Sexual Assault Lawyers
Justice for Survivors
Every 73 seconds someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. Many survivors of sexual assault or child sexual abuse are unaware of the rights and resources available to them. However, the momentum from the #MeToo movement is empowering people to come forward and share their stories of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, or rape. The movement has seen an increase in the number of individuals pursuing legal relief from their abuser or the institution where the abuse took place.
Both the criminal and civil court systems provide an avenue for survivors to obtain justice and bring an end to repeated sexual misconduct. Harvey Weinstein is facing up to 25 years in prison. Bill Cosby was sentenced to ten years in prison. And Jeffrey Epstein, a registered sex offender, was arrested again in 2019 for trafficking minors in Florida and New York.
Another option for legal relief lies in the civil court system. When a survivor files a civil lawsuit for sexual assault or child sexual abuse, he or she may recover money damages to compensate for the harm caused. Money damages operate to “make the plaintiff whole” as much as possible, although no amount can fully undo the harm.
Legal FAQ’s Regarding Sexual Assault
Q: What is sexual assault?
A: You may hear sexual assault and sexual violence used interchangeably. Sexual violence is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of sexual crimes including: rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse or molestation, and more.
Sexual violence crimes are defined differently in each state. Generally, sexual assault, rape, or child sexual abuse means unwanted sexual conduct without consent of the victim. The definition of consent will also vary between states. Consent typically means that an individual affirmatively agreed to participate in sexual conduct, the agreement was not coerced or forced, and the individual was legally capable of giving consent.
It is not unusual for the victim of sexual assault or child sexual abuse to already know their perpetrator. In fact, 8 out of every 10 rapes are committed by someone the victim already knew. The fact that a victim is in a relationship with their abuser does not mean the victim consented to the assault or abuse. Sexual assault can happen from a relative, partner, teacher, coach, or friend.
Q: What is a civil lawsuit for sexual assault?
A: A civil lawsuit for sexual assault is a tort claim. A person commits a tort when one person inflicts injury or harm on another. Depending on whether the defendant is the assailant or an institution, the claim can be for intentional or negligent conduct. The purpose of a tort claim is to compensate the victim with damages and deter the defendant and others from future conduct.
A civil lawsuit for sexual assault is filed by the victim, or the victim’s parents or guardian if the victim is a minor. When the victim files a complaint, he or she becomes the plaintiff in the litigation. The defendant could be the assailant, the abuser, or an institution or organization that did not properly protect the victim from the abuse. For example, a plaintiff may be able to name a school, religious organization, or athletic organization as the defendant.
In a civil lawsuit for sexual assault, the plaintiff may recover money damages for actual harm and injuries, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. Punitive damages operate to punish the defendant for the wrongful conduct.
In some cases, the plaintiff’s family members may also be able to file derivative claims called loss of consortium claims. Loss of consortium claims compensate the victim’s family members for their loss of companionship and services resulting from the victim’s injuries.
For many victims of sexual assault, filing a civil lawsuit is a way to hold the defendant accountable for the misconduct, especially when the defendant was not charged or convicted in a criminal suit. A civil lawsuit allows a victim to find closure and justice, and can also effect change in the community, workplace, or school.
Q: What is the difference between a civil and criminal suit for sexual assault?
A: The major differences between a civil lawsuit for sexual assault and a criminal suit are the individuals filing suit, the charges alleged, the burden of proof, and the outcome.
In a civil lawsuit, the victim (or their parents) file a complaint in civil court. As the plaintiff, the victim remains in control of the litigation. At any time, the plaintiff can choose to drop the suit, settle, or take the case all the way to trial. However in a criminal suit, the district attorney files charges on behalf of the state. While the victim might offer testimony, the case is entirely out of his or her hands.
The charges in a civil lawsuit for sexual assault are based on the state’s substantive tort law. These charges may be for an intentional tort or negligence. The purpose of a civil lawsuit is to determine whether the defendant is liable for the alleged harm and what damages to award. On the other hand, criminal charges are based on the state’s criminal code. Each state will have different definitions of sexual violence and different prohibitions against specific conduct. The purpose of a criminal lawsuit is to determine whether the defendant violated the applicable laws.
