The recent high profile Stanford rape case involving Brock Turner has brought to light the fact that nearly 2 million women are raped in America every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Any victim of a crime is eligible to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator, including rape victims. In many instances, rape victims feel like filing criminal proceedings is simply not enough when it comes to seeking justice.
So, while pursuing criminal charges, many rape victims file civil lawsuits against their rapists or other parties that may have contributed to the sexual assault. Apart from the rapist, many victims file civil lawsuits against others with shared liability for the crime. For instance, victims may sue landlords, property managers or security companies that were responsible for ensuring safety and failed.
When Are Civil Lawsuits Usually Filed In Rape Instances?
Very often, women file civil lawsuits when they lose criminal cases. Civil cases are sometimes easier to prove than criminal cases because of the ‘reasonable doubt’ factor associated with criminal cases. In a civil lawsuit, the jury needs to have just 51 percent surety that the rape did or did not take place. Some victims file criminal and civil cases concurrently.
It’s hard to predict the total number of civil lawsuits from rapes that have been won or filed in the United States because many of them end in out-of-court, confidential settlements. But the number of lawsuits has certainly increased, as women are now more aware of their legal options and are less ashamed of being victims.
Women who have been raped are now seeking monetary compensation for their medical and legal costs through civil lawsuits. Many have had to leave their jobs or miss work because of anxiety and depression because of the rape.
Steps Rape Victims Follow In A Civil Lawsuit
When a rape victim files a civil lawsuit against the rapist or another accused party, she typically has to follow these steps:
- Taking The First Step: A rape victim’s first step is to come forward and report the crime to a police precinct, a local hospital, 911 or a hotline for sexual assault.
- Enduring A Medical Exam: Many victims are encouraged to undertake a rape kit exam at the hospital, which may take several hours. The rape kit involves collecting fluids, fibers, hairs and any evidence that will confirm the rape accusation.
- Sharing Explicit Details Of The Rape: The victim will need to share explicit details of the rape under oath, which can take a couple of hours. The attorney for the accused may be able to question the victim about her sexual history.
- Deciding On Whether To Go To Trial: The process of a trial can be stressful, which is why many victims agree to out-of-court settlements.
Civil lawsuits give victims a sense of bringing back control to their lives and ensuring justice for those responsible for the crime.
Rights Of Victims Filing Lawsuits
Rape can result in unprecedented expenses and loss of income for several victims. Rape victims filing civil lawsuits should be aware of their rights:
- State Compensation Program: Rape victims may be entitled to state compensation programs based on the state they are filing the case in. For instance, the Victims Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP) in Pennsylvania reimburses for loss of earnings, medical expenses, counseling and much more, paying out nearly $13 million every year to victims of different crimes.
- Free Forensic Exams: Rape victims may also be entitled to free forensic exams for any sexual assault crimes without having to relive the story.
- Financial Compensation From Perpetrator: The victim of a rape has the right to claim financial compensation from the perpetrator for any direct losses resulting from the rape.
- Compensation From Third Parties: While rape victims can sue rapists, they also have the right to sue third parties that may be partly responsible for the rape taking place.
Rape victims can find it incredibly hard to return to normal life after a devastating rape. Criminal and civil lawsuits enable victims to regain their sense of control by seeking justice for the crime committed against them.