Understanding sexual abuse in Texas can help you protect your legal rights. If you or someone you know is a sexual abuse victim, there are ways to protect yourself and seek compensation from your attacker. Sexual abuse has many meanings and encompasses many types of sexual assault. All involve some lack of consent, either through forceful acts or a person’s inability to consent. These acts are traumatizing and may severely impact your life.
Here, we define sexual abuse in Texas so you can understand your next steps.
Defining Sexual Abuse in Texas
Sexual abuse is a nonconsensual sexual act committed by one person against another. It may encompass many types of conduct, from unwanted touching to forcible sexual assault.
Lack of consent is one of the most critical elements of this act. Lack of consent can happen in several ways:
- The victim does not permit the sex act to be committed against them
- The victim is unknowingly drugged or intoxicated by the attacker and is unable to consent to the sexual acts
- The victim is too young to consent to sexual activities
- The victim is mentally infirm and unable to consent to sex
- The victim clearly withdrew consent for the activities but the perpetrator continued anyway
Sex Crimes in Texas
Texas criminal law defines many types of sex crimes that are considered sexual abuse. A few examples include the following:
In Texas, the term “sexual assault” is the same as rape. Under Texas Penal Code Section 22.011, sexual assault includes:
- Penetration of the vagina, anus, or oral opening of another without consent
- Sexual abuse of any person unable to give consent because of a mental incapacity or disability
- Violent or forcible intercourse, sexual contact, or penetration, even with consent
- Coercive sexual acts
- Any sexual act committed against a child under the age of consent
This grave charge can result in stiff criminal penalties, including high fines and decades in prison.
In 2017, the Texas Legislature created a new offense called “sexual coercion” under Texas Penal Code Section 21.18. This makes it illegal to obtain sexual services, intimate visual material, or money through the threat or promise not to commit a crime against that person. This law was enacted following a series of high-profile romantic scams, where victims were threatened or conned into sending naked pictures of themselves.
Indecent assault under Texas Penal Code Section 22.012 occurs when a person touches or exposes certain body parts without permission to do so. It also makes it illegal to share or transfer bodily fluids to any other person who did not consent to that sharing. Unlike sexual assault, indecent assault does not require penetration or sexual contact in the same way.
Indecency With a Child
Indecency with a child occurs when a person has illegal sexual contact with a minor or teenager younger than 17 years of age. Texas Penal Code Section 21.11 forbids sexual contact or conduct with a child or the exposure of another person’s genitals or anus in front of a child.
Filing a Civil Sexual Abuse Claim in Texas
It is important to remember that a civil sexual abuse case is different and separate from any criminal case. A state prosecutor brings criminal charges and seeks criminal penalties, such as fines and prison time. The victim does not bring the lawsuit, but will likely work with the prosecutor to seek the offender’s conviction.
The sexual abuse victim files a civil case with the help of an experienced attorney. A civil claim pursues financial compensation from the attacker to compensate the victim for everything they have been through. The process begins with filing a complaint, the document that initiates the lawsuit. The defendant can then file an answer to the complaint.
The next step is the discovery phase. During this phase, the parties exchange information about the sexual assault, including documentation, statements, and other evidence. The attorneys may interview witnesses during this process, which is called a deposition.
Settlement or Trial
A case may resolve either through a settlement or a trial. A settlement is a legal agreement between the parties to resolve the case. This usually involves a deal for financial compensation and other terms as agreed between them.
If the parties cannot agree, the case will go to trial. The victim and their attorney will present evidence to the jury and seek to prove that the defendant is liable for the victim’s injuries.
Criminal Convictions as Evidence
While the criminal and civil cases are separate, a criminal conviction can be powerful evidence in your civil case. A criminal conviction occurs when the offender pleads guilty or is found guilty of the crime. In the civil lawsuit, you can use a criminal conviction to prove that the offender committed the sexual abuse against you.
You must still present evidence about your damages and costs, but you will not have to prove liability. This can save a great deal of time and stress in your lawsuit.
Compensation in Sexual Abuse Cases
A civil lawsuit pursues financial compensation from the attacker. They have likely caused you significant trauma and harm. You may be owed substantial damages such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Loss of companionship and support
- Therapy and rehabilitation costs
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost earning capacity and lost income
- Punitive damages
To win compensation, you must file your claim and prove the allegations. Whether you resolve the case with a settlement or a trial, this compensation can help you repair some of the damage you have suffered.
Seek Compensation in a Civil Sexual Abuse Case
You have legal rights following an attack. In addition to the criminal case, you can seek monetary damages from your attacker. You can seek to hold them accountable for their actions and win compensation to repair your life.