The burden of proof in a civil court is lower than in criminal court. The plaintiff in a civil lawsuit only needs to prove that the defendant is liable by the preponderance of the evidence. The preponderance of the evidence standard means that it is more likely than not (50.01%) that the defendant committed the wrongdoing. In a criminal lawsuit, the state must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard is considerably high, because the state must show that no reasonable mind would doubt the defendant committed the wrongful conduct.
The outcome of a civil lawsuit is usually money damages, in the form of compensatory and punitive damages. There are other creative remedies that a plaintiff might be able to obtain as well, including mandatory education, institutional reform, or an apology. The outcome of a criminal trial is a prison sentence, probation, or an order to pay restitution or fines. Restitution is compensation that the defendant is ordered to pay to the victim and usually capped by statute. However, despite the increases in reporting and prosecuting of sexual crimes, only five out of every 1,000 rapists will serve time in prison.
Q: Do I need to file criminal charges if I want to file a civil lawsuit for sexual assault?
A: No. You can pursue a civil lawsuit without ever filing criminal charges or reporting your assault to the police.
However, filing a police report can support your claim in civil court, even if the defendant was never formally charged or convicted. Civil juries will often want to know why a victim did not report to the police. If you did not immediately file a report for your sexual assault or rape and reported later, this does not necessarily disqualify you from pursuing a personal injury claim for damages. However, just as juries want to know why a victim did not report to police, they will also want an explanation about why you chose to wait to make a report.
Many victims choose not to report to law enforcement for a variety of reasons: fear that the officers will not believe them or negative consequences, the assault was attempted but not completed, the perpetrator is unknown or was the victim’s partner, or there were no visible injuries. Your attorney might hire an expert witnesses to explain the psychological consequences of sexual assault that might prevent a person from reporting.
What happens if I want to file a police report for my sexual assault?
If you choose to report your assault to law enforcement, you can call your local police department or visit the station in person. Many police stations have specially trained law enforcement officers who address crimes of sexual violence. If you are a college student, you may also be able to report the crime to your on campus police. Another way to report a sexual assault is to visit a medical center. In doing so, you can also get a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE). If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
Q: What if my abuser was not prosecuted or was acquitted?
A: If you did report your assault or abuse to law enforcement, the district attorney may choose not to charge the defendant. This does not mean that you cannot pursue a civil lawsuit for sexual assault. The district attorney cannot proceed with a case if they do not have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the assailant violated the law. However, because the burden of proof is substantially lower in civil court, you may still be successful in a civil claim, even if there was not enough evidence to convict in the criminal justice system.
The fact that your abuser was acquitted in a criminal trial does not mean you cannot pursue a claim in civil court. Because the burden of proof is lower in civil court, it is entirely possible that your abuser could be found liable for damages even if they were not found guilty. Take for example O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted in his criminal trial but liable for damages in his civil lawsuit.
If your abuser was convicted in criminal court, this is likely admissible as evidence in your civil lawsuit. In fact, a criminal conviction will likely establish the elements of your claim for sexual assault in civil court, because the district attorney has already established that the defendant committed the wrongdoing beyond a reasonable doubt. Every state will have different rules on what evidence you can introduce and your attorney will know how to approach your civil case if the defendant was already criminally convicted.
Q: How do I prove my sexual assault, abuse, or molestation case?
A: Theories of liability for sexual assault, rape, or child sexual abuse.
A claim for sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment, or child sexual abuse will fall into one of two types of torts: an intentional tort or a negligence claim. The elements of your case will vary depending on what theory of liability you are pursuing. Every state will have its own substantive tort law defining these claims.
If you are suing your assailant or abuser individually, you will likely allege that the defendant committed an intentional tort. Generally, an intentional tort requires you to show that the defendant acted purposefully. Intentional torts include conduct like battery, assault, or intentional infliction of emotional distress. A battery is intentional physical contact with another person without their consent. An assault is the threat of physical contact. A claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress arises when the defendant’s conduct is so outrageous that is causes the victim to feel severe emotional distress.
If you are pursuing a claim against an institution, your theory of the case will likely be that the institution was negligent. Typically, this means the institution had a duty of care to protect you from the assault or abuse. A negligence claims evaluates whether the defendant acted unreasonably. The five elements of a negligence claim are 1) the defendant had a duty to you; 2) the defendant breached that duty; 3) the breach of duty caused the harm; 4) the harm was foreseeable or avoidable; and 5) there are damages associated with the harm.
