What To Do When You've Been Sexually Assaulted

Posted by Randy Andrus | Sep 07, 2021

Unfortunately, many sexual assaults go unreported for numerous reasons. Often, survivors are afraid, embarrassed, or ashamed to come forward. Additionally, many people don't know what actions to take after they've endured sexual assault or abuse. They may have questions about where they can turn, who they can trust, if they should press charges against the offender, if they need a sexual abuse lawyer, etc. The emotions, trauma, and reality of it all can make taking the next steps feel impossible. While these feelings are understandable and valid, know that you deserve legal justice, and you are not alone in this. 

In this article, we'll discuss what to do after sexual assault and discuss other questions survivors commonly have when deciding to take legal action. Our goal is to help you take the right steps and better understand your legal options. If you or someone you know has survived sexual assault or abuse, the Andrus Law Firm team is ready to stand up for you and protect your rights. Our experienced sexual assault lawyer in Utah is waiting for your call at 801-535-4645 to set up your initial, confidential consultation. You can also fill out our confidential online form, and we will reach out to you.   

Suggested Next Steps After Sexual Assault

It can be overwhelming and scary to take the next steps after you've been assaulted or abused. However, doing so ensures attackers are held liable and accountable for their crimes and misconduct. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you are safe and in a secure location, there are further measures you may consider:

  • Preserve any physical evidence - While some survivors of assault will have physical injuries, some survivors may not. However, physical evidence may still be present. As difficult as it may be, refrain from washing away potential evidence. Don't change your clothes, comb your hair, or wash any part of your body. Additionally, try not to touch anything at the scene. This will help officers recover any potential evidence that may be available. 
  • Get medical attention - Going to the emergency room after the incident allows you to receive medical attention for any injuries that you may have sustained. Assault can result in serious injuries, so it is essential to get checked out as soon as possible. The medical staff will administer any necessary treatment, including medications to prevent STIs and conception. If you believe you were drugged, let the medical providers treating you know this. During your examination and treatment, they will also use a medical rape kit, which will collect any forensic evidence that may have been left behind, like the attacker's DNA and signs of injuries. 
  • File an official report with police - Unfortunately, many survivors don't press charges, and this allows abusers to stay unpunished, giving them the freedom to commit similar transgressions. Seeking justice can help hold perpetrators accountable and be empowering for survivors. Filing a report may also help you get legal justice sooner. 
  • Seek emotional support - The trauma survivors endure can be overwhelming, resulting in loneliness, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. Know that you are not alone, and you don't have to go through this alone. There are several support groups available to you, and many professionals who can help. Additionally, The National Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached at 800-656-HOPE(4673).
  • Reach out to a trusted sexual assault lawyer - Having a trusted lawyer on your side can help you get the legal justice you deserve and ensure the perpetrator is held liable and accountable for their actions. We at Andrus Law Firm will work tirelessly to protect your rights and get you the justice you deserve. 

What Is Consent When It Comes to Sexual Assault?

Consent is when someone agrees to initiate and engage in sexual activity. Consent can be revoked at any time, including in the middle of the sexual activity. Consent can be given one day and not given the next day. Being coerced or compliant does not equal consent. Consent can never be given by a child; in Utah, the age of consent is 18. Alcohol consumption can make a person incapable of giving consent. Marriage does not automatically mean consent is implied or given.

Some survivors have a difficult time justifying for themselves if the incident was sexual assault. If the sexual acts occurred without consent, it is considered sexual assault. Utah recognizes various degrees of sexual assault and sexual battery, including rape, unpermitted physical touching, unpermitted sexual intimidation, nonconsensual sexual activity, aggravated sexual assault, unlawful sexual activity with a minor, forcible sexual abuse, and forcible sodomy. 

What Is the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Rape?

Rape is recognized as a type of sexual assault. Rape is defined as sexual intercourse that occurs without the person's consent, and it is a criminal offense that may result in a first-degree felony for the offender. Depending on the facts of the specific case, there are varying degrees of punishment for rape in Utah. Utah Code § 76-5-402.

If rape has not specifically occurred during the act, other forms of sexual assault or battery may apply. The punishment of sexual misconduct ranges in severity. Some factors that come into play are emotional and physical harm caused, the level of violence used, the age gap between the plaintiff and defendant, and whether the victim was underage at the time of the assault.  

What If I Was in a Relationship with the Person Who Sexually Assaulted Me?

Relationships and marriages do not establish automatic consent between parties. No consent means sexual misconduct or crimes have occurred. A relationship is also never a legitimate means of defense for the offender. If someone you are married to or in a relationship with has initiated sexual acts with you without your consent, you have cause to file a rape or sexual assault claim against them.

What Do I Do If I Was Sexually Assaulted in the Past?

Criminal Offenses

The state of Utah has no statute of limitations (deadline to take legal action) for most sex crimes. Generally, legal action can be taken at any time for several crimes. Utah Code § 76-1-301(2). Crimes with no time limit for legal action include:

  • Rape
  • Rape of a child
  • Object rape
  • Object rape of a child
  • Forcible sodomy
  • Sodomy on a child
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • Aggravated sexual abuse of a child
  • Aggravated sexual assault

Civil Offenses

The Utah Legislature has found that sexual abuse hurts the most vulnerable in our society and destroys lives. Research over the last 30 years has shown that it takes decades for children and adults to pull their lives back together and find the strength to face what happened to them.

Utah's statute of limitations to bring civil suits for non-criminal offenses varies, though is, generally, set at 4 years. However, depending on the specific facts of the case, the timeline may be different. In 2015, Utah passed HBB 277, which eliminated the statute of limitations for some civil child abuse claims. It is now part of Utah Code § 78B-2-308. Some claims may be affected by court decisions. Mitchell v. Roberts, 2020 UT 34 (June 11, 2020)

Consult a Sexual Assault Lawyer in Utah

Reporting and filing charges against sexual assault and abuse criminals and offenders may be extremely difficult, but it's important to know that people are on your side and ready to fight for you. Legal justice and support are available. For a confidential consultation, give us a call at 801-535-4645. You can also fill out our confidential online form, and we will reach out to you. Our experienced and trusted sexual abuse lawyer is ready to get you the justice you deserve. 

About the Author

Randy Andrus

BIO   Education University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (LL.M. 1987) Business and Taxation – Transnational Practice Courses and International Bar Association Convention, Salzburg, Austria Southwestern University School of Law (J.D. 1984) Dean's List American Jurisprudence...

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