In recent months, we have seen a seemingly never-ending stream of horrific allegations come from all corners of the country, but most significantly from Hollywood and Washington D.C. From Harvey Weinstein to Louis C.K. to Al Franken to Roy Moore to Charlie Rose to President Donald Trump, the list of alleged abusers is as lengthy as it is shocking. Hopefully, we can all agree that exposing these (alleged) predators is a good thing. The more information we have on the dangers in high places, the better.
While the high profile figures receive the attention, one question that I have been asked repeatedly is “what can victims of sexual assault or harassment do?” The first, and most obvious answer, is that victims can go to the police. Sexual assault is a crime, and the police take it seriously. Going to the police, and getting the perpetrator into the criminal justice system may have value in several different ways. First, it may get the predator off the street, and hopefully ensures that no other person will be subject to the same treatment. Second, it may draw attention to the sexual assault. A victim can hardly be blamed for wanting to expose a perpetrator who has done so much damage.
While bringing attention to the wrongdoer certainly has value for many victims, it provides no real tangible recovery to a person whose life has often been turned upside down. That is where the civil justice system may come in. Crimes of sexual assault, battery, and rape are also civil counts, and victims may be able to sue the perpetrator and collect compensation for the ways in which their lives have been damaged. These complaints may come in a number of ways.