- What constitutes a Sexual Assault?
Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is the sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. It includes, but is not limited to, rape, fondling, unwanted sexual touching, and forcing a victim to perform sexual acts.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment occurs generally in the form of sexual advances, such as: requests for sexual favors, vulgar language, inappropriate gestures and jokes, and displaying offensive pictures.
“Quid pro quo” harassment, in which the harasser implies that the inappropriate conduct is required for employment. For quid pro quo harassment, the harasser must be in a place of authority over the employee. For example, promising a promotion in exchange for a sexual favor, or threatening to fire someone if they do not perform a sexual favor it sexual harassment.
Singular Incidents: Singular incidents can be grounds for a sexual assault. If the offense is deemed as petty or an annoyance, it may not rise to the degree of legality that would be brought to a court. However, there are many circumstances in which a one-time incident will constitute a sexual assault.
2. Where can Sexual Assault Occur?
A sexual assault can occur anywhere, and with anyone: there are no limitations to where or who it would be deemed acceptable. Common places of sexual assault occur in the workplace and at home. Other places that sexual assaults can occur are in schools, churches, and camps, they can also occur in remote places and places where the victim and perpetrator are alone.
3. Can I be fired for reporting sexual assault in my workplace?
No, federal law does not allow an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a claim for sexual assault or harassment
Who can commit a sexual assault? Who can be a victim?
Anyone can be a perpetrator of sexual assault. They may be total strangers, but a majority of sexual assaults occur between people who know each other. They can even be friends, family, teachers, coaches, community leaders, spouses, or parents.
Additionally, not all sexual assault victims are female—a male can also be the victim of sexual assault and has all of the same rights as a woman in the court system.
4. What is Consent in Sexual Assault?
Consent must be a voluntary, sober, informed, mutual and verbal agreement to the given sexual contact.
What if I said yes because I felt threatened? Consent cannot be coerced and must be present at each step of every sexual encounters.
What if I am in a relationship? Consent is not automatic once someone is in a relationship—all parties must still have consent for every sexual encounter.
Can consent be implied? It is never assumed or implied, especially not by the clothes that the victim was wearing.
What if I consented while I was heavily intoxicated? In the case of alcohol, a person who is intoxicated cannot legally consent.
What is the legal age of consent? A person under the age of 16 years cannot legally consent to sex with another person.
What if I didn’t fight back? There is also no requirement that the victim fight back against the perpetrator.
5. What is the difference between a civil and criminal case for sexual assault?
Civil Sexual Assault Claims: In civil court, a sexual assault plaintiff sues a defendant for a tort claim accusing the defendant of touching the plaintiff in a sexual manner without their consent. The sexual assault plaintiff typically hires an attorney to help them navigate the complex legal system, which requires the plaintiff to build their case against the defendant to prepare for trial.
In addition to the person who committed the crime, the plaintiff can sue others who had a duty to stop the defendant or step in but failed to do so. For example, if the sexual assault occurred in the plaintiff’s workplace, and their supervisor was aware of the actions or action but did nothing to stop the conduct, the employer can be sued for negligent infliction of emotional distress, because they had a duty to intervene but did not.
A defendant may or may not have already been found guilty in a criminal case regarding the same sexual assault. However, this has no effect on the civil claim that is brought against the defendant by the plaintiff. A plaintiff only has to reach a burden of proof that requires a jury find that it is more reasonable than not that the defendant sexually assaulted the plaintiff. This is a lower burden than the government must reach in a criminal trial, and therefore it is entirely possible that a defendant be not guilty in a criminal sexual assault trial, but guilty in a subsequent civil trial for the same sexual assault.
The outcomes of civil sexual assault claims in Oklahoma, if successful, result in monetary damages awarded to the plaintiff. These monetary damages paid to the plaintiff can include legal fees, compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, emotional distress, psychological damage resulting from the sexual assault, damage to relationships, and other economic and non-economic damages.
The statute of limitations in bringing a civil suit against a sexual assault defendant in Oklahoma is two year from the date of the sexual assault, or discovery of the sexual assault.
Criminal Sexual Assault Charges: In criminal court, the government seeks to punish a sexual assault defendant for the unwanted sexual touching done to a victim. The victim will usually participate and assist the government in their case through witness testimony, but they are not a party and do not have a say in the direction of the case that the prosecution decides to pursue.
The burden that the government must prove is that the defendant sexually assaulted the victim beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a higher standard than required in civil court and means that enough evidence has been introduced by the government that any doubt in the jury’s mind of whether the defendant committed the crime is erased.
