Coming forward about sexual assault takes tremendous strength and courage. It can be overwhelming to navigate the best legal options, whether you are seeking an advocate for yourself or a loved one. You can take several avenues of action regarding your experiences. Keep reading to learn which option is best for you.

Criminal Case

Under federal and state law, victims and sexual assault survivors have significant rights. Understanding, advocating for, and standing up for your rights is critical. Many of these rights are for victims during criminal investigations and criminal prosecutions. Missouri’s Constitution and Missouri’s statutes have very specific rights for crime victims and sexual assault survivors.

In a criminal case, the prosecutors pursue justice for the community and victim. While prosecutors do fantastic work that benefits victims, no attorney-client privilege exists between a victim and a prosecutor because they do not represent any individual person. They cannot give you legal advice or pursue other valuable options for you. Victims are always entitled to their personal attorney to further assist with investigations, their rights, and the workings of criminal cases.

Criminal cases have different legal requirements in the court of law. The standard of reasonable doubt is stricter compared to other legal options for sexual assault survivors. Additionally, punishment in a criminal case can carry more severe length and impact.
Regardless of what happens in the criminal case, a victim still has the right to file appropriate civil claims against the perpetrator and any other at-fault parties.

Civil Case

Civil cases are additional legal procedures for sexual assault survivors. If a criminal case is dropped or acquitted, a sexual assault survivor can still pursue justice through a civil case to hold those responsible for what happened.

Civil cases don’t adhere to the same characteristics as criminal cases. The proof requirements in a civil case follow “preponderance of the evidence.” This guideline changes the decision-making process of serving juries and judges by eliminating the need to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A survivor must simply prove that it is more likely true than not. A victim’s personal identifying information is typically protected based on applicable law and privacy concerns. In a civil case, victims are routinely permitted to proceed under a pseudonym such as “Jane/John Doe” or by using their initials.

Order of Protection

An order of protection is a court order and judgment issued by a judge that orders a person to stop interacting, abusing, stalking, or harassing a sexual assault survivor. When filing to obtain an order of protection in Missouri, there is no cost to survivors to apply for an order of protection. Additionally, you do not need a lawyer to file for an order of protection. That being said, it is always a good idea to have legal counsel helping you.

You can only file orders of protection in the county the survivor resides in, the location of the initial abuse/assault, or the county where the respondent can receive notice of said order. If you need to file an order of protection, contact your local circuit court’s office or visit their online resources.

Claim for Financial Compensation

Financial compensation can be awarded to victims to cover crime-related expenses and the damages the crime has caused. There are multiple avenues such as insurance claims, pre-suit financial claims, civil lawsuits, Missouri’s Crime Victim Compensation Fund, restitution, and the Tort Victim Compensation Fund. Each state has different allocated funds for sexual abuse survivors to apply to so you should explore resources in your state. Survivors can use this compensation for medical bills, lost wages, financial support, or mental health counseling.

As for the Crime Victim Compensation Fund, the funds accumulate from convicted perpetrators’ court fees paid to survivors and federal funds gathered via the Victims of Crime Act. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), the average aid awarded to survivors nears $25,000, but the total amounts can vary from state to state.

Get Connected With an Experienced Attorney

At the O’Brien Law Firm, we take legal action to pursue all possible sources of relief for our clients. Our experienced attorneys are here to help survivors and their families who have experienced serious injury due to the conduct of others.
Call (314) 588-0558 or contact us online today for a FREE case evaluation.