What Should I Do to Press Charges If I Was Sexually Assaulted?

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it’s important to know you are not alone, and it’s not your fault. Deciding to press charges can be really tough, but it’s a brave step towards getting justice and making sure the person who hurt you is held accountable. This guide will help you understand how to press charges and get the support you need.

First, make sure you are safe and get medical help. Hospitals can treat any injuries and collect evidence that might be needed later. Report the assault to the police and try to keep any evidence, like messages from the attacker.

Finding support is really important during this time. Reach out to local organizations for counseling, legal advice, and other help. By knowing what to do and getting the right support, you can take steps toward healing and getting justice.

Steps to Take After a Sexual Assault

Experiencing sexual assault is traumatic, and knowing what to do afterward can be overwhelming. This guide will outline the immediate steps you can take to ensure your safety, preserve evidence, and report the assault if you choose to do so.

Ensure Your Safety

Your immediate safety should be your top priority after a sexual assault. Get to a safe place as soon as possible, whether that’s your home, a friend’s house, or a public space where you feel secure. Consider calling a trusted friend, family member, or a support hotline for immediate assistance and comfort.

If you have any physical injuries or concerns about your health, seek medical attention right away. Even if you don’t have visible injuries, it’s still important to consider getting a medical exam to ensure your well-being and to document any evidence of the assault.

Preserve Evidence

If you decide to press charges, preserving evidence is crucial. As difficult as it may be, try to avoid showering, using the restroom, or changing clothes before undergoing a sexual assault forensic exam (commonly known as a rape kit). If you must change clothes, place the clothing you were wearing during the assault in a paper bag to preserve any potential evidence.

A sexual assault forensic exam can be performed at a hospital or specialized clinic by a trained medical professional. This exam helps collect DNA evidence and documents any injuries sustained during the assault. Remember, undergoing this exam does not obligate you to press charges, but it preserves evidence in case you decide to do so later.

It’s important to know that one in five women in the U.S. has experienced completed or attempted rape in their lifetime, and about one in 25 men have experienced this as well. However, sexual assault is significantly underreported. In fact, only about 25% of sexual assaults were reported to police.

Most victims know their assailants, with the majority of assaults being committed by someone the victim knows, such as an acquaintance or intimate partner. According to the National Institute of Justice, 85-90% of sexual assaults reported by college women are committed by someone known to the victim, and about half of them occur during a date. The immediate steps you take, such as preserving evidence and seeking medical attention, are critical for both your health and any future legal actions you might decide to pursue.

Report the Assault

When you feel ready, consider reporting the assault to law enforcement. To file a report, contact your local police department’s non-emergency line or visit the station in person. Provide as much detail as possible about the assault, including the date, time, location, and any identifying information about the perpetrator.

Remember that you can report the assault even if you don’t know the attacker. The police may also connect you with victim advocacy services or support to help guide you through the legal process.

Understanding the Legal Process

Navigating the legal process after experiencing a traumatic event can be daunting, but understanding your rights and the steps involved can provide clarity and empowerment. Here are the key stages of the legal process, from criminal charges to civil lawsuits, and what you can expect at each stage.

Criminal Charges

Once you’ve filed a police report, an investigation will begin. Cooperate with the police and provide any additional information they may request. The police will then present the evidence to the prosecutor, who will decide whether to file criminal charges against the perpetrator.

If charges are filed, the case will proceed through the criminal justice system. You may be asked to testify in court if the case goes to trial. Remember that you have the right to be informed about the status of your case and to have a victim advocate present during court proceedings.

Civil Lawsuits

In addition to criminal charges, you may also have the option to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator. A civil lawsuit seeks monetary compensation for damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress. This process is separate from the criminal case and requires the assistance of an experienced sexual assault attorney.

A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand your legal options and guide you through the process of filing a civil lawsuit. In our experience at Mayfair Legal Funding, many sexual assault survivors find that pursuing a civil case can provide a sense of empowerment and help hold the attacker accountable, even if the criminal case doesn’t result in a conviction.

Taking Care of Yourself

Going through the legal process after a traumatic event can be incredibly challenging. It’s crucial to prioritize your well-being and take steps to care for yourself during this time. Here are some important aspects to consider:

Seek Support

Pressing charges and navigating the legal system can be emotionally draining. It’s essential to prioritize your mental health and seek support throughout the process. Reach out to trusted friends and family members who can offer a listening ear and practical assistance.

Consider seeking professional counseling or therapy to help you cope with the trauma of the assault. Many communities have support groups specifically for survivors of sexual assault, where you can connect with others who have gone through similar experiences.

Prioritize Self-Care

As you focus on the legal aspects of your case, remember to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Practice stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or gentle exercise, to help alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation.

Engage in activities that bring you joy and comfort, whether that’s spending time with loved ones, pursuing a hobby, or simply taking a relaxing bath. Remember to be patient with yourself and the healing process, as everyone copes with trauma differently.

Moving Forward

Pressing charges and seeking justice after a sexual assault is a personal decision that requires courage and strength. Remember that healing is a journey, and there is no “right” way to cope with the aftermath of an assault. Take things one day at a time, and lean on your support system when needed.

As you move forward, consider advocating for other survivors or supporting organizations that help victims of sexual assault. Sharing your story, if you feel comfortable doing so, can help raise awareness and encourage others to come forward and seek help.

If you need financial assistance to support your legal case, the loan representatives at Mayfair Legal Funding can help. We understand the challenges that sexual assault survivors face and are dedicated to providing compassionate, confidential support throughout the legal process.

Legal Funding for Sexual Assault Cases

At Mayfair Legal Funding, we believe that every survivor deserves access to justice, regardless of their financial situation. If you’re pursuing a civil lawsuit against your attacker, we can provide legal funding to help cover your expenses while your case is pending.

Our legal funding is non-recourse, which means you only repay the advance if your case is successful. There are no upfront costs, credit checks, or monthly payments required. We understand the sensitive nature of sexual assault cases and maintain the utmost confidentiality throughout the funding process.

If you’d like to learn more about how legal funding can help you pursue justice and financial recovery, contact Mayfair Legal Funding today at (888) 357-1338. Our experienced team is here to answer your questions and provide the support you need during this difficult time.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What if I don't want to press charges immediately after the assault?

That’s okay. Many survivors need time to process the trauma before deciding to press charges. However, it’s important to undergo a sexual assault forensic exam as soon as possible to preserve evidence, even if you’re unsure about pursuing legal action.

Can I still press charges if I knew the person who assaulted me?

Yes, you can press charges even if the attacker was someone you knew, such as a friend, acquaintance, or family member. The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.

How long does the legal process take when pressing charges for sexual assault?

The timeline for a sexual assault case can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the case, the evidence available, and the jurisdiction. Criminal cases may take several months to a year or more to resolve, while civil lawsuits can sometimes take longer.

What if I can't afford an attorney to pursue a civil lawsuit?

If you can’t afford an attorney, Mayfair Legal Funding may be able to help. We offer legal funding for sexual assault cases, which can provide the financial support you need to pursue a civil lawsuit and hold your attacker accountable.