The outcome of a criminal sexual assault case if a guilty or not guilty verdict by the jury. If the defendant is found to be not guilty, they can walk free and are innocent in the eyes of the law. If the verdict is guilty, however, they are punished by incarceration, probation, or can be required to pay the victim for any financial harms they incurred as a result of the sexual assault. The sentencing hearing happens after the guilty verdict is announced by the court.
6. What claims can a sexual assault victim bring in civil court?
It is common for victims of sexual assault to bring civil lawsuits against the perpetrator. Typically, the civil claims that are brought as assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
What is an assault? An assault is the attempt or threat to inflict offensive physical contact or bodily harm on another person, which puts them in immediate danger of or in apprehension of that harm. Examples of assault include:
- Threats of sexual assault
- Attempts to sexually touch another person
What is a battery? A battery is a completed assault. It is the unlawful physical contact with another person so has not consented to that contact. While assault only requires the threat of physical contact, battery requires that physical contact actually happens. Examples of battery include:
Unwanted sexual touching
- Forcible Sodomy
- Forcible Object Insertion
- Martial Rape
- Sexual contact with minors (consensual or nonconsensual)
What is intentional infliction of emotional distress? The law does not just recognize physical harm, but emotional harm as well. Intentional infliction of emotional distress occurs when the perpetrator recklessly or intentionally acted in an extreme or outrageous way that actually caused the victim severe emotional distress.
7. What kind of relief is available to victims of sexual assault?
Civil claims are related to the victim’s injuries, not just the guilt of the perpetrator. Victims can sue for the physical and emotional harm that arises from the assault and receive monetary damages from the lawsuit if they win. A victim may be compensated for psychological trauma, emotional counseling after the assault, medical treatments, loss of employment or wages, and any other damages that have resulted from the assault.
8. What is the Statute of Limitations for sexual assault cases?
Statute of limitations is how long a victim has to bring a crime forward and assert their legal rights. In Oklahoma, a victim has two years from the date of the incident or two years from the discovery of the incident to bring their claim. If a victim is a minor, they have until two years after they turn 18 to bring a claim OR if the perpetrator is in jail or in custody of the state, they have until 5 years after the perpetrator is released. Whichever claim survives longer.
9. What options do Sexual Assault victims have if they are denied the right to prosecute their attacker?
Victims have the civil justice system and the ability to retain Fierce Advocates that fight for victims of sexual abuse, if prosecutors refuse to file criminal charges. A civil lawsuit may be brought by the victim of sexual assault against the perpetrator of the crime and those that contributed to the events taking place or failed to take steps to adequately protect a victim of sexual assault. There are multiple causes of action that a victim of sexual assault can bring against the perpetrator and other parties, i.e. his or her employer, if the company contributed to the environment that resulted in the sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault may also seek a protective order against the perpetrator.
10. How Does Cannon and Associates seek Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault?
We are Fierce Advocates for victims of sexual assault and make a separate determination from prosecution offices, when they decide to file or decline to file charges. In criminal prosecution, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed. In a civil lawsuit, the burden is on the plaintiff, victim of sexual assault; however, the burden is much lower Preponderance of the Evidence, or more likely than not that the sexual assault occurred. The lower burden in civil sexual assault lawsuits provides a venue for these victims to seek justice, regardless of the prosecution’s decision to file or declining to file criminal charges. The civil system has its limits though, we are typically limited to damages for victims of sexual assault. Meaning, a plaintiff in a sexual assault case may receive economic damages from the perpetrator of sexual assault or his or her insurance; however, the outcome of a civil lawsuit does not include jail or prison time. Although it is not the same as seeing the perpetrator sent to prison or being required to register as a sex offender, monetary damages do provide justice to victims of sexual assault.
11. How can Sexual Assault Victims get Justice that is not commonly discussed?
One of the biggest ways victims of sexual assault can get help that is rarely discussed is through monetary damages, discussed above. Monetary damages that result from the prosecution of a civil sexual assault lawsuit give victims a voice and demonstrate that their pain is worth something and they do not have to silently be a victim. Monetary damages also provide resources for counseling, therapy, and a way to improve the victim’s life beyond the event(s) he or she suffered. Many victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault require counseling for years to come, which can be expensive. Counseling provides a safe venue to discuss the pain, stress, and other emotions that come from the harm of being victimized, a civil lawsuit can provide the resources to maintain these services, despite limited financial resources.
