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Civil Liability and Sex Crimes in Georgia: Filing a Civil Lawsuit After a Rape Under OCGA 16-6-1

The Definition of Rape in Georgia

For the past several months on this blog, we’ve been analyzing various traffic statutes and discussing how they can be used to establish civil liability after an accident.

Today, we’re going to move on to the subject of sex crimes, and how criminal law can once again support survivors’ civil cases.

Let’s start with Georgia’s rape law, OCGA 16-6-1.

 

The Statute: OCGA 16-6-1

Georgia law defines rape as a male using physical force to insert his penis into a female’s vagina without her consent. If the female was under 10 years old at the time of the incident, consent and physical force are irrelevant, and the charge of rape automatically applies. OCGA 16-6-1 also specifically outlaws marital rape, noting that marital status is not a defense.

 

(a) A person commits the offense of rape when he has carnal knowledge of:

(1) A female forcibly and against her will; or

(2) A female who is less than ten years of age.

Carnal knowledge in rape occurs when there is any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ. The fact that the person allegedly raped is the wife of the defendant shall not be a defense to a charge of rape.

 

This definition is, admittedly, much narrower than what one might find in a dictionary, let alone in more modern and inclusive discussions of sexual consent.  The Wetherington Law Firm strongly supports amending and broadening the definition of rape in Georgia to meet our modern understanding of sexual consent.

It can be painfully invalidating for rape survivors who are not female, or who were raped using methods other than physical force, to learn that what happened to them technically doesn’t qualify as rape under the law. Regardless of the legal terminology, however, the fact that a rape doesn’t fit the Georgia definition doesn’t mean it’s either acceptable or legal. There are many other terms and statutes in Georgia law that cover other forms of sexual violation, many of which we’ll cover in the coming weeks. By keeping ourselves and others informed of the letter of the law, however concerning, the Wetherington Law Firm is better able to do what we’re passionate about: get survivors the justice they deserve.

 

Criminal Consequences for Rape

Rape, as defined in OCGA 16-6-1, is a felony with a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and lifelong probation, regardless of the perpetrator’s first-offender status. At a judge’s discretion, it can result in life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

 

(b) A person convicted of the offense of rape shall be punished by death, by imprisonment for life without parole, by imprisonment for life, or by a split sentence that is a term of imprisonment for not less than 25 years and not exceeding life imprisonment, followed by probation for life. Any person convicted under this Code section shall, in addition, be subject to the sentencing and punishment provisions of Code Sections 17-10-6.1 and 17-10-7.

 

Like all sentencing requirements for crimes, the consequences listed in OCGA 16-6-1 focus on deterring potential future criminals, punishing the perpetrator, and separating the perpetrator from potential future victims. They are not intended to compensate or heal the existing victim. That’s where civil law proceedings come in, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

 

The Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund

To support the identification and prosecution of violent criminals, the Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund will cover the cost of evidence collection as part of a rape survivor’s medical exam, regardless of that person’s insurance coverage.

 

(c) When evidence relating to an allegation of rape is collected in the course of a medical examination of the person who is the victim of the alleged crime, the Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund, as provided for in Chapter 15 of Title 17, shall be responsible for the cost of the medical examination to the extent that expense is incurred for the limited purpose of collecting evidence.

 

This cost coverage is intended to eliminate financial barriers to justice — a cause that’s very near to the Wetherington Law Firm’s collective hearts.

 

Who Can You Recover Damages From After a Rape in Georgia?

There are generally two ways to recover money after being subjected to rape.  The first is from the attacker himself.  This is commonly accomplished through court-ordered payments under OCGA 17-14-1.  You can also file a civil claim, which can include battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, economic losses, and even punitive damages. Despite how obvious this claim sounds, it is rare for a victim to directly sue her attacker in civil court.  This is because the attacker must have assets to pay the losses to make up for the time, expense, and emotional trauma involved.

Second, money can be recovered from another person or business that helped create the conditions to make the rape possible.  This includes property owners that turn a blind eye to crime on their premises, companies that hire dangerous people, and even homeowners that host criminals at parties.  These claims are usually are covered by insurance policies held by the business.  These claims typically fall under O.C.G.A. 51-3-1, which imposes a duty on property owners/occupiers to do their best to limit lawful guests’ exposure to dangerous conditions. In situations where property owners can’t mitigate a threat, it becomes their duty to warn potential victims. If a person is raped in part because an attacker seized an opportunity resulting from a property owner’s failure to implement a reasonable amount of security, victims can seek compensation for this lapse.  You can learn more about this topic on our page dedicated to the area of law known as premises liability.

 

Who Monetary Damages Are You Entitled To After a Rape in Georgia?

The damages you can sue for will be divided into two categories: special and general.

