If you have experienced a sexual assault it can be hard to think about seeking legal help, however, doing so it can help you get the justice that you deserve. Hopefully, this will also play a part in your personal healing journey. In the US, the laws surrounding sexual assault will vary from state to state.
Here’s a guide on how to find legal help following a sexual assault:
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is defined as the act of physical, psychological, and emotional violation conducted via a sexual act. This is inflicted on someone without their consent. It is important to note that not all sexual assaults happen using violence, it can also be inflicted by manipulating someone into doing something that they do not want to do. Both physical and emotional attacks are taken as seriously as each other.
What help is available to me?
There are many resources available to sexual assault survivors, naturally, it depends on where you are in the United States as to what help is best for you to seek. There are a number of attorneys who work solely in helping survivors. These legal professionals aim to provide justice to those who have experienced sexual assault. They refer to you as a survivor and not a victim. One of them is a protective order attorney, who can help support the survivors’ safety by guiding them through the process.
Pursuing civil liability in California
If you are based in California then you may be eligible to pursue a private civil lawsuit against any responsible parties, including the specific criminal who wronged you. Additionally, you can also file claims against any institutions or organisations that had a part in this offence occurring. You may be entitled to financial compensation, however, there will be a time limit on this due to the statute of limitations, which restricts the time you have to file a lawsuit.
As someone who has been sexually assaulted, you will most likely have some questions. Seeking legal help to ensure you the clarity you need. Below are some of the common questions that lawyers are asked, and will be able to answer for you.
- How long will the person responsible be sent to prison?
- What are our legal options if there’s no arrest or conviction?
- Can third parties be held liable for enabling sexual abuse?
- Do we need to talk to a victims’ rights lawyer?
Things to remember
First and foremost, the most important thing to remember is that you are not to blame. Whatever the circumstances, you were not to blame. It can be difficult for sexual assault victims as sometimes there are those awful thoughts of ‘what could I have done differently?’ and the answer is simple, it does not matter what you could or could not have done differently because you are not to blame. Whether you were intoxicated or high, these will not be held against you, and you will still be treated with the utmost respect from your sexual abuse attorneys.
It can be a daunting idea to come forward, as fears of not being believed can creep in. However, if you have been assaulted it is important to take the steps to get the justice you deserve. Seek support from friends and family, and if it ever becomes too overwhelming, your support groups will be able to talk and confer with your legal help.
If you have been sexually assaulted, no matter how recent or how long ago, there are services available to help you. These services employees have been trained to help those who have been through some awful experiences. A few useful examples have been listed below;
- Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center: 1-805-564-3696
- Riverside. Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center: 1-951-686-7273
- Ventura County. Coalition for Family Harmony: 1-805-983-6014
- Stockton / Lodi. Women’s Center: 1-209-465-4997
- Los Angeles. YWCA: 1-877-Y-HELPS-U (877-943-5778)
There are a number of ways to seek legal help following a sexual assault. The first step should be to nurture yourself and allow yourself to be ready before proceeding. The next step, once you have reported the incident with the police, is to find a suitable sexual abuse attorney that is located in your state.
As the law varies from state to state, it is important to find legal help that is relevant to you. You also need to be flexible enough that attorneys can tailor and adapt their skills to your specific case. In this way, you can get the legal help you need to overcome this challenge.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.
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