Another theory of liability is vicarious liability, which can be plead in the case of sexual harassment in the workplace. You might be able to file a suit against your assailant’s employer if the assault or harassment took place within the scope of employment. The assailant’s employer could be liable under the theory of vicarious liability, which means that an employer is responsible for the conduct of his employees within the scope of their employment.
What type of evidence do I need to support my claim?
If your case goes to trial, your attorney will introduce evidence to establish each element of your case. These elements will differ depending on the theory of liability and your substantive state law. Evidence can include witness testimony, expert testimony, police reports, a rape kit if one was conducted, DNA evidence, and victim testimony. Your attorney may also introduce relevant evidence from the defendant’s criminal case, if there was one. A criminal conviction for the same sexual misconduct is often admissible in a civil trial.
In most states, the victim’s testimony alone is sufficient for the jury to find the defendant liable, if the jury believes the testimony. This means that most states do not require corroborating evidence to support the victim’s testimony. However, corroborating evidence will likely be introduced to strengthen your case.
Q: What elements of my sexual assault, abuse or molestation cases are compensable?
A: Damages are a required element for a tort claim. A plaintiff can recover compensatory and punitive damages to compensate for the harm caused by the assault or abuse.
Compensatory damages are classified as economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are tangible damages that can be calculated and proven. These include past and future medical expenses, therapy costs, lost wages, lost future earnings, and property damages. Noneconomic damages compensate the plaintiff for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life in some jurisdictions.
In rare cases, a plaintiff may also be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages serve two purposes: to punish the defendant for egregious wrongdoing and deter the defendant and other from engaging in future conduct. However, the standard for awarding punitive damages is incredibly high, which is why they are rarely awarded. For example, in Arizona, the court requires a showing that the defendant acted with an “evil mind.”
As the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit for sexual assault, you have the power to decide whether to accept a settlement from the defendant or to proceed to trial and allow a jury to determine liability and damages.
How much is my case worth?
The amount of damages for a civil lawsuit for sexual assault or child sexual abuse will vary with each case. Your economic damages will likely be calculated at the beginning, based on your incurred and future expenses. For example, if you incurred significant medical expenses or you were unable to work for a substantial length of time, these circumstances could increase the amount of damages you request. Similarly, if you will attend therapy or counseling indefinitely, these future costs could also increase the award.
The Supreme Court has held that extremely high or disproportionate punitive damages awards may be unconstitutional. (See BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore). It will ultimately be up to the jury and judge to determine and approve an award of punitive damages, where available. Often, courts limit punitive damages to a maximum of nine times the compensatory damages award.
As you have likely seen in the news, some cases settle for millions of dollars. Notable examples of settlement agreements include Harvey Weinstein, who reached a tentative $25 million settlement with his victims, in addition to his criminal charges. Additionally, Catholic dioceses across the country have paid over $3.8 billion in settlements since the 1980’s. Universities have also responded to sexual assault claims with large settlements, including Penn State ($100 million for the victims of Jerry Sandusky), the University of Southern California ($125 million for the victims of George Tyndall), and Michigan State University ($425 million paid to and $75 million on reserve for victims of Larry Nassar).
If your case goes to trial, a jury could also award significant damages.
Are monetary damages the only remedy available?
No. Although money damages are common for a civil lawsuit for sexual assault, there are other creative remedies available to you.
Some plaintiffs request injunctive relief. This form of relief is a court order that requires the defendant to stop doing something or take action. For example, the court could require an institutional defendant to implement anti-harassment or sexual assault training for future employees. If the defendant is an institution, the court could require the institution to implement better policies to protect against future sexual misconduct.
You could also request more personal remedies. These might include an apology, a donation to an organization, or education specifically for the defendant.
Q: Who can I sue in a sexual assault, abuse or molestation case?
A: The first person that comes to mind is likely your abuser or assailant. However, an individual defendant may not have sufficient assets to pay out a damages award. It is important to consider whether other entities could also be responsible for the assault or assault that you experienced.
Third party defendants that could also be liable for the sexual assault or abuse could include: schools, universities, child care facilities, religious organizations, fraternities, Boy Scout Troops, hospitals, and business corporations.
For example, if your child was sexually molested while attending a school, daycare facility, or private organization, the institution could also be a potential defendant. These types of institutions typically have a duty to care for the child. By negligently hiring, supervising, or retaining the individual who sexually abused or molested the child, the school or facility or organization could be liable.