 

Any Harm to Your Finances Falls Under Special Damages

After surviving a rape, you’ll likely face some immediate expenses, including medical bills for any non-evidence-related care, and lost wages from the time you’ve spent in the hospital, assisting the police, or taking care of yourself. If your attacker broke into your home or vehicle, you may also be facing expensive property damage. These costs may be the least of your concerns in the moment, but if possible, it’s helpful to your case to keep a thorough record. You’ll also need to work with your lawyer to estimate the future expenses you’ll be facing as a direct or proximate result of the rape, such as lifelong psychiatric therapy or ongoing care for any long-term physical injuries. Between the emotional, physical, and social effects, rape survivors statistically bear a heavy financial burden over the course of their lifetimes, and the purpose of a special damages settlement is to reimburse that loss. To learn more about how the Wetherington Law Firm can help you prove the causation of your expenses, click here.

 

All Other Forms of Harm Fall Under General Damages

As anyone who’s experience any form of sexual violence can attest, the harm it causes cannot be summed up in a dollar total. No matter how completely your expenses and lost income are reimbursed, you’ve been through something you would not have chosen for any amount of money, and the trauma of that event will continue to have far-reaching effects on your life. Unfortunately, money is the only tool the law possesses to try to make that trauma up to you. A judge and jury can’t turn back the clock and prevent your assault before it happens, but they can acknowledge, through a general damages settlement, that your pain and loss go far beyond the simple financial reimbursement included in your special damages settlement. A general damages settlement should include consideration for the fear and pain you suffered during the attack, the emotional scars you now carry, and the joys of everyday life you’ve missed out on while dealing with the aftermath. Because these things don’t have objective prices, it’s vital to have a talented lawyer who can effectively convey their weight and value court.

 

What If I’ve Lost a Loved One to an Attack that Involved a Rape?

If a member of your family was raped and did not survive, you may have grounds for a wrongful death suit, rather than a personal injury suit. The Wetherington Law Firm would be honored to discuss how we can help you find justice for your loved one, but wrongful death cases come with some unique rules you may want to familiarize yourself with. You can learn more about wrongful death here.

 

Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

Survivors of sexual violence face many unfair obstacles in their pursuit of justice. Those whose cases fit Georgia’s legal definition of rape often have an easier time being heard than others, but even these cases can incur ridicule, skepticism, and prejudice. When you make the choice to sue your attacker for the compensation you need and deserve, you’re unfortunately putting yourself in a position where it will be another lawyer’s job to shame and discredit you. Both practically and emotionally, it’s crucial to have an expert on your side as well, to defend you against these tactics, offer moral support, and build a powerful case on your behalf. At the Wetherington Law Firm, we’ll guide you through the process as smoothly as possible, shielding you from unnecessarily triggering situations as much as possible while still ensuring you get the best settlement possible.

 

How to Hire the Best Lawyers for Sex Crime Survivors in Atlanta

The Wetherington Law Firm works exclusively on a contingency basis, as part of our own commitment to removing financial barriers to justice.

 

What this means is that we never judge our potential clients based on their ability to pay. We don’t charge hourly rates or fees of any kind during the course of a case, so that our clients can’t be forced out of court for budgetary reasons. Only when we get a client their settlement do we request payment, and then only as a percentage. If we don’t win, we don’t charge at all.

 

To get started discussing your case with a lawyer today, just pick up the phone and call us at 404-888-4444.

 

The Wetherington Law Firm Believes in Litigation as a Tool to Drive Positive Change

Sexual violence is rarely confined to isolated incidents. More often, it’s the tip of a cultural iceberg of contempt for women, for all those who challenge gender norms, and for the concept of consent itself. Forcing one rapist to pay compensation to one survivor can help repair some measure of damage and set a positive example. However, the Wetherington Law Firm also welcomes opportunities to make the world a better place on a larger scale. If your attacker was part of a company or other organization that you believe encouraged or enabled their behavior, or if your own company, school, home, or other organization failed in their duty to protect you, don’t hesitate to let us know. With your permission, we’ll dig until we’ve identified every person or entity that contributed to what happened to you, and we’ll do everything we can to prevent them from harming others in the future. To learn about how we’ve helped other clients make their communities safer, just give us a call and ask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do I file a lawsuit after rape?

Sexual violence is rarely confined to isolated incidents. More often, it’s the tip of a cultural iceberg of contempt for women, for all those who challenge gender norms, and for the concept of consent itself. Forcing one rapist to pay compensation to one survivor can help repair some measure of damage and set a positive example. The Wetherington Law Firm also welcomes opportunities to make the world a better place on a larger scale. To learn about how we’ve helped other clients make their communities safer, just give us a call and ask.

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