Put the Focus on Victims
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Address Specific Concerns

Legal Issues

Only 38.3 percent of rapes/sexual assaults were reported to police in 2005—the violent crime least often reported to law enforcement.19 In one study,20 victims of rape gave the following reasons for not reporting—

  • Rape: 23.3 percent said it was a personal matter, 16.3 percent feared reprisal, and 5.8 percent said the police were biased.
  • Attempted rape: 16.8 percent said it was a personal matter, 11.3 percent feared reprisal, and 9.9 percent wanted to protect the offender.
  • Completed and attempted sexual assault: 25.3 percent said it was a personal matter, 12.4 percent reported to a different official, and 11.3 percent feared reprisal.

The criminal and civil justice systems can work together to provide victims with resources for personal safety, privacy rights, and compensation for suffering and loss.21 For example, SARTs that create protocols and cross-training events for criminal and civil justice officials can support victims who are grappling with the following questions:

  • If I report, do I lose control of whether the case is prosecuted?
  • Can I file a police report and then not go any further with prosecution?
  • Will my name be published in court documents or the newspaper?
  • How long will the criminal process take?
  • Do I need a protective order?
  • Will the assault affect my immigration status?
  • Can I break my apartment lease?
  • How likely is a criminal conviction?

The key civil legal issues that sexual assault victims face include privacy, housing, education, safety, immigration, physical and mental health, employment, and financial benefits. Including a civil attorney on your SART should augment the response of traditional criminal justice and community-based programs. The criminal justice system is primarily concerned with assessing the guilt of an accused party, while the sole responsibility of civil attorneys is to protect the interests of sexual assault victims and address the concerns that affect their immediate and long-term well-being. It is critical that you understand the role of civil attorneys in the early stages of your SART's development.

Civil attorneys can help victims—

The Right Tool

Victim Rights Law Center May provide training and technical assistance to SARTs interested in including civil attorneys on their teams.

  • Secure restraining orders.
  • Obtain victim compensation.
  • Break leases when the assault occurred at the victim's residence.
  • Pursue disciplinary actions and reasonable accommodations at the victim's school.
  • Protect the victim's immigration status.

Clarifying the role of civil attorneys is an important first step in integrating them into your SART and lays the foundation for fostering effective interagency relationships within civil and criminal justice.