My attacker was found not guilty of sexual assault. What are my options?

Sexual assault is defined as any type of attack on another person which is sexual in nature. For more information about how your state defines sexual assault you should review your state’s statutes.

Regardless of how your state decides to define the crime of sexual assault, however, if you were sexually violated in any way it is time to talk to a criminal lawyer and determine what steps you need to take to identify and punish the perpetrator.

But what happens when you take all the right legal steps (i.e., the perpetrator is identified, arrested, and tried for a crime), but the defendant is found not guilty of sexual assault?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was the victim of a sexual assault, and the perpetrator of the assault was arrested and tried, but they were found not guilty by the jury. There was overwhelming evidence of his guilt. Now I am frustrated, angry, and hurt. What are my options?”

Proving sexual assault

As mentioned above, sexual assault in your state is defined by state statute. In general, however, it could mean anything from an unwanted kiss or touch, to forced penetration.

It does not, however, have to include physical injury, and just because you did not put up a fight does not mean you were not assaulted. For example, sexual assault can occur if you are forced, coerced, or intimidated to perform a sexual act and you complied.

So what do you have to prove to win a criminal conviction in court?

Sexual assault is a criminal charge so the state’s prosecutor will have to provide sufficient evidence against the defendant to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, a much more difficult burden of proof than is required in civil cases.

To win your case against the defendant you will have to prove they intended to touch you, they did so without your consent, and the action or assault actually occurred.

Not guilty of sexual assault

If the defendant was found not guilty of sexual assault this does not mean he is innocent; it simply means the state failed to provide enough evidence to the jury for them to believe the accused was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  

In sexual assault cases this can happen for a variety of reasons.

  • The jury believed the complainant consented to the sexual contact.
  • The jury believed the accused had honestly and mistakenly belief the complainant had consented to the contact.
  • The jury did not believe the event actually occurred.
  • The jury did not believe the testimony of the complainant.
  • The jury believed the accused was mentally ill and did not have the capacity to form criminal intent.

Without more information about this victim’s specific case it is impossible to know for sure why the jury did not convict this particular defendant.

So what options are left for this complainant if the accused is found not guilty of sexual assault? Unfortunately, the accused cannot be tried for the same crime a second time so seeking a remedy through the criminal court is not an option. This does not mean, however, that the victim is out of legal options.

Sexual Assault and filing a personal injury claim

If you have been injured from the negligent, intentional, or unintentional actions of another person you may have the right to file an injury claim against them to recover compensation for your losses or injuries.

Although you may not be able to have the satisfaction of knowing that your attacker is in prison or is being punished for their crimes, if you win your civil claim, you can receive payment for pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical expenses.

Just like any legal case you will have to prove certain elements of your case. Civil cases, however, have a much lower burden of proof. Instead of proving guilt beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt, civil claims require claimants to prove guilt through a preponderance of evidence.

It is this lower burden of proof that allowed Ronald Goldman’s family to win their civil injury case against O.J. Simpson even after the criminal court found him not guilty of killing Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.

Bottom Line:

If you are upset that your attacker was not criminally convicted of a sexual assault against you, you have civil options to recover compensation for your losses. It may be time to talk to an injury lawyer and discuss with them if you have sufficient evidence to prove that you were injured from your attacker’s intentional actions.

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