Baltimore Sexual Assault Lawyers
More than 54% of Maryland women have been or will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Typically, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows, and not a stranger. As an example, sexual assault committed against their patients by health care providers, including physicians, is not uncommon. Unfortunately, only about 40% of sexual assaults are reported to authorities. This is due in large part to the shame, fear, and stigma associated with being a sexual assault victim.
Sexual assault is a broad term in the legal world that can apply to anything from unwelcome touching to rape. The exact definitions of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and harassment varies from state to state. While sexual assault is a crime and an offender will face criminal action from the state, the victim will be able to pursue damages through a civil action. It’s crucial to know what to expect from these situations, and the team at Murphy, Falcon & Murphy is here to help our clients in the Baltimore area handle their sexual assault, sexual abuse, or sexual harassment cases. If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault in Maryland, contact our office today.
Types of Sexual Assault
Sexual assault can have serious and long-ranging consequences, from physical to emotional. Many different types of sexual violence exist, and a victim may file a claim for economic and non-economic damages that result from many different types of acts, including:
- Sexual Assault – this umbrella term describes several different kinds of unwanted conduct, from sexual battery and harassment to coercion, stalking, and rape. Sexual assault may be spoken, physical, or include the threat of violence. In short, any unwanted or non-consensual conduct of a sexual nature may constitute sexual assault.
- Rape – this violent crime refers to any unwanted penetration of any orifice without consent. Physical force may be an element of rape, but it’s not a requirement to bring official criminal charges. A rape charge may also arise when a person is unable, either mentally or physically, to provide consent to penetration (i.e., the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol).
- Sexual Harassment – this act often occurs in the workplace or in a learning environment, but it’s not a prerequisite. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advance or activity that disrupts a person’s work or learning environment. Examples may include cat calling, groping, stalking, requesting sexual favors, or withholding promotions unless the person commits sexual acts.
- Stalking – sexual stalking represents a pattern of harassment, unwanted advances, requests for favors, or unwanted attention that makes the victim reasonably fearful for his or her safety. One of the most important forms of recourse for stalking is a personal protection or restraining order.
- Sexual Coercion – unfortunately, many victims of sexual assault do not realize they’re victims because of coercion. This act forces a person to consent to sexual activity when he or she otherwise wouldn’t. Coercion may involve using a relationship as leverage, pressuring into sex, or reacting negatively to refusals.
- Violence from an intimate partner – sexual violence can occur in a situation in which two people share a consensual intimate relationship. Intimidate partner violence encompasses spousal rape, domestic sexual abuse, and more. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 80% of sexual assault survivors knew their attacker.
A victim of a sexual assault can still file a civil lawsuit against his or her alleged attacker while a criminal case is in motion. Sexual assault is a crime and the state handles prosecutions for crimes, but it is still an intentional tort that can form the basis of a civil lawsuit.
What to Do After a Sexual Assault
Victims of sexual assault often struggle with guilt, shame, fear, and a range of other negative emotions following an act of sexual violence. Taking the proper steps after an attack of a sexual nature can help the victim find justice and begin the healing process:
- Report the Crime. Unfortunately, many instances of sexual violence go unreported. Victims should begin by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656- HOPE. Here, victims can talk to trained staff and counselors to find out more about sexual assault service providers in the area, including a local health facility to care for their needs.
- Talk to Someone. The psychological effects of an act of sexual violence can persist over weeks, months, or even years. Victims can find healing by talking to someone about the negative feelings they’re experiencing.
- Contact a Sexual Assault Attorney. The criminal justice system provides one avenue of legal recourse for sexual assault victims. The other, however, comes from the civil court system. Victims of sexual violence may be able to file claims against negligent parties responsible for the sexual violence or abuse. Examples include universities on the grounds of negligent security, or workplaces for failing to provide a safe environment. The attorneys at Murphy Falcon & Murphy can help victims of sexual violence identify any negligent parties who might be responsible for the abuse and hold them accountable for any damages that result.
Baltimore Criminal vs. Civil Sexual Crimes
Sexual assault incidents typically lead to both criminal and civil actions. The state brings criminal charges against a defendant, while the victim files a civil action to pursue damages. It’s important to remember that the evidence in both cases can apply to both cases, and the ruling in one may influence the other. Criminal charges ensure that someone who has broken the law repays his or her debt to society but does not seek compensation for victims.
A victim of a sexual abuse or assault can recover medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, and other damages by filing a civil claim, and the criminal charges against the defendant from the state will hopefully prevent him or her from engaging in the same behavior again. Succeeding in this type of claim, which runs alongside a criminal case from the state, is likely if the prosecution in the criminal case secures a conviction. The plaintiff in the personal injury case against the offender can point out this verdict in the civil trial to indicate the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff’s damages.
Winning a Sexual Assault or Abuse Lawsuit
It’s vital for victims of sexual assault to understand the potential risks and rewards of filing a civil action against an offender. The case may be open-and-shut, and the offender may receive a guilty verdict from the criminal case and the judge reviewing the civil trial may rule in favor of the plaintiff, but this still may not help the plaintiff. If the offender goes to prison, he or she will likely be unable to pay any compensation awarded to the plaintiff in the civil trial. Sexual abuse and sexual assault are heinous offenses, so a jury is likely to award a great deal of compensation to the plaintiff. However, unless the offender is quite wealthy, the plaintiff will likely receive very little in compensation.
Many personal injury attorneys offer their clients contingency-fee pricing, meaning the client only pays legal fees if the attorney wins his or her case. In sexual assault cases resulting in little to no monetary award for the plaintiff, the plaintiff will still have to pay legal fees. Ultimately, it’s up to the plaintiff to decide whether filing a lawsuit would be the best move, and an attorney can advise regarding these situations.
We Can Help You
The attorneys at Murphy, Falcon & Murphy in Baltimore have cultivated one of the strongest reputations in the area, and our firm has helped recover more than $700 million in compensation for our clients. A sexual assault case can be physically and emotionally damaging, and victims need to understand their rights and options for legal recourse after suffering these types of attacks.
Reach out to the team at Murphy Falcon Murphy today for a consultation about your sexual assault case. After we review the details of your situation, we can let you know what to expect from filing a lawsuit.