Does insurance cover a sexual assault claim?
One challenge to a civil lawsuit for sexual assault is that an individual defendant may not have the assets to pay a judgment for damages. Even if a court finds the defendant is liable for the sexual misconduct, you might not recover anything for your efforts in pursuing the litigation. It is important to consider whether there are other defendants that might be liable, including organizations, institutions, or businesses.
If a defendant has liability insurance, the insurance company might be responsible for paying the defendant’s legal fees and an award of damages. The type of insurance coverage will vary depending on the defendant you are suing. If you are suing your assailant or abuser as an individual, then his or her homeowners liability insurance might cover the claim. Many employers have Employment Practices Liability Insurance to cover wrongful conduct of their employees, sometimes including claims of sexual harassment. Other businesses or institutions might have commercial or general liability insurance that could also cover a personal injury damages award.
However, some insurance policies do not cover intentional conduct. Some insurance policies include criminal conduct exclusions, intentional or willful act exclusions, or sexual act exclusions. If the policy explicitly includes such a provision, the defendant might not be able to rely on his insurance to pay out damages. Furthermore, most insurance policies do not cover punitive damages awards. However, every state is different in interpreting whether an insurance company can also be required to pay punitive damages.
Ultimately, it will be up to the court in your state to determine whether a defendant’s insurance policy covers or excludes intentional sexual misconduct.
What is institutional abuse?
Institutional abuse occurs when sexual assault, sexual harassment, or child sexual abuse occur frequently within a larger institution, like a school, athletic program, or religious congregation. Sexual abuse becomes institutional abuse when the institution does not properly respond to reports of sexual assault, harassment, abuse, or molestation by ignoring the allegations or covering it up entirely. Often, institutional abuse results from child sexual abuse or sexual molestation.
The Catholic Church is one example of institutional abuse, where dioceses ignored and hid allegations of child sexual abuse and molestation. A Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed the structures within the church that allowed the child sexual abuse to continue, most notably reassigning priests to different parishes.
Institutional abuse is also common in universities and colleges. For example, seven women filed a class action against Dartmouth College alleging that the school failed to properly respond to complaints of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment by professors. The lawsuit asked for $70 million in damages and was ultimately settled out of court. College women especially are at high risk for sexual assault but most do not report to authorities. Only 20% of victims of campus sexual assault will file a report.
Q: Is there a time limit on when I can sue in a sexual assault, abuse, and molestation case?
A: Yes. Every state will have a statute of limitations which limits the amount of time a victim has to bring a case for sexual assault. The statute of limitations is essentially the time limit on when a case can be filed. Typically, the statute of limitations starts to run when the crime is committed. Every state will define the length of the statute of limitations differently. The time limits on a sexual assault claim can range from 1 year to any time after the incident.
If you do not file within the statute of limitations, you might still be able to bring a claim if tolling applies. Tolling means that the deadline a victim has to bring a claim is extended due to other circumstances. Generally, tolling applies when the victim is unaware or unable to disclose that a crime has occurred. In most states, tolling applies to victims of child sexual abuse, drug or alcohol induced sexual assault, victims with mental disabilities or incapacities, victims who are unconscious, or when the identity of the assailant is unknown.
In the case of child sexual abuse or molestation, a child might not disclose the abuse until many years later. To provide additional protections for children victims of sexual abuse the statute of limitations will likely begin to run when the victim of child sexual assault turns eighteen. Take for example the Arizona statute of limitation for sexual misconduct against a child, which states that a child has twelve years to file a civil lawsuit after he or she turns eighteen.
If you are the victim of sexual assault, it is important to speak to an attorney in your state about your options for filing.
Q: What defenses will be raised in a sexual assault, abuse, or molestation case?
A: Most likely, the defendant will deny the assault and assert his or her innocence. A defendant may do this by attacking elements of the plaintiff’s case or rebutting the plaintiff’s evidence. A defendant might also argue that the plaintiff consented to the sexual conduct.
Procedural errors also offer defenses against a civil lawsuit. This means that even if the defendant might be liable, the plaintiff’s claim fails due to a procedural error. The most common procedural defense is that the statute of limitations expired. It is important to consider whether tolling applies to your claim to overcome a defense based on the statute of limitations.
