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By Jarome Gautreaux
Owner/Partner

Victims of sexual assault have access to legal recourse designed to ensure their safety and seek justice. State law provides several protective measures, including the ability to file for a protective order which restricts the assailant’s ability to contact the victim. Additionally, victims can pursue criminal charges, where the assailant may face significant penalties if convicted. In addition to the legal recourse offered to victims, Georgia also provides numerous support services that aim to aid recovery and provide assistance throughout the legal process. All of these measures reflect Georgia’s commitment to protecting the rights and well-being of sexual assault survivors.

Legal Recourse Available To Victims

In Georgia, the rights and recourse available to victims of sexual assault are governed by both state laws and federal guidelines. These measures are designed to protect, support, and empower victims throughout the legal process and beyond.

  • Protection from the Accused: Georgia law provides for Temporary Protective Orders (TPOs) that can be issued to keep the accused away from the victim. These orders can prohibit the accused from approaching the victim, the victim’s home, workplace, or other relevant locations.
  • Criminal Proceedings: The perpetrator can be prosecuted under Georgia’s criminal laws. Sexual assault can lead to charges such as rape, aggravated sodomy, sexual battery, or aggravated sexual battery, depending on the circumstances.
  • Civil Lawsuits: Victims can file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and sometimes against third parties who may have contributed to the assault (for example, a business that failed to provide adequate security). This can provide a means of recovering damages for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other related costs. 

A civil suit is separate from any criminal charges. It only requires proving the case on a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is a lower standard of proof than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” required in criminal cases.

  • Statute of Limitations: In Georgia, the statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit related to sexual assault is generally four years from the date of the last act of alleged abuse. However, for victims who were minors at the time of the assault, the statute of limitations extends to two years after the victim turns 18. (O.C.G.A. Section 17-3-1)
  • Right to Report: Prosecutions for rape in Georgia generally must be commenced within 15 years. However, where DNA evidence is used to establish the identity of the accused, prosecution for rape offenses may be initiated at any time.
  • Sexual Assault Civil Remedies Act: Georgia’s Sexual Assault Civil Remedies Act allows victims to file a civil action against the perpetrator regardless of whether criminal charges have been filed or the outcome of such charges. This act acknowledges the unique and severe impact of sexual assault on victims and provides a civil avenue for recourse.
  • Impact on Employment and Housing: Civil actions can also be taken if a victim faces discrimination or retaliation in employment, housing, or other areas due to circumstances stemming from being a victim of sexual assault.

These civil remedies can be pursued with the help of an attorney who is skilled in personal injury or victim’s rights law. They provide an avenue for victims to address the harm they have suffered in a manner that suits their individual recovery and circumstances.

Other Services Available To Sexual Assault Victims In Georgia

  • Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations (SAFEs): Victims are entitled to a forensic medical examination free of charge, which is crucial for gathering evidence if they decide to pursue legal action. This examination must be conducted in a manner that minimizes the victim’s trauma.
  • Crisis Counselling and Support Services:  Many organizations offer immediate crisis intervention services, counseling, and support groups tailored explicitly for sexual assault survivors. These services aim to provide emotional support and help survivors process their experiences
  • Victim Advocate Services: Many jurisdictions offer victim advocates who assist through the legal process. These advocates provide emotional support, help understand legal proceedings, and can sometimes accompany victims to court. Advocates work alongside survivors to help navigate the various systems they may interact with following an assault, including healthcare, law enforcement, and the judicial system. Victims also have the right to confidentiality concerning their address, telephone number, and place of employment to prevent harassment.
  • Victim Compensation: Georgia has a victims’ compensation program that can cover expenses like medical bills, counseling services, and lost wages resulting from the assault. This program helps reduce the financial burden on victims.
  • Medical Care: Immediate medical care is crucial for survivors of sexual assault. This includes medical exams, treatment for injuries, and access to preventive treatment for sexually transmitted infections and emergency contraception. Hospitals and some clinics have specially trained Specially Assigned Nurse Examiners (SANE nurses) to handle such cases.
  • Legal Assistance: Legal aid services are available to help survivors understand their rights and guide them through legal processes, including filing police reports, obtaining protective orders, and pursuing justice in court if they choose to do so.

Takeaway

The above services are typically provided by a combination of nonprofit organizations, healthcare institutions, and government agencies. Each offers various forms of support intended to help survivors recover physically and emotionally, seek justice, and rebuild their lives. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault in Georgia, it is crucial to reach out to local law enforcement, seek legal counsel, and contact victim support services to understand and exercise these rights and recourses fully. Gautreaux Law has experienced attorneys who can help if you have been the victim of sexual abuse or assault. Contact our office so that we may help guide you in your individual situation.

About the Author
Jarome Gautreaux is a personal injury trial lawyer. He represents people who have been seriously injured, as well as the families of people killed because of carelessness or negligence. For over 20 years, he has successfully recovered more than 100 million dollars in a variety of Macon personal injury cases. Jarome’s reputation for client focus and case success has led to other lawyers requesting his assistance with complex personal injury litigation. What drives Jarome every day is his strong belief that the amount of money someone has should not dictate the justice they receive. It is for this reason that he has never worked for corporations, insurance companies, or other interest groups. Instead, he thrives on helping the people who need it most- people who have suffered at the hands of others and deserve compensation.