More and more victims are finding the courage to come forward to report sexual crimes that have been committed against them. In the very recent past, victims of sexual assault were often fearful of taking action against the person who assaulted them, for many reasons ranging from overwhelming trauma or embarrassment to fear that no one would believe them or that law enforcement and prosecutors would be unwilling to go after their assailant.
Unfortunately, it is often only the high profile, celebrity cases we hear about. But the truth is sexual assault happens to ordinary adults and children every day. After an assault, victims are often too traumatized to know what to do following their attack, so their rights are often left unprotected.
An Alarming Look at The Statistics
According to the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, in 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available:
- 7,537 forcible rapes were reported
- 3,195 forcible fondling cases were reported
- 10,732 sexual offenses were reported
- 4,730 arrests were made for forcible sexual offenses
These numbers represent only the number of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement, not the actual statewide totals. In Florida, one out of six women have been raped at some point in their lifetime. Over 3,000,000 women in Florida have been the victim of sexual violence other than rape, which refers to any unwanted sexual contact short of penetration.
It is not only women who are victimized by sexual assault – men can also be assaulted by another man, or by a woman. For women and men who suffer from either mobility or cognitive disabilities – or in many cases, both – the numbers are even higher. For example, people who are unable to physically resist their attacker or who are unable to speak to alert someone of the attack are often victimized in settings like nursing homes or group home facilities. A study found that women with mobility or cognitive disabilities experienced nearly twice the rate of lifetime sexual and physical abuse than did those without disabilities.
Sexual assault is also prominent within the military, where the statistics on underreporting show that only 13.5% of sexual assaults in a military setting were reported.
Perhaps the most distressing of all, our children are also at a great risk for sexual assault. Many of these instances take place with people you assumed you could trust – a coach, a teacher, a caregiver, or even a family member. This can be devastating for the entire family. It is important that children get the immediate counseling or treatment necessary to work through these traumatizing events. It is also essential to report those assailants, to hold them criminally accountable and to ensure no other child suffers such violations.
Many victims are unwilling to report a sexual assault, for a variety of reasons. They may feel embarrassed by the event or scared they will not be believed. This can be the case when one or both parties involved in the assault had consumed alcohol, drugs, or both. Some victims fear that if a police detective finds out they were under the influence and not in control of their faculties, they would be accused of making a false report.
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, there are differences between a false report, and an unsubstantiated report. There are several factors that should not be assumed to result in a finding of a false report by a law enforcement agency:
- The victim's delay of making the report, no matter the length of time
- The lack of a weapon involved in the attack
- The victim being young, homeless, or mentally disabled
- The victim used drugs or alcohol at the time of the assault
- The victim knew the attacker
- The victim was thought to be involved in prostitution or other risky behavior at the time of the attack
These factors have actually been proven to be typical of most sexual assault reports.
What to Do if You've Been the Victim of a Sexual Assault
There are legal options an assault victim has available to him or her following a traumatic sexual or physical attack. We encourage everyone to first report the incident so that law enforcement and prosecutors can immediately begin the task of building a solid case with sufficient evidence to hold the assailant criminally accountable. While this may result in the attacker being incarcerated and reduces the risk of them committing any further attacks, this process does not provide for financial compensation for the victim.
Goldberg Noone Abraham partner and trial attorney Sheba Abraham has fought for the legal rights of victims of sexual and violent physical attacks, and understands the trauma and stigma associated with not only the event itself, but also in pursuing justice against the assailant. Victims often blame themselves or are re-victimized by the process of reporting the incident to law enforcement. Abraham notes that “in many sexual assault cases, a business owner, employer, school, or daycare was well aware of their employee's history of misconduct and should have done more to keep the victim safe.” Abraham says “we understand the sensitive nature of sexual assaults, and even in cases where a lawsuit must be filed, we take steps to protect the victim's identity and any personal records relating to the event.” “It is very important to me that my clients get the counseling and care they need for their road recovery and trust our office to do the rest.”
Ms. Abraham has successfully represented assault victims who were attacked because of a third party's negligence, and understands the intricacies involved in these extraordinarily complex cases. “As a woman, I have a passion for standing up against anyone who would perpetrate this type of heinous crime and fighting for these victims is one of the main reasons I chose to become a personal injury lawyer.”
Don't hesitate to seek expert legal advice if you've been victimized in a sexual or violent physical assault. The attorneys at Goldberg Noone Abraham are always just a phone call away at 239-461-5508, or you can click here to complete our short, online contact form and we'll reach out to you immediately.