Finally, if the defendant is a public or government agency, it might be protected by an immunity. If an immunity applies, the claim will likely be dismissed. Your attorney will be in the best position to determine whether an immunity applies based on the facts of your case.
It is important to note that in defending a lawsuit for sexual assault, the opposing party might attempt to introduce evidence of the plaintiff’s sexual history or the plaintiff’s conduct at the time of the offense. These defenses are called victim fault defenses or victim blaming. Asking what the victim was wearing or how much she had to drink are examples of victim blaming. Whether a defense attorney may introduce this type of evidence will depend on the law in your state.
Q: What if my child is the victim of child sexual abuse or sexual molestation?
A: Child sexual abuse is broadly defined and can include physical and non-physical conduct. Generally, child sexual abuse occurs when the perpetrator uses a minor child for his or her own sexual gratification. Each state will have its own laws that define and punish child sexual abuse or sexual molestation.
Typically, children victims of sexual abuse or molestation will not disclose the abuse immediately. Often, the perpetrator will convince the child not to tell anyone, either by threatening the child or asking them to keep a “secret.” If you suspect a child is being sexually abused or a child discloses to you that they were sexually abused, you may have a duty to report.
If your child is the victim of sexual abuse or child molestation, there are civil remedies available. As the parent or guardian, you may be able to file a civil personal injury suit on behalf of your child. You can pursue a claim against the perpetrator individually or against the institution where the abuse took place, if applicable.
For example, if your child was at a daycare facility and was sexually abused by an employee of that facility, you might have a claim against the daycare in addition to the employee. Your claim against the daycare facility would likely argue that the daycare was negligent in supervising, training, retaining, or hiring the employee who committed the abuse.
The statute of limitations for civil claims might not apply in the case of child sexual abuse. Most states toll the statute of limitations for minors and the statute begins to run either when the evidence of abuse is discovered or the child turns eighteen. Whether your child is a minor or disclosed child sexual abuse as an adult, it is important to speak to an attorney about possible deadlines to filing a civil lawsuit.
Some states also recognize a loss of consortium claim for parents whose child was sexually abused. These claims operate to compensate the parent for the loss of society and companionship as a consequence of the abuse.
Q: Could I be sued for defamation if I bring a sexual assault, abuse, or molestation claim?
The elements for a defamation claim will vary between each state. Generally, a defamatory statement is a false statement that damages the reputation of someone else. However, most states offer protections and privileges that could act as an absolute defense against a retaliatory defamation claim.
First and foremost, absolute truth is a complete defense to a defamation claim. However, absolute truth is challenging to prove. Some jurisdictions do not require the statement to be precisely true, as long as it is substantially true. If a judge or jury finds the defendant is liable in your civil lawsuit for sexual assault, this could be sufficient to prove that your statements alleging the assault were true.
Other privileges relevant to a retaliatory defamation suit include reports to government and law enforcement agencies and statements made during judicial proceedings. Reports to government and law enforcement agencies are generally protected because lawmakers want to encourage people to report criminal conduct without fear of a retaliatory lawsuit. Similarly, there is strong public policy in favor of resolving litigation and allowing attorneys to fully represent their clients.
However, the privilege for statements made during judicial proceedings only applies to statements made in relation to that proceeding. For example, statements in your pleadings, to your attorney, and in court are likely protected. However, if you make statements to friends or family who are not part of the litigation, these might not be protected from a defamation claim. Similarly, statements on social media might not be protected either. You should discuss with your attorney when it is appropriate to talk about your litigation and who you may discuss the litigation with. Your attorney will likely advise against discussing your litigation on social media platforms.
If the defendant in your case threatens to or files a retaliatory defamation lawsuit, your homeowner’s insurance might cover the costs to defend against this suit. Some insurance policies include personal injury provisions that might protect the policyowner against claims for defamation. You should consult with your attorney and insurance agent if a defamation lawsuit is filed in response to your personal injury claims.
Another trend emerging from the #MeToo movement is for the plaintiff to sue the defendant for defamation if the defendant denies the allegations or refers to the plaintiff in a defamatory manner. Recently, a California Court of Appeals upheld Janice Dickinson’s claims for defamation against Bill Cosby. When Dickinson alleged that Cosby sexually assaulted her, Cosby responded by calling her a liar in press releases. Dickinson then sued Cosby for defamation and the parties eventually settled out of court. If the defendant in your case made false statements about you in response to your civil lawsuit for sexual assault, you might be able to also pursue a claim of defamation against the defendant in addition to your personal injury claims.
