Sexual abuse and sexual assault are the most personal and devastating types of crimes that can happen to men or women. Feelings of shame, guilt, trauma, embarrassment, or anger are natural. The law recognizes that these are difficult times, and gives you as a victim of sexual assault the right to make a claim for the injuries you may have suffered at the hands of someone else.
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Who Commits Sexual Abuse?
Unlike a car accident, which is usually caused by the negligence of a stranger, or a fall, which may be caused by the negligence of a corporation, sexual assault is often caused by people who the victim knows, or even by people in whom the victim may trust or confide.
Sexual abusers may be friends, family members, or people that you are in a relationship with. Sexual assault is often caused by the people that we go to work with every day, or else it is often allowed to happen by people who supervise victims, but fail to do anything about known sexual assault going on in the workplace.
In many cases, sexual assault may happen while victims are in the care and custody of others who are supposed to care for and protect them. For example, elderly victims may be victimized by staff or even fellow patients or residents at a rehabilitation center or nursing home. Children can be victimized at a daycare or at school. Sadly, religious leaders may also commit sexual assault.
Although a supervisor, government agency, employer, school, or other entity may not actually commit sexual battery or assault, these organizations may be liable for an assault if they allow behaviour that constitutes sexual assault to continue, or if they create an environment where such behavior is allowed by other employees.
The sad fact is that no social, professional, or personal situation is completely immune to sexual assault. These crimes happen all the time, and nobody should never be embarrassed or ashamed to come forward if they feel they have been victimized.
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Sex crimes are generally divided into two categories. The first is sexual battery. Sexual battery involves actual, physical touching. The touching must be unwanted, and non-consensual. Remember that consent by force or coercion (such as a boss threatening to fire someone if they do not consent, or a religious leader telling someone they are “sinning” if they do not consent) is not consent at all.
Sexual battery does not have to involve actual physical injury. For example, an unwanted touch, grab, or squeezing may not cause any marks or any physical injury at all — only touching. These are still examples of sexual battery. Of course, in more severe cases, such as with forcible rape, there often are serious physical injuries that go along with the devastating emotional injuries.
Sexual assault does not involve touching but is nonetheless invasive, and non-consensual. Someone who exposes themselves to another person, makes overly sexual remarks, or who threatens sexual battery commits sexual assault. Even offensive words, if serious enough, can be assault. Intimidation or coercion attempts—even if the victim does not give in to the intimidation and does not allow any sexual touching at all—are considered sexual assault.
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What to Do if You Are Victimized
If you are a victim, there are steps you can take to help yourself or a family member victim. The most obvious and important step is to remove yourself (or the victim) from any dangerous situation. This may mean getting out of an abusive relationship, taking kids out of a school class or out of daycare, or leaving a workplace where you are being victimized.
You should document everything that has been said or done to you that you feel constitutes an unwanted sexual advance, threat, touching, or which makes you feel uncomfortable. Simply journaling what has happened as soon as it happens can be helpful later on.
Although it may be difficult, victims should report sexual battery or assault to supervisors, school officials, hospital officials, or the supervisors at any location where the abuse occurred. You should also make appropriate reports with the local police department, even if you are not completely convinced that what has been done to you is a crime.
Make sure that you get professional healthcare, as well. If you have been physically harmed, you should see a doctor, but even if you have not sustained any physical harm, you should seek treatment with an appropriate mental health professional. Therapists are specially trained to help victims cope with not just sexual assault, but the time after the assault. A specialist may even make it easier for you to tell your sexual assault lawyer what happened.
The records from your counsellors, therapists, and doctors will be used to document your claim and your injuries. Remember that no scan or diagnostic test can show emotional trauma. That means that your visits to your therapist will be important in documenting how a sexual assault has impacted your life and showing how the assault has affected you.
Filing Civil Actions and Claims
Sexual assault and battery are, of course, crimes and perpetrators can receive time in jail for committing certain kinds of abuse and assault. However, our civil legal system also recognizes how wrong it is to commit sexual assault, and thus gives victims the chance to recover damages for both physical and mental injuries sustained as a result of these sex-related crimes.
A sexual assault lawyer can help you gather and investigate the facts and data that you need to help you win your case. This may include finding and interviewing key witnesses, or gathering employment data, employee records, or other documentation.
In many cases, there are a lot of factual disputes when someone has been a victim of sexual assault, but the other side denies that it happened, or denies being responsible for it. A good lawyer can help you identify these areas of dispute, and help you prove your case.
Coming forward with the facts needed to prove your sexual assault case is not always easy, although some people do find it to be therapeutic or vindicating to speak up on their own behalf, and hold the people who committed these acts responsibly.
The Peterborough sexual assault lawyers at Preszler Law Firm understand how devastating it can be to be a victim of this devastating crime. Call us today to discuss obtaining damages for the injuries that sexual abuse or assault have caused you, or caused a loved one.