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Understanding What Qualifies as Sexual Assault: A Guide on Sexual Assault

on  Sexual Abuse

Any unwanted and nonconsensual sexual contact qualifies as sexual assault. It can occur in intimate relationships, social settings, workplaces, and even nursing homes. 

Our law firm acknowledges the immense strength it takes to navigate the aftermath of such a traumatic experience. We understand that the effects of sexual assault can be devastating, causing a wide range of emotions and concerns. Many survivors feel alone trying to get through the days and weeks following an assault. However, you are not alone. 

At Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys, PA, we wanted to provide survivors with a comprehensive guide on sexual assault. Our intention is to empower survivors to seek the justice they deserve. By clearly understanding what qualifies as sexual assault and exploring topics such as consent and education, survivors can find the support they need to move forward in life. Our attorneys work tirelessly to ensure sexual assault survivors are heard, believed, and respected.

Even if your perpetrator is never charged with a crime, you have a right to file a civil claim against them for the damages and harm you’ve suffered. Our law firm can help you do that and will meet with you in a free, confidential consultation so that you can explore all your legal options. 

What are the Types of Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault can take many forms, including non-consensual penetration of any body part, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. It can also include touching intimate body parts or using pressure, manipulation, or threats to force someone to commit sexual acts against their will.

Here are some of the common types of sexual assault:

  • Rape
  • Attempted Rape
  • Fondling
  • Sexual Coercion
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault

Consent lies at the heart of every sexual assault case, emphasizing the crucial agreement among all parties involved in a sexual act. When consent is absent, the act becomes an assault.

Understanding consent involves several key points that should be remembered:

  • Volatility of Consent: A person can change their mind about consenting to sexual acts at any given moment.
  • Limited Consent: Consenting to one sexual act does not imply consent for all subsequent or additional acts.
  • Non-Permanence of Consent: Consent given in the past or during current sexual acts does not guarantee consent for future encounters.
  • Communication as Key: Consent requires effective communication. Partners engaged in sexual activity must learn to recognize consent through verbal words, cues, or physical signals.
  • Protection of Minors: Minors are particularly vulnerable, and it is crucial to note that the minimum age of consent in Florida is 18. However, Florida does have a “Romeo and Juliet” law. 
  • Individuals with Disabilities: If someone cannot provide consent due to developmental or intellectual disabilities, then sexual assault may have occurred.

What Are My Rights After a Sexual Assault Incident?

You have the right to confidentiality when disclosing your sexual assault or abuse to medical professionals, counselors, or support services. Professional ethics and legal obligations bind them to protect your privacy.

You also have the right to report the assault to law enforcement. If you decide to report the assault, you have the right to request a forensic examination, commonly known as a rape kit, to collect and preserve evidence of the assault.

Pressing charges against your attacker is not easy. However, you can protect yourself from further harm by filing a restraining or no-contact order against the person who assaulted you. 

An experienced Florida sexual assault lawyer can help protect your rights after a sexual assault. They can also help you file the necessary claims and seek a restraining order against your attacker. 

Steps to Take After a Sexual Assault

After a sexual assault, survivors often feel confused and uncertain about what to do next. Because of this, many survivors of sexual assault never take the steps they need to take to protect themselves and their futures. 

Get to Safety and Seek Medical Attention 

After surviving a sexual assault, it is important to get to safety and seek medical attention. Get away from the person who hurt you and get to a safe place. If you feel threatened or in danger, contact emergency services immediately. 

Address any potential internal injuries or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) after your assault with a healthcare professional who specializes in treating survivors of sexual assault. Remember that seeking medical attention does not mean you must report your assault to the police. You have the right to private medical care after a sexual assault. 

Reach Out for Support

Remember that you are not alone. Here are some resources you can contact to find the support and healing you deserve. 

  • Helplines
  • Sexual assault hotlines
  • Local crisis centers
  • Friends and family members
  • Qualified mental health professionals
  • Support groups for survivors of sexual assault.

Many of these helplines, sexual assault hotlines, and local crisis centers are open 24 hours a day to offer immediate support and resources. 

Preserve Evidence

If you are going to report the assault to the authorities, it is important to preserve any potential evidence. Consider seeking a forensic examination, commonly known as a rape kit, performed by a medical professional trained in collecting and preserving evidence. This examination can document physical injuries, collect DNA samples, and gather other forms of evidence that may be crucial for your case. Also, avoid washing, changing, or cleaning clothing or personal belongings that could contain evidence.

Report to Law Enforcement

Reporting the assault to law enforcement is a personal decision you must make for yourself. If you decide to report your sexual assault,  provide them with as much detail as possible about the incident, including the date, time, location, and any information about the perpetrator. Remember that a support person can accompany you during the reporting process.

Consult with a lawyer that has considerable experience handling sexual assault cases. They can guide the legal process, explain your rights as a survivor, and help you make informed decisions. Remember, you can file a civil claim against your attacker, even if criminal charges are never filed. 

Where Do Most Sexual Assaults Occur in Florida?

Sexual assaults can occur anywhere. However, here are some common locations where sexual assaults may take place.

  • Homes, apartments, or vacation properties
  • Hotels and motels
  • Resorts
  • Cruise ships
  • Bars and clubs
  • Schools and universities
  • Workplace
  • Rideshares
  • Nursing homes and hospitals
  • Online and digital spaces

Abusers and predators often take advantage of crowded or chaotic environments, alcohol or drug consumption, or exploit power dynamics within social circles. This is often when date rape drugs are used and slipped into drinks. One study in San Francisco estimated that one-third of all sexual assault cases involved date rape drugs. 