In a civil lawsuit for sexual assault the plaintiff must convince a jury of the sexual assault, assault, battery, infliction of emotion harm, or other cause of action; however, the burden is preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, in the civil context the attorney for the victim of sexual assault can depose the defendant under oath, which is not a right of the prosecutor in a criminal prosecution. Additionally, plaintiff’s in sexual assault cases may serve discovery requests upon the defendant, which he or she is required to answer under oath. These are powerful tools in the prosecution of civil sexual assault litigation; however, it is a two-way street and the defendant in a sexual assault case may depose and serve discovery upon the victim as well.
12. What is the Process for Civil Sexual Assault Lawsuit in Oklahoma?
Sexual Assault in Oklahoma is an offense where a person engages a victim in unwanted sexual touching. This guide can be used as a general summary of how a sexual assault victim’s legal rights to be asserted in order to seek legal reparations for their sexual assault.
Contacting an Experienced Attorney: Once a person becomes victim to a sexual assault, they should contact an experienced sexual assault plaintiff attorney to explain and help them with the sometimes-lengthy legal process. After discussing the sexual assault event with this attorney, the lawyer will investigate the victim’s claims to build the sexual assault plaintiff’s case and better understand the legal options that are available to the client.
If the sexual assault happens in a workplace, the victim has the opportunity to sue their employer as well as the person who sexually assaulted them for claims such as intentional infliction of emotional distress as a result of the trauma and negligent infliction of emotional distress for failing to take action to prevent the continued sexual assault or trauma. The sexual assault plaintiff can also sue the employer for interference with economic advantage if, because of the sexual assault, they miss out on promotions they should have received, receive a pay dock, were retaliated against, or receive fewer work hours.
Demand Letters: This initial investigation allows the attorney opportunity to gather evidence and send a demand letter to the defendant in your sexual assault case. Demand letters provide you the opportunity to settle your sexual assault case without the public exposure of your issue and within a much shorter time frame than the result of litigation. Your damages will not be reduced by the costs of litigation and you can avoid being subjected to deposition, discovery requests, and a public trial, which will include your claims being publicized. Deciding to send a demand letter in your sexual assault case is a difficult and important decision to make. It is important to retain a Fierce Advocate with experience working though these issues to help you decide the course of action to take in providing the opportunity for an out of court settlement with the defendant or filing your sexual assault lawsuit.
Lawsuit: If the sexual assault defendant or employer reject the opportunity to settle the case or if the victim does not want to afford the defendant an opportunity to settle the case outside of court, the sexual assault plaintiff or their hired sexual assault attorney will file a complaint or petition in court, which lays out the plaintiff’s claims and causes of action.
Employment Related Sexual Assault: a complaint must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), if the sexual assault was related to employment and the plaintiff wishes to seek claims or damages against their employer. The EEOC is a federal agency which enforces federal laws regarding discrimination of harassment in the workplace. The complaint to the EEOC MUST be filed within 180 DAYS of the sexual assault, and can be filed here: https://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm. If the complaint is more than 180 days after the sexual assault, the plaintiff may be time-barred from suing their employer. Once the sexual assault complaint is filed with the EEOC, they will conduct their own investigation into the charges and reach out to the plaintiff or their attorney to build their case and reach their conclusion on the merits of the complaint. If the EEOC finds evidence of sexual assault, they will file a sexual assault lawsuit.
If the lawsuit is solely against an individual, filing a complaint with the EEOC is not necessary and a complaint will be filed with the federal or Oklahoma state district court (ie. Cleveland County, Canadian County, Tulsa County, or Oklahoma County). Federal suits for sexual assault are brought if there is a federal party, federal question, or federal issue. This includes Civil Rights Act Title VII discrimination claims. An experienced sexual assault plaintiff attorney will be able to help file in the best and correct state or federal court.
After the complaint or petition is filed, the defendant or employer will file an “answer,” which is their response to each and every allegation. The defendant or employer at this time may also move to dismiss the case with the court. An Oklahoma sexual assault attorney can and should file a response or objection to the answer/motion to dismiss. A state or federal judge assigned to the case will then decide if the case proceeds.
Scheduling Order: If the judge determines that the case will proceed, the judge will issue a scheduling order, which consists of timelines for each party to follow, such as for when to get discovery and taking depositions.
