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Sexual Assault: How To Distinguish Between Civil And Criminal Suits?


According to The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports, one in five women in the United States experience complete or attempted rape. Approximately 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime. Yet, in 2018, only 25% of victims, regardless of gender, reported the offense to the police.

What’s even more shocking is that a ten-year analysis of sexual assault reported cases found that between 2% to 10% of the reports are false allegations. The purpose of these false allegations is to defame the defendant and get compensation. Stating the obvious, such cases shake the confidence and trust of the real victims as well as falsely accused persons.

That’s why it becomes inevitable to hire an attorney and protect yourself. You must also do your homework and learn about the sexual assault you experienced or are accused of.

What Is A Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is one of the common sex crimes that include nonconsensual groping, touching, or any other physical contact. The penalty for such an act includes a $10,000 fine, up to 30 years of imprisonment, or both. It is a grave offense and can drastically affect the victim’s life.

Likewise, being wrongly convicted of assault or any sex crime can damage a person’s reputation, relationships, and self-esteem. If you or anybody you know is unfairly arrested for such an act, you must hire a sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. The attorney can provide you with legal advice and communicate with different parties such as police, victims, or doctors on your behalf.

What Are The Types Of Assault?

Basically, any nonconsensual sexual activity is an assault. Even so, to facilitate justice, it is categorized as follows:

  • Rape
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Forced kissing
  • Forced sexual intercourse or anal penetration
  • Sexual torture

Such an act can also be categorized as civil or criminal assault. Therefore, it is crucial to learn the difference between these two before taking any step.

What Is The Difference Between Civil And Criminal Assault?

The definition of civil and criminal sexual assault is yet to be clearly defined in the law. However, they both are different in several manners.

Civil Sexual Assault: A civil assault is a tort- a wrongful act leading to legal liability. In most scenarios, a tort is caused by the negligence of the other party. However, in sexual harassment cases, the offense is done deliberately or intentionally. This case is filed by the accuser and he or she decides the directions of the case.

In civil cases, the accuser must prove that their claim is 51% or more true. It is also noteworthy that, in such cases, the accuser does not necessarily sue for “Sexual Assault.” Instead, the lawsuit is filed for charges such as assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and more.

Also, know that the accuser can file a civil charge even if the defendant is proven innocent in the criminal court.

Criminal Sexual Assault: In a criminal assault, the accuser has no role in deciding the direction of the case. Here, the accuser acts as a witness and is questioned by the defendant’s attorney. These cases are generally handled as crimes against state law and presented to the court by the state and not the accuser.

The objective of the criminal case is to decide the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The prosecution needs to prove that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Until proven guilty, the defendant is presumed innocent.

It is noteworthy that if the defendant is innocent, they can not be tried again for the “same” crime in the criminal court.

Note: As mentioned above, if the victim is not satisfied with the final decision, they can file a civil case. By doing so, they can at least get financial compensation. Nevertheless, a civil suit will not result in a criminal record against the perpetrator.

Contacting An Attorney

Whether you are a victim of such an inhuman act or are falsely accused, you must contact an attorney to seek justice. Do not try to resolve such cases on your own. It can lead to complications and affect your case to a great extent. Always consult your lawyer or ensure their presence when talking to the other party, police, or lawyer.

The Bottom Line

Whether you or anybody you know has experienced such an incident or has been falsely accused of, contacting the right attorney is the very first step to take. Understand that the laws vary from state to state. Your attorney can guide you about your state’s law and take the measure to provide you justice.