How Does Texas Law Handle Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault – also known as rape – is a serious offense. In Texas, sexual assault is usually a second-degree felony, and those convicted of this crime face two to 20 years in prison. Aggravated sexual assault occurs when the victim is threatened with a weapon or with death, or if he is she is very young or very old. Penalties for an aggravated sexual assault conviction range from five to 99 years in prison. In Texas, felony indictments for sexual assault must take place within 10 years of the date of the offense.
While sexual offenses are prosecuted in criminal court, victims can file a civil suit against the perpetrator and any entities considered partially liable for the incident. Those third parties may include the owner of the premises on which the assault took place, or others whose negligence contributed to the crime.
Civil court standards differ from those of criminal trials. In the latter, the standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In civil cases, the standard is “preponderance of evidence.” If the person responsible for the assault is not convicted in criminal court, a victim may still receive compensation through a civil lawsuit. In Texas, a person cannot file a civil lawsuit for sexual assault, per se. The cause of action may be “assault and battery” or “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” The victim’s lawyer can ask questions not permitted in a criminal trial.
Victims of Sexual Assault in Dallas, TX and the DFW Metroplex
The Texas Attorney General’s Office defines sexual assault as “any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another.” A sexual assault can traumatize a victim for life. It may take years – if ever – before the person can feel “normal” again. Sexual assault does not just affect the victim, but the victim’s entire family. It is a crime that often goes unreported because of shame, but it is crucial for victims to come forward. Victims feel a range of emotions, including guilt, anger, and fear. Physical symptoms beyond the assault may arise, including insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Behavioral changes are common. A sexual assault is an assault on a person physically, mentally and emotionally.
A Dallas-Fort Worth sexual assault attorney can help you get through this critical time in your life. Although nothing can erase the terrible event from your mind, your lawyer will aggressively pursue justice and compensation in your case. In addition to pursuing a civil case, sexual assault victims may receive compensation for medical, moving and other expenses through the Texas Crime Victims Compensation Program.
Damages awarded in sexual assault cases may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering.
Sexual Assault – Apartment Complex
The owners or managers of an apartment complex in which you were sexually assaulted may be held liable for the attack, depending on the situation. For example, if the attack took place in the common area of the complex and the perpetrator was hiding in a dark area that should have been lit, the owners or managers were negligent in not ensuring proper lighting. Good lighting may have prevented the attack, as the perpetrator could not hide as easily and the victim may have spotted the person and escaped.
Sexual Assault – Retail Store
If you were sexually assaulted in a retail store, the owners or managers may be considered liable for the attack depending on the circumstances. For example, the store may not have had sufficient security in place to prevent the incident. If the assault took place in the store’s parking lot, the situation may have been avoided had there been sufficient lighting.
Sexual Assault by Employer
If you have been sexually assaulted by your employer, you may fear reporting the crime because you will lose your job. That fear may be the reason an employer sexually exploits and assaults an employee, especially one with few financial resources. Not only should you report the assault to law enforcement, but your employer has violated Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. You must first file an “administrative charge” with the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Your attorney can guide you through this process.
Even if the employer did not sexually assault you, but you were assaulted by a fellow employee, you may have grounds for a civil suit against your employer. Texas law does not permit civil cases against employers “solely for negligently hiring or failing to adequately supervise an employee, based on evidence that the employee has been convicted of an offense.” However, the law makes an exception if the employer knew or should have known that the employee committed aggravated sexual assault or a sexually violent offense. You may be able to file a “negligent supervision” case if the attacker had previously made sexually harassing comments to you prior to the assault and the employer knew of it and allowed the harassment to continue.
What to do When You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted
If you’ve been the victim of a sexual assault, call the police at once and seek medical treatment. A healthcare provider conducts a sexual assault exam, which is not treatment per se but evidence collection and documentation. Have the exam done immediately, as certain types of physical evidence may disappear not long after the incident. You should also ask your healthcare provider about the possibility of pregnancy or testing for sexually transmitted diseases. You will also be referred to a local sexual assault program for counseling.
A law enforcement officer will take a statement from you, starting the investigation. If you know the identity of the person who assaulted you, tell law enforcement.
Bonneau Law Firm Sexual Assault Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual assault, you need an experienced attorney to represent you with compassion at this difficult time. Call The Bonneau Law Firm at (972) 325-1100 for a free consultation.