Taking Legal Action and Understanding Sexual Assault Law
Attorney Daniel Adamson defines sexual violence according to Georgia law and provides legal recommendations from sexual assault attorneys to help victims to fight back.
Backstory: In the City of Atlanta, 20% of rape cases were cleared exceptionally over the last 6 years. More than 200 suspects were never arrested or charged. According to some Georgia county officials, victims may be “uncooperative” with authorities, and many cases go unsolved or inactive.
Sexual assault and rape are not easy topics to discuss. This episode addresses criminal vs. civil legal options for sexual violence cases, as well as how to document and report an incident quickly and confidentially.
Transcript from Episode 4, For Justice’s Sake Podcast:
Thanks for tuning in to For Justice’s Sake hosted by the Dixon Firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Today’s episode is about taking legal action against sexual assault and rape. My name is Renee Cooper. I’m joined today by our special guest Daniel Adamson, who will also be part of our 15-second shout-out because he will be leading the topic of discussion for the entire podcast. So Daniel Adamson has been a lawyer with the Dixon firm for three years in October. So thanks for being on the show with us today.
Hey, Renee, thanks for having me.
Wonderful. So this is quite a heavy topic, but it is very important because it is part of personal injury claims and personal injury law. First, a little bit of backstory. According to an 11-Alive article, in the city of Atlanta, 20% of rape cases were cleared exceptionally over the last six years, more than 200 suspects were never arrested or charged. And according to some Georgia county officials, victims may be uncooperative with authorities and many cases go unsolved or inactive. So, these are very unnerving statistics. So from a legal perspective, is there a difference–and can you define the difference between sexual assault and rape?
The difference between sexual assault and rape
Yeah, so the terms rape and sexual assault are often interchangeably used in criminal and civil court. But there is a difference O.C.G.A. section 16-6-1 covers rape and O.C.G.A. 16-6-3 covers statutory rape. You know, the main difference under Georgia law is rape occurs when a person has quote-unquote, carnal knowledge of a female forcibly against her with her will or a female who’s less than 10 years of age. And for those who maybe don’t know what carnal knowledge is, that’s the penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.
So those would be considered rapes under Georgia law and sexual battery or sexual assault is a little different. It’s when a person commits an offense where they make physical contact with another person’s intimate body parts without that person’s consent. And then aggravated sexual battery, or assault is when a person intentionally penetrates a sex organ or anus of another person with a foreign object without that person’s consent. So those are the three different types.
Well, it’s very important to know how the law categorizes them, especially if you’re looking to seek justice for any number of these things happening because I’m sure that that could affect the type of case that you even asked about if you are, say, a victim reaching out to a lawyer. What should a victim of any of these three types of cases do immediately after they know or have been a victim or assaulted?
Immediately after an assault
First and foremost, you know, these victims are going through a tremendous amount of emotional and physical trauma. And we always hope that these perpetrators can be brought to justice. And unfortunately, that’s not always the case. So, there are avenues to that civil system that may provide for victims that are unable to receive justice to the criminal system.
First and foremost, they need to call the police and need to try to get the authorities involved, give the police a description of the perpetrator and what happened, and describe the events even though there, it’s going to be incredibly hard for the victim to relive that. The second thing they should do is seek medical treatment as soon as possible, either at a hospital or another Urgent Care type clinic and to get a rape kit test done not only to have a medical record of the incident but just to get the victim as much treatment as he or she needs.
Thank you. How important is it to get legal advice as soon as it happens? And how does someone really know that they have a criminal or personal injury case?
Do I have a sexual assault case?
Yeah, you know, it’s incredibly important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. You know, for multiple reasons, but, most importantly, to preserve evidence that’s the most important thing here. And also so that the attorney can kind of serve as a barrier between the victim and, you know, a company or whoever the the at fault party is. Sometimes you’ll be able to bring a civil lawsuit against the person like you said.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the person is going to have a civil claim depends on a lot of things regarding where the incident happened, that’s one thing that an attorney can help with is looking into the environment and the location, things like that, and determining whether the business owner, the property owner, whether they should have had better security or better lighting or better tools to deter these horrific types of crimes. And, that’s the most important thing is of the victim doesn’t need to be dealing with that sort of thing. So it’s incredibly important to call an attorney as soon as possible after you’ve done the things we talked about earlier: call the police, seek medical treatment. And then step three should be call the attorney.
There’s a lot of times where people hold on to this information for a very long time. And by the time they’re ready to seek justice, it may be too late. So what is that timeframe?
Generally, the timeframe is a two-year statute of limitations for these types of cases. So although it’s very difficult for a victim to relive, you know, these events, it’s very important to get an attorney involved as soon as possible not only to file the case within the statute of limitations but to preserve evidence and get all the information and documents and things that are necessary for the victim.
