What Sexual Assault Victims Need to Know About Civil Lawsuits 

By  //  February 18, 2021

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Sexual assault victims have the right to file a case in a civil court. A criminal conviction might result in fines, probation, or jail time, but it is hard for victims to get monetary compensation.

However, there is one way to compensate them for the damages suffered: the compensation brought by a civil lawsuit related to the sexual assault.

A sexual assault is no grounds of action in a civil court, and one needs to choose a different legal theory that holds the offender liable. You can sue them for the pain and suffering spurred by the abuse. You can receive compensation for both physical pain and mental anguish, also known as emotional suffering.

Even though a civil lawsuit can easily succeed, and the offender can be held liable and made to pay a certain amount of money as compensation, they also need to own significant personal assets. If the defendant is broke, it will be hard to pay for your damages.

A civil lawsuit related to a child’s sexual assault can be brought under several legal theories. The child’s parents or caregivers can sue the perpetrator or another third party.

The procedure involves criminal law prosecution of the offender, but it does not always include monetary benefits for the victim. The victim, however, can sue the offender for monetary compensation after the criminal trial.

Who Can Sue for Sexual Assault

Anyone who has been a victim of unwanted sexual acts including groping, can sue for the damages. The family of the victims can also file if:

■ The illegal sexual act caused the victim’s death. They can also sue the perpetrator for the wrongful death of the victim.

■ The abuse led to the loss of companionship, intimacy to a spouse, or moral support.

■ Family members witnessed the assault and have the right to compensation for emotional distress and lifelong trauma.

The Burden of Proof in a Civil Lawsuit for Sexual Assault

During a criminal hearing, the prosecution must prove the offender is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is hard to do as consent is required and lack of it makes the case harder.

In a civil lawsuit, the jury decides the incident mostly happened, and the perpetrator is held liable for the assault. It does not mean the plaintiff wins automatically; the panel will have to find substantial evidence to approve whether the plaintiff’s version is correct before handing out a verdict.

Statute of Limitations and Sexual Assault

The statute of limitations a reasonable time limit to file a civil lawsuit after a sexual assault act. After this period passes, it becomes harder to get legal assistance, resulting in the perpetrator avoiding penalties and compensation. Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer to understand the statute of limitations and filing rules in your home state.

Adults have a deadline of two years from the time of the assault to file a claim for damages in civil court. Those who do not file a civil lawsuit during this time lose their right to sue the offender.

However, if the defendant is convicted and criminal charges are brought, the sexual assault victim has a year to file the lawsuit and claim compensation.

Third-Party Involvement

Sexual assault may occur in different places, and there may be other parties involved in the incident. In this case, the offender will not be the only one liable.

For instance, if the sexual assault occurs in a school, and the perpetrator is a staff member, the school management might face a civil lawsuit for negligence when making the hirings. The entire institution might also be held liable for failing to protect the minor from sexual assault from a known member.


The number of victims of sexual assault is growing every day, but most victims know nothing about a civil lawsuit. After some time, their abusers might be out there roaming free as the victims continue facing stigma and emotional breakdown. Hopefully, the tips above can help you better understand how a civil lawsuit works and the type of compensation sexual assault victims are entitled to.

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