Sexual assault is also shockingly prevalent on campuses across Florida. This includes the University of Miami, Florida State University, and the University of Florida. Approximately one in five females and one in 16 males are victims of assault each year. However, it is disheartening to note that most of these incidents go unreported, with approximately 90 percent of victims choosing not to come forward. Disturbingly, studies indicate that many perpetrators who admit to engaging in acts of sexual violence acknowledge that they have committed such acts more than once, highlighting a concerning pattern of repeat offenses.

Sexual assault is also common in the workplace. Perpetrators may be colleagues, supervisors, or individuals who take advantage of power imbalances or inappropriate conduct. A staggering 38 percent of women report being victims of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

Vulnerable individuals may experience sexual assault in hospitals, nursing homes, group homes, or other care facilities. Perpetrators can include staff members, caregivers, or visitors who exploit their position of trust and authority. According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), more than 20,000 nursing home residents filed complaints of sexual abuse in nursing homes over the past 20 years. 

Sexual assaults during rideshares have gained significant attention in recent years, highlighting the importance of addressing safety concerns within this industry. In one recent year, Uber reported 141 rapes and 998 sexual assault incidents. This was despite a decline in rideshare passengers that year.

What is the Difference Between a Civil Case and a Criminal Case after Sexual Assault?

As a survivor of sexual assault, it’s important to understand the difference between criminal and civil cases.  These two legal processes serve distinct purposes and outcomes, and you may need to deal with both.

The state initiates a criminal claim to hold the offender accountable for their actions. Their main goal is to punish guilty perpetrators for violating criminal laws. To win their case, the prosecution must present enough evidence to convince a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is often difficult to accomplish.

On the other hand, you are the only one who can file a civil claim. As the survivor of sexual assault, you can file a civil claim against your attacker seeking compensation for the harm you have endured. The burden of proof in a civil claim is typically a lower standard called the “preponderance of the evidence.” This means you need to show it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the harm you have suffered.

It is especially important to know that you can file a civil claim against the person who sexually assaulted you, even if charges are never filed. You can also win your civil claim, even if your attacker is found “not guilty” in court. 

It’s essential to seek guidance from an experienced Florida sexual assault lawyer who can offer support and help you navigate the legal processes in a way that is best suited to your needs and circumstances.

What Happens If I Report the Assault?

Reporting your sexual assault can feel empowering for many survivors. When you get the police involved, you allow the criminal justice system to hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions. 

Reporting your assault can also be a significant step toward your healing and recovery. It allows you to assert your rights, share your story, and potentially prevent future harm to others. You may even inspire other survivors to speak out and positively impact your community by coming forward. 

After you report the sexual assault to the police, they will document your statement, gather evidence, and investigate the incident. To do this, they may collect evidence from various sources, such as physical evidence, photographs, witness statements, or any other relevant information supporting your claim.

If enough evidence supports your claim, prosecutors may file charges against your attacker. If the criminal case goes to trial, the judge and jury will hear evidence, testimonies, and arguments from both sides before making a decision. If your perpetrator is found guilty, they may face legal consequences such as imprisonment, probation, fines, or other penalties. 

Fears About Reporting a Sexual Assault Claim 

Filing a sexual assault claim can be an incredibly difficult decision for survivors. It is not uncommon to have concerns or fears about reporting the incident or filing a sexual assault claim. 

One of the primary concerns survivors have is that they won’t be believed or that they’ll be blamed for what happened. It is natural to worry about your credibility being questioned or facing judgment from others. This can add to the emotional burden you already carry. 

Additionally, the legal process itself can be overwhelming and intimidating. It is scary to face your attacker in court and relive traumatic events. The idea of a lengthy and emotionally draining legal battle can be terrifying, and you may worry about your privacy during such a battle and how that might impact your personal relationships or professional life. 

As a sexual assault survivor, you have the right to be heard, believed, and supported. Seeking guidance from support organizations, counselors, or legal professionals who specialize in handling sexual assault cases can help address these concerns and provide the necessary support. 

In addition, finding a Florida sexual assault lawyer to represent you can take the legal burdens off your shoulders. Your attorney can address your fears and concerns and offer you the guidance and support you need to do what feels right to you. 

Sexual Assault Laws You Should Know

Numerous laws in Florida criminalize various forms of sexual assault, including rape, non-consensual sexual acts, sexual abuse, and other forms of sexual violence. These laws hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and punish them for the harm they’ve caused.

Statutory rape laws address sexual activities involving individuals below the age of consent. In Florida, that age is 18. These laws protect minors from exploitation and criminalize sexual acts with individuals who cannot legally provide consent due to their age.

Victim confidentiality and privacy laws restrict the disclosure of victim information, including their identity, during investigations and legal proceedings. Privacy is essential for helping victims feel safe enough to come forward without fear of retaliation or public stigma.

Rape shield laws limit the admissibility of a victim’s past sexual behavior as evidence in court proceedings. These laws protect victims from irrelevant and potentially damaging inquiries into their sexual history, ensuring that the focus remains on the facts and circumstances of the specific sexual assault case.

Contact Our Florida Sexual Assault Lawyers Today

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, it is important to know that you are not alone. The Florida sexual assault lawyers at Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys, PA, have extensive experience handling cases of sexual assault. We understand the complex emotions and challenges survivors face, and we will provide a safe and supportive space for you to share your story, fears, and concerns.

By holding the responsible parties accountable, you seek justice for yourself and contribute to a larger movement against sexual assault. While no amount of compensation can erase the pain you’ve endured, it can help ease the financial burdens associated with your recovery. A sexual assault lawyer at our law firm will tirelessly fight to secure the compensation you deserve, covering medical expenses, therapy costs, lost wages, and other damages. 

Call our office today and schedule your free, confidential consultation. Our phone number is (305) 694-2676.