Sexual assault is a prevalent problem in America. Every year in the United States, approximately 60,000 children are the victim of sexual abuse and over 321,000 Americans age 12 and up are raped or sexually assaulted.
That translates into about one in six women in America being victimized in their lifetime. In other words, about 14 percent of women will experience sexual assault. If you are a victim of sexual assault and you want to seek justice, there are five critical things that you must know about sexual assault cases.
- The statute or limitations varies by state
The statute of limitations, or the time that a victim has to file charges against their assailant, varies from one state to another. In some states, victims have only a couple of years while others they have decades to come forward. There are also things that can affect the statue of limitation like the existence of DNA at the crime scene.
The problem with a statute of limitations is that those who are the victims of sexual assault (such as children) often don’t tell of the abuse until they are older and the time for prosecution has run out. That leaves the perpetrator free to assault again.
- Not all sexual assault cases make it to trial
Only about 30 of every one hundred cases of sexual assault leads to a trial. Once the trial has occurred, even fewer are found guilty or jailed. Just because someone is accused of sexual assault does not mean that they will be punished for it. Since sexual assault has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt and usually happens behind closed doors, it makes it a crime that is difficult to prove.
Since sexual assault cases are so hard to prove in a court of law, not many prosecutors will follow through with allegations unless there is pretty extensive evidence. Most rape crimes end up going through civil court instead of criminal court.
- Some national hotlines offer victims legal help
There are a vast number of rape hotlines that are not only available for victim support, but offer legal help to those who don’t have the resources to take their assailant to court. Organizations like the National Sexual Assault Hotline work to match victims with resources to help them get the justice they deserve.
Other organizations that provide legal assistance are the Rape Survivors’ Law Project and the Victim Rights Law Center. They not only provide medical and emotional assistance, but they also help victims get the justice they deserve.
- The burden of proof rests with the victim
Unlike other types of crimes, a victim of sexual assault has the obligation to prove that they were sexually assault. The rapist is presumed innocent, so, in most cases, it becomes a he said, she said, case. If there is no hard evidence to support the story of the victim, finding the assailant guilty can be problematic for a jury who has to see proof beyond reasonable doubt.
Even when there is physical evidence proving that it was not consensual sex, when other factors come into play, the case gets even harder to prove. When there are drugs or alcohol included, the lines between consensual sex and nonconsensual sex can become even more blurry and cloud a sexual assault case.
One attempt to have the burden removed from the victim is the “no means no” movement. Although not able to shift the burden of proof, the movement put a dent into the tactic of blaming the victim.
- Not all police stations are equipped with professionals who know what to do in a rape situation
Most police stations are equipped with professionals who know the procedures to take when rape is suspected, but not all of them do. Underserved areas are the most likely places where no one is trained to gain the evidence that is necessary to prove a sexual assault case. If particular procedures are not followed, a lot of the necessary proof isn’t collected and is wasted in the first 24 hours.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, it is possible to try to have your assailant put behind bars and sue them in civil court for compensation. But, gathering evidence is critical to winning your case, as is getting an excellent sexual assault attorney. You don’t have to face this alone.