Discovery: Discovery is the process of finding out what the other party knows, and how they are building their case. It is a chance for our Fierce Advocates and sexual assault attorneys to identify weaknesses and strengths in the defendant’s case and the same for our client. The goal of discovery is to allow both sides to have a fair understanding of each side (which prevents trial by ambush) and to facilitate cases being settled. Discovery requests are a big part of building the sexual assault case. Under Oklahoma and federal law, discovery can be taken in the form of depositions, interrogatories, requests for production, and admissions. An experienced sexual assault attorney will use these tools in preparation for defending the case in jury trial.
If a plaintiff sues many defendants, the plaintiff and their attorney are obligated to timely respond to discovery from each defendant. This is one reason why it is crucial in a sexual assault case to hire an experienced, detailed Oklahoma sexual assault plaintiff attorney.
Depositions: Depositions are a part of discovery in a sexual assault lawsuit where a person, such as the defendant or employer, gives evidence to the other side, while under oath. Depositions are transcribed and are a great opportunity for the sexual assault attorney to build the case and get as much evidence as possible from the defendant or employer.
Interrogatories: Interrogatories are like a written deposition, in which a written question is formally put to one party in a case by the other party and must be answered by the other party under oath. Interrogatories provide your sexual assault attorney the opportunity to gather useful information to help present your case and defend your sexual assault claims.
Requests for Production: Requests for production ask for evidence or materials from the other side that are relevant to the case. This can include text messages, photographs, inspection of physical evidence, and other valuable documents that can help prove the plaintiff’s sexual assault case.
Admissions: Admissions occur when one party in a sexual assault or civil case ask the other party specific factual questions, seeking an admission of truth. For example, a sexual assault plaintiff attorney may request an admission that the defendant was a supervisor of the plaintiff, or that the supervisor had been in one-on-one settings with the sexual assault plaintiff. Additionally, the plaintiff may ask the defendant to admit that they had sexual contact on a specific date and time, if the defendant makes that admission, the only issue left to prove is lack of consent in that instance.
Motion for Summary Judgment: Once all discovery is exchanged and complete, and parties understand evidence in the sexual assault case, the sexual assault defendant will likely seek to dismiss the case without trial by filing a motion for summary judgment. An experienced sexual assault attorney has done this and worked the plaintiff’s case to defend against this motion. Both parties present their findings to the judge, and state or federal judge will decide if the case has a sufficient material question of fact that a jury must decide, if the court finds such than the sexual assault lawsuit survives and continues to trial.
Mediation, Arbitration, Trial: If the sexual assault case survives, there should be no barriers to take your case to trial. However, typically a judge will require parties to go through a mediation or arbitration process. Mediation and arbitration usually consist of a third-party attorney evaluating the case and helping the parties reach a settlement to avoid trial. Most sexual assault mediators or arbitrators will have trial experience and can speak to potential damages or outcomes in a sexual assault trial. Many cases settle at or before this step, which is why it is crucial to the case that a plaintiff has hired a fierce advocate that is prepared at every step. Your sexual assault attorney will help make the best decision on whether to settle or take your case to trial.
If the parties do not meet a settlement in mediation or arbitration, the case continues to a jury trial. This is when both sides of the claim present their case, assert their defenses, and build a story to tell the jurors and connect to the juror’s emotions. The burden of proof that an Oklahoma sexual assault plaintiff attorney must convince the jury of is a preponderance of the evidence, which means that it is more reasonable than not (51% or more) that the sexual assault happened and it occurred without consent. If the jury finds that the sexual assault occurred, the other side will be held accountable for actions and the plaintiff will get damages in reparation for their harms from the sexual assault. The form and amount of damages are determined by the jury; however, we are dedicated to building every client’s case, story, and helping the jury see the true harm caused by our client being victimized in the sexual assault at hand.
Conclusion: Civil procedure is complex, and has much more detail than can be explained in this outline of “How sexual assault cases are handled in Oklahoma”, which is why it is helpful and important to find a fierce advocate and experienced sexual assault attorney who know the ins and outs of legal procedure. However, it is our hope that this summary gives a general explanation and summary of what a sexual assault civil process looks like in Oklahoma.
Contact – Cannon & Associates: Oklahoma Sexual Assault Advocates
Experience matters when you or a loved one has suffered from a sexual assault in Oklahoma. It is important to know the Oklahoma sexual assault attorney you hire is dedicated to your cause and versed in all aspects of personal injury, sexual assault, and damages in Oklahoma.
Cannon & Associates is dedicated to FIERCE ADVOCACY for individuals who have been sexually assaulted and will bring our experience to bear in your case. Contact Cannon & Associates to protect your claim and get justice in Oklahoma. Complete the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at (405) 906-4051 for a free confidential case evaluation.