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How Do You Prove Sexual Assault in a Civil Case?

Answers from Trusted New York Attorneys

Proving sexual assault in a civil case is somewhat easier than it is in a criminal case, due to the lower standard of proof applied to evidence of liability. Rather than punishment for the perpetrator, civil cases focus on compensating the survivors, awarding damages that represent the trauma they endured at the time of the assault and how it will continue throughout their life.

The New York sexual assault attorneys ofRheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman are committed to helping survivors find justice in civil court. Continue reading to learn about the types of evidence used to build a compelling civil case and hold perpetrators accountable.


The Burden of Proof in a Civil Sexual Assault Case

The “burden of proof” or “standard of proof” is the level of certainty required to prove a case in court.

In civil cases, the plaintiff brings the lawsuit and has the burden to prove their case. The “preponderance of the evidence” is the standard of proof applied in civil cases. The plaintiff must show–with compelling evidence and at least 51% certainty—that a sex crime occurred.

In criminal cases, on the other hand, the state must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a crime occurred based on the statutory definition of the crime in question. This is a much higher standard of proof by comparison.

It’s important to note that a criminal conviction is not required to file a civil lawsuit. It can proceed regardless of the outcome of the criminal case for the same assault. While there may not be sufficient proof to show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the same offender may still be held liable civilly.


Types of Evidence in Civil Sexual Abuse Cases

Evidence that can be introduced to prove civil sexual abuse claims confirms that the assault occurred, while other types of evidence show how the assault impacted your life.

Evidence in civil sexual assault cases might include:

  • Clothing and other items containing DNA
  • Medical records consistent with a sexual assault
  • Photos, video recordings, online posts, and other documentation
  • Statements from the plaintiff’s counselors or therapists
  • Eyewitness accounts and/or statements made by the defendant
  • Work-related communications and HR records (for workplace assaults)

Though it is true that a criminal case is not a prerequisite to a civil case, evidence gathered in either investigation may be used in both. Your lawyer will be sure to retrieve the evidence from any corresponding criminal investigation and trial.

If you would like to speak with our sexual abuse and assault lawyers in New York, complete our contact form or call (212) 684-1880 to schedule a free consultation with our knowledgeable legal team.

Is it Too Late to Prove Sexual Assault That Happened Years Ago?

As of 2019, individuals who were 18 or older at the time of the abuse can sue in civil court for up to 20 years after the date that the assault occurred. Those who were assaulted when they were younger than 18 may be able to file a civil lawsuit under the Child Victims Act until they reach the age of 55.
For survivors whose abuse occurred in New York, New York, there is an open lookback window, or period of time in which the statute of limitations need not apply. This lookback window will close on March 1, 2025. For more information, please read about the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law here.
Though it is certainly more challenging to obtain evidence from older sexual assault incidents, it is far from impossible. Our sexual abuse victim attorneys have the experience, skill and professional network needed to conduct the extensive investigation required of these cases. We work diligently to uncover key evidence in civil sexual abuse cases—even those that happened years ago.

Call Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP is New York’s trusted firm when it comes to these highly sensitive matters. We aggressively pursue matters of sexual abuse, assault, and sexual harassment. Let us do the same for you. Call today or connect online to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Send us a message or call (212) 684-1880 for a free consultation with our compassionate New York attorneys.