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5 Legal Tips for Sexual Assault Victims

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an effort to educate the public about the crime, its consequences, and how to prevent it.

Sexual assault occurs when a person forces you to participate in sexual contact without your consent. It can have devastating and long-lasting effects on a victim, but victims should try to remember that legal protections are in place to help them on their road to recovery.

Here are five tips for sexual assault victims to keep in mind when seeking help from the legal system:

  1. Report your attack to the police. You are encouraged to report any sexual assault, rape, dating/partner violence, domestic violence, stalking and/or hate crimes. Authorities will investigate your complaint and help you move forward with criminal charges. That being said, filing a police report does not necessarily mean that you have to press criminal charges.
  2. You may need a restraining order. A restraining order is a court-ordered tool used to stop someone from engaging in threatening behavior. When you decide you want to request a restraining order, you should make a list of all of the threatening or intimidating behaviors you want to stop. Specific examples are important.
  3. Know your rights as a victim. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you have the right to make your own choices about how to respond to what has happened to you. Don't be afraid to tell your attorney how you want to approach your situation.
  4. What to do at trial. A trial can be an overwhelming experience and cause you to re-live memories of your assault. But there are certain steps you can take to ease the painful and emotionally exhausting process of coming face-to-face with your attacker.
  5. A lawyer may be a big help. Through direct legal services, a sexual assault attorney can not only help you in your case, but also help protect your mental health, medical, and education records. Your attorney can also help restore the necessities of your life -- housing, employment, education, public benefits, privacy, safety, and, in some cases, citizenship and immigration.

To learn more about sex-related offenses, you may want to explore FindLaw's section on Sex Crimes.

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