Your Sexual Assault Civil Claim Lawyers
Your Christian Law Firm, Dean Burnetti Law represents Sexual Assualt Victims for Civil Claims in Polk County, including: Lakeland, Auburndale, Bartow, Haines City, Lake Wales, Mulberry, Polk City, and Winter Haven; in Hillsborough County, including: Brandon, Tampa, and Plant City; in Pinellas County, including Clearwater, St. Pete, Gulfport, Treasure Island, Largo, Oldsmar; and all of the surrounding Greater Central Florida and West Central Florida Areas.
John 14:27 - “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
With the current #MeToo movement, we’re hearing so many stories these days of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual battery, rape, and other forms of sexual abuse. With so much in the news, it might be difficult to differentiate what is exactly falls under the umbrella of sexual wrongdoing. Who is a predator? Who got a little too “friendly” on a date? What constitutes verbal harassment or abuse?
For as many people who have come forward in this #MeToo movement, there are just as many who believe that the #MeTooers are making mountains out of molehills.
But what about the facts? According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted every 109 seconds! In America, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men are victims of a rape or an attempted rape in their lifetime. Additionally, 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys suffer sexual assaults at the hands of an adult. With statistics as overwhelming as these, it’s not only very possible, but it’s highly likely that you or someone you know has been (or will be) the victim of a violent sex crime.
The U.S. Department of Justice also defines sexual assault as: any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape.
Sexual battery is defined as: an unwanted form of contact with an intimate part of the body that is made for purposes of sexual arousal, sexual gratification or sexual abuse. Sexual battery may occur whether the victim is clothed or not. Intimidation, threats, and/or force are among the ways that a sexual battery can be committed.
Rape is: the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim, according to the most recent definition provided by the U.S. Department of Justice. (The Department of Justice’s prior definition included women who had been raped, but the newest definition allows for victims of all genders and gender identities to be acknowledged.)
The primary difference between sexual battery and rape is that with sexual battery, there does not need to be penetration between of the sexual organs. In a sexual battery, the thing that matters is the non-consensual touching of another person’s sexual organs. Sexual assault, like the broader crime of assault, constitutes the threat of force. Battery, in contrast, constitutes actual contact between the perpetrator and the victim, while assault is the threat of force or violence made in order to establish the intended contact.
In Florida, Florida Statute §794.011 addresses sex crimes.
A victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual battery, rape, and sexual abuse has the right to ask the State to pursue criminal charges against the perpetrator. However, there are times that the lack of evidence leads to the perpetrator being released without punishment. But whether the perpetrator is convicted or not, the victim also has the right to sue the perpetrator in civil court! Furthermore, the victim has the right to sue any or all other parties whose negligence or failure to provide adequate security led to the sex crime against them.
Few things can make a person feel more violated than being the victim of a sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual battery, rape, sexual abuse, or other type of sex crime. When a person is violated sexually, the offender robs them of their virtue, their innocence, their self-confidence, their faith in humanity, and their own self-worth. A rape forever changes the way the victim sees the world as well as themselves. Long after the physical pain has ended, the victim still lives with the emotional trauma caused by the savage way they were defiled.
A sexual assault the victim feels violated, demeaned, and demoralized. They may feel paranoid as if all eyes are on them, or vulnerable as if another attack could happen at any time. Furthermore, they often feel a type of depression in a way that a person who has never lived through a sexual attack can understand. The victim is crippled with a fear that is like no other, and this fear lasts long after the attack has ended. After a sexual assault, it’s not uncommon for the victim to entertain thoughts of suicide or other self-injurious behaviors.
After a sexual assault, survivors are forced to turn their focus on their physical as well as their emotional healing. Too often, well-meaning friends and family offer hollow comfort by suggesting that the victim “stop worrying” because they “are safe now.” Unfortunately, they have no real idea of the inordinate number of problems that the victims of sexual assault are often forced to deal with, such as:
- Psychiatric health or therapy bills (which may lead to hours of lost wages)
- To help the victim deal with their depression or other subsequent change in mental status
- To help the victim keep things in perspective and not “stop living”
- To help the victim connect with other victims who can offer support and guidance
- Medical bills
- For physical trauma and injuries
- For plastic surgery if the victim was disfigured during the attack
- For pregnancy caused by the rape
- For venereal diseases obtained during the rape
- Loss of employment
- Due to the victim’s fear of leaving the safety of their home
- A change in employment
- Because the employer is unforgiving in the accumulated time off for therapy or other medical treatment
- Because the incident happened near or at work
- Because the victim’s mental status – such as clinical depression – causes them to be unable to deal with the duties of their job, such as customer service
- A change in educational status which may prevent the victim from their desired career path
- Because the incident occurred at school
- Because the perpetrator was a teacher or fellow student
- Because the victim is unable to maintain focus on their studies
- An entire change in wardrobe
- Because the victim feels that if they had dressed differently, perhaps the attack would not have happened
- Relocation to a new home, town, or state
- Because the victim is afraid to run into the perpetrator again
- Because the victim doesn’t feel safe in that location anymore
- A plummeting credit score due to the increased financial burden as indicated above
- Other changes in habit or activity that create life-altering results
Sexual assaults don’t just happen in dark alleys or parks on the bad side of town. They can happen in colleges, high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, daycare centers, doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices hospitals, mental facilities, nursing homes, jails, prisons, community swimming pools, trains, subways, public restrooms, five-star hotels, apartment buildings, gated communities, churches, and more. They can be committed by teachers, pastors, actors, politicians, doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, janitors, nursing aides, delivery truck drivers, security network installation technicians, caregivers, police officers, sheriffs’ deputies, scientists, farmers, accountants, or anyone else.
