Filing A Civil Date Rape Lawsuit

Filing A Civil Date Rape Lawsuit 2018-01-24T14:42:56+00:00
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Date rape is a serious crime, but it may also be the basis for a civil lawsuit. Some sexual assault survivors may be able to file suit against their attacker, along with a negligent organization who allowed the crime to occur.

  • Private lawsuits against offenders
  • College or university liability cases
  • Fraternity lawsuits

You or your loved one may be entitled to financial compensation. To learn more about pursuing justice, contact our experienced attorneys now for a free consultation. 

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When prosecutors talk about date rape, they’re usually referring to a type of acquaintance rape, cases in which the victim and perpetrator have some sort of prior relationship. In cases of date rape, the victim and perpetrator at one point shared a romantic or sexual relationship, before the crime occurred.

What Is Date Rape?

Rape is always a crime. It’s non-consensual sexual intercourse or penetration. It doesn’t matter who violated you, whether it’s your spouse, an ex or a date you just found on Tinder. Nor does it matter whether, in the past, you expressed a desire to engage in sexual activity with this person. When someone violates you, either without your consent or through coercion, it’s sexual assault, a serious crime that should be punished. And, when the assault involves penetration (vaginal, anal or oral), it’s considered rape.

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Date rape is probably most common on college campuses, where sexual assaults are often made possible by alcohol or drugs. Women between the ages of 16 and 24 are most vulnerable to this form of sexual assault, according to researchers in the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, who also note that fraternity members and athletes account for a disproportionate share of offenders. Most rape victims know their attacker, but in the case of date rape, the attacker and the victim are engaged in a potentially romantic or sexual relationship at the time of the assault.

The Role Of Alcohol In Acquaintance Rape

Sometimes, offenders use drugs to incapacitate their victim. Usually colorless and tasteless, date rape drugs can be slipped into a person’s drink when they’re not looking. While their effects vary, most date rape drugs make you physically-weak and mentally-confused. Some make you pass out entirely. These drugs often affect your memory, too, so you might not be able to remember what happened after you were drugged. Needless to say, no one can consent to sexual activity after being drugged.

“Drug-facilitated sexual assault” (often incorrectly used as a synonym for date rape) is shockingly common. In a 2007 study, experts at the National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center estimated that nearly 3 million women, nearly 3% of the female American population, had suffered a drug-facilitated rape at some point in their lives.

Date Rape Drugs

In principle, any chemical substance that impairs a person’s judgment or behavior can be considered a date rape drug. Alcohol obviously fits the bill, clouding our minds, making it hard to make reasonable decisions, reducing our inhibitions and often leading to physical dis-coordination. In fact, alcohol is probably the most common drug used to facilitate sexual assaults, in part because it’s readily available, legal to consume and an accepted presence on college campuses.

Alongside alcohol, some rapists turn to more exotic drugs to weaken their victims:

  • Rohypnol – Heard about “roofies”? That’s Rohypnol, a trade name for the chemical flunitrazepam. Like all other benzodiazepines, flunitrazepam is an addictive substance that acts as a tranquilizer, causing drowsiness, loss of muscle function and, in many cases, amnesia. Rohypnol was once used as a sleep aid for people with severe cases of insomnia, but it’s now illegal in the United States. Today, the drug is almost synonymous with date rape, although toxicology studies reported by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction show that Rohypnol isn’t actually very common in sexual assault cases. Two similar benzodiazepine drugs, Klonopin and Xanax, are more common.
  • GHB – In medical settings, gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB, is a general anesthetic that can also be used to treat cases of narcolepsy. It’s also a fairly-common recreational drug, noted for its euphoric effects similar to alcohol or ecstasy. Slipped unobtrusively into a drink, GHB can quickly make a victim feel drowsy. At higher doses, it can be totally incapacitating. While colorless and odorless, the available formulations of GHB are extremely salty, a taste that can be masked by a strong beverage.
  • Ketamine – Ketamine is a drug that anesthesiologists use to start anesthesia in surgical patients. A sedative, ketamine can relieve pain, while inducing a dream-like mental state that often results in memory loss.

Again, any drug that affects your judgment, mental status or physical behavior can be used to facilitate date rape. Rape, as Womenshealth.gov reports, is never okay. That’s true even if you took the drugs of your own free will. Non-consensual sexual contact is assault, plain and simple.

Civil Liability In Cases Of Rape

Date rape is a crime, but it’s also a tort.

Crimes are prosecuted by the criminal justice system. A tort, on the other hand, is a form of wrongdoing that harms someone else and creates liability in the civil justice system. The criminal justice system is designed to punish convicted offenders, while the civil justice system is meant to compensate victims for their losses.

Filing a civil lawsuit may be possible. If you or a loved one was sexually assaulted under any circumstances, you may have a claim for financial compensation.

Assault & Battery

In civil court, sexual assault in all its forms, including date rape, is usually handled through a claim of assault and battery. These are torts, recognized by law, that allow survivors and certain family members to hold the offender accountable in a private lawsuit.

In some cases, the liability for a specific tort actually extends beyond the offender to encompass third-party defendants who, while not committing the actual crime, allowed it to occur through their negligence.

College & University Liability For Date Rape

Colleges and universities, in particular, have a legal obligation to warn students against known risks, while providing both undergraduates and graduates with a reasonable level of security. And schools that violate this obligation, leaving students vulnerable to known risks, can be held accountable for their negligence through a private lawsuit.

Foreseeable Criminal Activity

In general, colleges and universities can only be held liable for failing to protect students against “foreseeable” criminal activity. Most successful civil cases that revolve around date rape thus involve a repeat offender or location where date rape (or other forms of acquaintance rape) have been known to occur in the past.

For example, if a student had a history of rape allegations, or an existing criminal record that included convictions for sexual assault, the college would need to take reasonable steps to protect other students from harm. Failing to take those steps, or implementing them in a careless way, could open the institution up to civil liability. This is perhaps most common with transfer students, since records of past misconduct may not be transferred properly to the new academic institution.

Location is another matter. If a particular fraternity, for example, had a history of sexual assault, but went unpunished, the college could be liable for any assaults that occur there in the future.

Learn More

Are you or a loved one a survivor of rape? Our experienced sexual assault attorneys can help. You may be able to secure financial compensation, and hold the responsible parties accountable, by filing a civil lawsuit. To learn more about your options, contact our lawyers today for a free, confidential consultation.

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