April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and April 4 is the nationally recognized End Sexual Violence Day, a day specifically set aside to focus awareness on sexual violence prevention.
Sexual assault is a vicious and tragic crime that permeates all levels, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups in nearly every society. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has helped to raise awareness of the problem and has helped organize activities throughout the United States to help bring the issue to the forefront, including social media campaigns and rallies. They helped establish April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2001, and since then the visibility has grown.
The statistics of the crimes, however, are still staggering. It is estimated that roughly 321,500 women aged 12 and older are victims of sexual abuse each year, and those in the largest group (54 percent) are between the ages of 18 and 34.
And, as opposed to the common stereotype of rape only occurring by strangers in dark alleys, the opposite proves to be true. The NSVRC estimates that one in five women will be the victim of rape in their lifetime and that one of every 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner. In eight of 10 rapes, the victim knew her assailant. Aside from the physical injuries, including bruises and sometimes broken bones and worse, and the psychological damages, including Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, there is also an economic cost: NSVRC reports that each rape, on average, costs $152,423 in legal fees, medical expense costs and other expenses, and overall the financial cost of rape in the U.S. is more than $127 billion.
Texas is far from immune from the crime. According to Hope Alliance, in 2015, 158 women were killed by their sexual partners, more than any other year in history, and 25,000 victims received emergency shelter from abuse. On average 226,000 children and 104,00 adults in the state are the victims of sexual assault.
Sexual assault laws are primarily dictated by the state, and efforts by anti-sexual assault groups and high profile cases, including that of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner — a Stanford student that found a nearly-unconscious drunk woman and raped her by a dumpster — have contributed to slow but steady change toward stricter laws.
Texas has shown a commitment to ultimately being more strict on sexual crimes. For example, in early 2017, State Senator Kirk Watson (D), filed five wide-ranging campus anti-rape bills aimed at preventing and punishing sexual assault on college campuses, where a recent survey showed 10 percent of female students reported being raped.
And Texas already has other laws and penalties on the books punishing sexual assault. For example, non-consensual sexual assault starts as a second-degree felony and carries a penalty of two to twenty years in state prison and fines up to $10,000. However, depending on the situation surrounding the assault, the felony can be raised to the first degree, in which case the penalty raises to five to 90 years in state prison. Aggravated sexual assault is automatically a first-degree offense, and if the defendant is a child under 14 or drugs or weapons were involved, the sentence begins at 25 years.
However, what is often overlooked are the civil penalties a defendant may face. While the criminal penalties are from the state and denote punishment, including jail time, civil penalties focus on restitution. As sexual assault is one of the most severe forms of personal injury, victims may be entitled to compensation for physical injuries, psychological injuries and medical expenses, wages and time lost from work, and a host of other compensations. Victims may also be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, as well as a number of other potential injuries. Because of this, it is highly recommended that any victim of sexual assault contact a legal professional immediately.
If you have been the victim of sexual assault and seek legal assistance, Guajardo and Marks of Dallas have the experience and resources you need and are proud to help fellow Texans with legal problems. Contact us by filling out our online form or calling us at 972-534-2839.