While most people would have no problem pointing the finger of blame at the rapist, there are oftentimes others to blame as well. Many times, the crime would not have happened if proper security measures were in place to prevent the assailant from having access to the victim, or the attacks are actually committed by people who are in a position over the victim who the victim should be able to trust.
While most people would agree that a rapist’s place is behind bars, when those same people hear that the victim of a sex crime has filed a civil suit against the perpetrator and other responsible parties, they often accuse the victim of “milking the system.” (The sad truth is, though, that these same people wouldn’t hesitate to “sue” or “go after” someone who caused a car accident in which they or their family member was involved which caused a permanent injury such as chronic cervical or lumbar pain… In that case, they would see how money would help compensate for the injury.)
Though no amount of money can replace what was stolen from the victim of a sexual assault, it can help relieve some of the subsequent financial stresses caused by the crime (as indicated above). In all likelihood, the victim has accumulated a mass of expenses after their attack, and the fact is, the only way they will receive any monetary compensation is through a civil lawsuit. (Even when a rapist is caught and convicted, he “pays his debt to society” by serving time in prison. He is not often sentenced to pay the victim any financial compensation, and even when he is, he often cannot afford to do so, so the debt is never collected.) A civil lawsuit against all responsible parties is the only way the victim can get a portion of the much-needed financial restitution for their physical and mental pain and suffering, as well as their actual tangible expenses associated with the crime.
Sometimes, such a civil claim is not filed against the perpetrator of the crime, or is not solely filed against the perpetrator of the crime, but it includes other parties whose negligence enabled the crime to occur. Such examples might be a facility that failed to provide adequate security or supervision, or a facility that employed a person with a history of sexual assault without properly screening their background, or even a facility that knowingly hired a person with a history of sexual assault (or other crimes of a sexual nature such as voyeurism). What this boils down to is that it is possible for a victim to bring a lawsuit against more than one person for their sexual assault (or against people who were not even present at the time of the attack).
The victim may also be able to exercise a legal rule known as collateral estoppel which will allow the victim to bring evidence from the criminal trial to the civil lawsuit. This may be possible even if the criminal trial did not produce a conviction. This is important because the burden of proof in a civil trial is far less than that of a criminal trial, so the criminal trial proof should be ample to prove the fault in the civil case.
In civil law, “sexual assault” is not a legal cause of action (because this is a criminal term). So, the civil lawyer may file for damages due to false imprisonment or intentional infliction of emotional distress, or they may sue witnesses or bystanders for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
These civil remedies can also help put a stop to certain further sexual violations taking place by making employers pay for their failure to properly screen their employees and/or volunteers, by making them pay for turning a blind eye to the information they already have on their employees’ questionable backgrounds, or by making them pay for having unsafe conditions which enabled the assault to occur (such as lack of nighttime lighting in a parking lot or broken locks on door to the street).
For example, a civil case in Virginia was filed after a woman was raped, stabbed, and left to die in her apartment by the apartment complex’s maintenance man. The temp agency that hired the maintenance man failed to check his criminal background history, and the apartment complex didn’t allow tenants to install deadbolts on their doors. Both companies were found liable to the tune of $3 million.
Civil lawsuits can also aid in preventing such further attacks by having insurance companies withdraw future coverage on offenders that hold professional licenses such as doctors, dentists, or lawyers.
Acts 7:26 - “...Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?”
Call (863) 287-6388 in Polk County or (813) 287-6388 in Hillsborough County today to schedule a free confidential consultation with an attorney at Your Christian Law Firm, Dean Burnetti Law.
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We declare that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all. That the Holy Spirit abides in the midst of all within our halls. That the power of prayer is our shield and sword.
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Lakeland: (863) 287-6388
Brandon: (813) 287-6388