Q: How long will a civil lawsuit for sexual assault, abuse, or molestation take?
A: The duration of your case will depend on a number of factors. If you choose to file a civil lawsuit for sexual assault, the first step is pleadings. This means you file your complaint and serve the defendant or defendants. Once the defendant has been served, the party has a period of time to file a response to the complaint. The defendant may also file certain counterclaims against you, which you would then have to respond to. For all filing deadlines, either party could request an extension of time that could delay the proceedings.
After the pleadings are filed, either party may begin filing motions to the court. For example, a defendant might file a motion for summary judgment asking the court to dismiss your claim. The number of motions that are filed and possible hearings that accompany them will take additional time in your case.
Then the parties will enter the discovery phase. This is where each side discovers evidence from the other to build their case. The discovery process is potentially the most time consuming, depending on how cooperative the opposing party is and how much evidence is available to uncover.
At any point during the proceedings, the defendant may offer you a settlement. Settlement negotiations take additional time away from preparing for trial but could conclude the litigation entirely. If you do not accept a settlement, your case will eventually be scheduled for a trial, which can take one day or a few weeks depending on the complexity of the case.
Finally, if there is an ongoing criminal investigation or criminal case against your defendant, this could delay your civil proceedings.
Q: How much will it cost to bring a sexual assault, abuse, or molestation case?
A: A civil lawsuit for sexual assault is a type of personal injury claim. Your claim will be based on a contingency fee agreement. This means that as the plaintiff, you do not pay any attorney’s fees or costs upfront. If the case settles or you receive a jury verdict in your favor, then the firm is entitled to receive a percentage of the recovery. If there is no recovery then you do not owe any fees or costs.
Q: Will I become part of a class action lawsuit for child sexual assault, abuse, or molestation?
A: Mostly likely, no. In a class action lawsuit, an individual represents the class as a whole and sues the defendant on behalf of the class members. In sexual assault claims, a class action can be beneficial for implementing systemic change, especially in situations of institutional abuse.
However, in a class action all class members must be similarly situated. This means the members have similar injuries and damages. In the case of sexual assault, a plaintiff’s injuries and damages might not be identical to another plaintiff, even if both were abused by the same individual.
Your claim is more likely to be considered part of a mass tort. The major difference between a mass tort and class actions is that in a mass tort, you file on behalf of yourself. While there may be other plaintiffs filing similar suits, you are each in control of your own litigation. Mass torts are often used when there is a large injury but different consequences for each person involved. In a mass tort, your legal team may use information they discovered as part of the overall investigation for similar cases.
Q: I am a victim of sexual assault – what should I do?
A: First and foremast, you should contact the police.
Beyond that, there is no right or wrong way to cope with your sexual assault, but there are resources available to you to help you navigate life after an assault. If you want to speak to someone confidentially, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline which will connect you to a sexual assault service provider in your area.
It is critical to seek medical attention as soon as possible following your assault. A medical examination or “rape kit” is important to collect DNA evidence. These exams are called Sexual Assault Forensic Exams (“SAFE”) and are conducted by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (“SANE”). Under the Violence Against Woman Act your rape kit should be free of charge. A rape kit can take a few hours. However, you may also stop your exam at any point or skip certain procedures. You are entirely in control.
You may also consider your legal options following your assault or rape. If you get a rape kit, you do not necessarily have to report your assault to law enforcement. However, once the assault is reported to law enforcement, it is ultimately up to the district or county attorneys office to pursue criminal charges against the assailant or abuser. Another legal option available to you is pursuing a personal injury claim in civil court. You should consider calling an attorney to discuss the possibility of a civil lawsuit for sexual assault, institutional abuse, or child sexual abuse. Retaining an attorney can ensure that your right to sue is protected and your abuser is held accountable.
 Strict liability could be a potential claim, but I did not see class action or mass tort claims against institutions relying on this theory of liability.
 These claims are sometimes referred to as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) claims. SLAPP claims are often used to intimidate or prevent an individual from criticizing an organization or person. Some states have anti-SLAPP laws that help to protect against meritless claims.