While there is no law requiring plaintiffs to testify in a civil sexual assault trial, there are a variety of reasons why the testimony may be necessary for the case. A major factor in this decision is that the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff, or sexual assault survivor.
The sexual assault team at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP is very sensitive to our clients’ hesitation to testify and do everything we can to prepare them for the questions that are coming. You will not be alone; you will not be surprised. Our sole aim is to help you tell your story and get some measure of justice for your harrowing ordeal.
It’s important to understand the differences between sexual assault cases tried in criminal versus civil courts. Sexual assault cases in New York criminal court are pursued by the state. A criminal defendant facing these charges is looking at potential jail time, fines, and other penalties.
Survivors have the option to pursue financial compensation through the civil court system. Civil plaintiffs have a lower burden of proof than state prosecutors. The jury is only required to weigh a “preponderance of evidence” in civil court. Criminal prosecutors must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Either court, however, may require the victim’s testimony.
It can help to speak with professionals who specialize in trauma and victim support. They help survivors assess their readiness to testify and provide resources to cope with any emotional challenges.
Benefits of providing testimony in your case include:
That said, survivors are commonly worried about:
There are some limited situations that could potentially take live testimony off the table or at least limit the scope of certain lines of questioning.
Such instances include:
There is nothing easy about sexual assault cases with survivors being compelled to relive arguably the worst moments of their lives in front of their attackers and other strangers. With that always top of mind, our clients’ well-being is a priority at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP.
We will be by your side through every stage of litigation—including during your testimony— whether you give it live or in deposition. For more information about how we can help, please contact us for a free, legal consultation.