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The #MeToo movement has shone a harsh spotlight on sexual violence in America, particularly after high profile sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein came to light. Shortly after actress Alyssa Milano posted about her sexual assault experience, almost 5 million people posted about their own sexual assaults 24 hours later. The movement threw sexual assault’s prevalence into stark relief.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) states an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. One out of every six American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime, along with one out of every 33 American men. Child Protective Services agencies, according to RAINN, found strong evidence 63,000 children a year were sexually abused from 2009 to 2013.
Some critics have said the #MeToo movement unfairly targets men, often saying the movement overlooks a high rate of false accusations. However, a study published by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) showed men are more likely to be sexually assaulted themselves than to be falsely accused of sexual assault. The NSVRC states sexual assault is the most under reported crime, with 63% of all sexual assaults not reported to police.
Unfortunately, reporting sexual assault to the authorities may not help survivors find justice. RAINN statistics show out of 1,000 sexual assaults, only 310 are reported to law enforcement. Only 57 of those lead to an arrest, with only six of those cases ending with a rapist going to prison. This conviction and incarceration rate is much lower than those for robberies or assault and battery crimes. RAINN states of crimes not reported from 2005 to 2010, 13 percent of those victims believed the police would not do anything to help.
Attorney Allen Stewart said pursuing claims in civil court can help sexual assault survivors find justice.
“Sometimes the path to justice runs through the civil court and not the criminal court,” Stewart said. “The survivor is in more control of what happens in a civil suit.”
A civil suit can provide survivors what is so often denied them in the criminal courts: justice. It provides survivors the opportunity to be heard in court, to force their assailant to answer for their crimes, and for a jury of their peers to acknowledge their trauma. Damages awarded in a civil suit can’t undo the harm done, but they serve as a concrete affirmation that what was done to you was monstrous, and that the perpetrator must be punished.
Stewart said survivors can also bring legal claims against companies or institutions who negligently or willfully allowed a sexual assault to occur. For example, if someone is assaulted at a college fraternity party, Stewart said the survivor could likely pursue claims against not only the perpetrator but also the college and the fraternity organizations.
Stewart said any survivor who’s felt stymied by the criminal justice system should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
“We believe sexual assault survivors,” Stewart said. “Come talk to us.”
The violent crime attorneys of Allen Stewart, P.C. are ready and qualified to help you through the civil legal process. If you or a loved one has suffered sexual violence, don’t wait; contact us today. For a free consultation please contact us or call our offices today at 866-440-2460.