contact from one person to another, or even a group of people attacking a single victim or another group of people, can happen anywhere. Regardless of where it takes place, the act of sexual aggression usually happens in secret. It can be inside or outside the home. When the victim is much younger than the perpetrator, the latter may threaten to harm the victim or his or her family member.

The following are some of the most common locations for sexual abuse as reported by clients of our law firm:

  • After school programs
  • Apartment complexes
  • Bars
  • Churches
  • Daycare centers
  • Foster homes
  • Health clubs
  • Hotels
  • Medical facilities
  • Mental health facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Organized sporting events and practices
  • Schools
  • Spas
  • Tanning salons
  • The workplace

If you have been the victim of a sexual crime, we recommend that you first report it to New York law enforcement and then seek prompt medical attention. The records from your doctor or hospital visit immediately following the incident are especially useful when it comes to presenting evidence of a sexual crime in court.

What Are the Most Common Consequence for Sexual Assault Victims?

As you can imagine with such a traumatic event, most damages suffered by someone who has experienced sexual abuse are psychological. Some of the first things you may notice are that you feel severely depressed and deal with flashbacks to the attack during the day, night, or both. The people closest to you will probably observe that you have started performing poorly at work or school and that your behavior has changed dramatically. Eventually, you may develop most of the symptoms of full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You may also need a lot of time to heal physically, especially if the abuse or attack was violent.

Contact Raphaelson & Levine for a Confidential Consultation Today

After going through an experience as devastating as rape, molestation, or sexual abuse, the last thing you want to deal with is figuring out how to pay medical bills and continue working while trying to heal from your trauma. Unfortunately, that is the reality for far too many victims of sexual assault. Please know that our legal team is on your side, and we want to hear your story. We invite you to contact our New York City law office to request a free consultation today by calling 212-268-3222.

It will be helpful to bring as much evidence as you have with you to the consultation. This allows learning as much as possible about your case in the approximately 30 minutes we spend together. We take the time to explain the process of filing a civil lawsuit for sexual assault and answer any questions you have as well. It is our hope that the compensation you could potentially receive will help you move forward with healing from this traumatic event better than you would have otherwise. While a financial settlement can't erase the attack or your memory of it, it helps to put greater distance between you and the aggressor. That means he or she can't control your thoughts or actions any longer than necessary.

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Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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