The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates that one in five women will be the victim of sexual assault at some point in their lives. An even more shocking statistic is that eight out of 10 female victims knew their attacker in some way, and one in 10 of those attacks were by someone the female trusted.
A statistic that is not so shocking but still alarming is that 81 percent of women who are the victims of sexual assault experience some sort of short or long-term mental issues. It is a crime that is forced on someone, and the results for the victim and their entire family are devastating. The important thing for sexual assault victims to know is that there is legal assistance and financial assistance available to them if they want it.
The first, and potentially most difficult, step in recovering from sexual assault is to get in touch with organizations that are known for helping victims. VictimsOfCrime.org outlines a plan that encourages victims to seek out professional counseling organizations to help determine the next step. A counselor can be a confidant and someone who stands by the victim's side throughout the entire process.
In order for a sexual assault victim to get help from the legal system, they must report their attack to the proper authorities. Once again, a professional counselor can be by the victim's side the entire way to help with paperwork, and act as emotional support. The victim does not decide if criminal charges are filed, as that decision is left up to the prosecutor. But once criminal charges are filed, the prosecutor may ask the victim to testify in court and submit a victim impact statement to the court to help the court understand the effects the attack has had.
Victims can also choose to sue in civil court to recover any money lost due to medical costs, counseling fees and lost wages. It may be possible to find an attorney who will take the case for a percentage of the settlement, which takes the financial burden off of the victim. A victim can also request a protection order in the criminal or civil proceedings to make it a crime for the attacker to be within a certain distance of the victim at all times.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, every state has a program set up to compensate victims of sexual assault. In the state of New York, victims can apply for compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, moving expenses (if necessary), funeral expenses, property loss, and attorney fees. Some of these items have limits (such as $1,000 for attorney fees) while others (such as medical costs) offer unlimited support.
In order to benefit from these compensation options, the victim must agree to cooperate with the state in prosecuting the attacker. However, in some states it is possible for the victim to sign a waiver and not have to appear in court. The process of applying for these benefits and utilizing these services can begin with help from a professional counselor, or through the state itself.
Most states have organizations that offer the special type of assistance sexual assault victims may need. For example, many states offer services that help victims to plan their days around avoiding their attacker and changing their routines to prevent attackers from being able to predict where they will be.
Victim advocacy organizations also have support groups that can be very beneficial for victims as well. With the help of the resources that are available and the legal system, a sexual assault victim can pursue justice, and seek out the financial compensation they need to get their lives back on track.