Does publishing something on social media either right after it happens, or even years later affect the way a lawyer can help them seek justice?
Social Media and Sexual Assault
It could. You know, I think the longer you wait, the more risk there is of negatively affecting the case. However, with many victims, it’s very, it takes them a long time to come out and talk about it. And even sometimes to report it to the authorities, you know, especially if it’s someone they knew. So I wouldn’t necessarily recommend everyone post on social media. Exactly. You know, about what happened. Soon after the incident, I don’t think that’s necessary. But another resource is rainn.org, RAINN.ORG. It has a bunch of laws about sexual violence. And if the victim does decide that they want to pursue justice, either criminally or through the civil system, they need to do that as soon as possible.
You know, another thing is, it’s oftentimes a he-said-she-said, type of situation, which I think relates to the article you mentioned earlier, about the cases that are exceptionally cleared, quote, unquote. It is unfortunate that it does happen a lot. And I’ve had it happen in one of my cases. And we were still able to get the young lady a very nice settlement where they weren’t able to actually currently charge and arrest the perpetrator. Because it was a he-said-she-said thing, but the location where the incident happened, there were a lot of code violations and things that provided the opportunity for this perpetrator to commit the crime, which is how we were able to get the settlement.
That is a big part of a personal injury case that I don’t think a lot of people know, you did mention a little bit earlier about how important it is to look at the surroundings, the businesses involved or the location of where the case took place. What is the difference in a civil case and a criminal case?
Criminal versus Civil Sexual Assault Law
You know, the criminal system is really the police and the district attorney, who are going to prosecute the criminal. The victim, you know, oftentimes won’t even have an attorney for that avenue. The difference with the civil cases and which includes personal injury, what we do, the civil claims are more against an organization or person, company property owner. And those tend to deal with situations where there may have been relationships, where the perpetrator was in a position of authority or had prior incidents and his company didn’t do a background check on him. So it turns into a negligent hiring claim or a property owner, when I touched on earlier, had a dangerous condition on the premises–lack of lighting, lack of security, things like that. Those are more of a civil Avenue.
I’m sure a lot of sexual assaults and rapes happen in a house or in an environment where the only avenue for justice is the criminal system. You know, that’s why it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to kind of let you know whether there is a claim that exists. Unfortunately, sometimes there won’t be, but if there’s a claim for negligence, that’s when the civil system is used. And there’s a claim for personal injury, or what have you.
So all this has been incredibly useful information. And I know, again, this is a really heavy topic, but it is something that we have a lot of inquiries on our website, people who are looking at the blogs that we have published. Could you reference other cases that you’ve worked on where you had a beneficial outcome for victims, so that, while we hope, this never happens to anybody in the future, people are aware of how a lawyer can assist and how important it is to at least reach out to the authorities, and let someone know that they need help?
At the end of the day, just takes a lot of bravery on the victim’s part to put their story out there and really be vulnerable and open up their personal experiences, which you know, is incredibly hard. But the one thing to keep in mind is the conversations with an attorney are confidential, and even consultations, which are free most of the time, at least with our firm, so, it’s, it can be one of those things where maybe the victim’s under a lot of pressure and feels like they have nowhere to go.
And sometimes it might be an outlet for them to where they feel like they maybe can’t talk to anyone else, especially if it’s a family member or close friend, something like that. You know, but I’ve, I haven’t seen a case where the victim waited too long to say anything or, you know, it’s, as long as you’re within that two year time period from the date of the incident, then it’s fine. Maybe that evidence won’t be as preserved as it could have been, but the main thing is for the victim to do it on his or her own time and when they’re ready.
I’ve had a case where a young lady with a mental disability was sexually assaulted, and there were apartments that were vacant, you know, abandoned, as well as other code violations that, she was just going to throw out the trash. And, you know, we ended up getting her settlement against the apartment complex. So, like I mentioned earlier, that case was an exceptionally clear case where I think the person that the perpetrator was essentially freed, free to go and… At the end of the day, money isn’t going to make anything go away necessarily. It’s not going to change what happened, but it’s the only thing we have to get compensation for these victims and to hold the property owners or companies accountable for their negligence.
That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. I really appreciate you again, Daniel for talking us through this topic, or our podcast this month. I know it will help a lot of people to see their options. We actually will have on social media, a list of the RAINN contact, as well as some other sexual assault options. You can find them right now on our blog, but we’re gonna make sure that along with this podcast, we do give some other resources too, that will help.
Thanks always for listening and thank you again, Daniel, for being on with us, and stay safe!
Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.
Listen to the full podcast:
Experienced Sexual Assault Lawyers
Hopefully, these resources will be a guide to pursuing peace from someone’s painful experience and understanding sexual assault law. Our sexual assault attorneys at The Dixon Firm continue to seek justice for those who are tragically affected by these incidents, anywhere in Georgia.
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