Stay-at-home orders (due to the coronavirus) have contributed to an uptick of valid sexual assault complaints, and advocacy groups are bracing for an even large increase to come.
Isolation and stress may combine to make a fertile ground for additional assaults, according to one advocacy group.
Moreover, added RAINN President Scott Berkowitz, “We are definitely going to be bringing on extra staff and having them work extra shifts as states lift [stay-at-home] restrictions” so we can deal with an uptick in traffic, he added.
Already, a third of RAINN’s callers reference the coronavirus pandemic as something that is making their situations worse.
Help is available for survivors, even during a pandemic.
Resources for Sexual Assault Victims
In New York and beyond, stay-at-home orders have increased the traffic on sexual assault hotlines.
Since many people are sheltering in place with their abusers, it’s important to reach out for help, and it’s also important to cover your tracks if possible.
Delete the web browsing history or the call history.
That simple precaution makes it much more difficult for people to track internet and call usage.
The NSVRC is not really a hotline, although sexual assault counselors are available.
This site is more of a resource center for former victims. This site has designated areas for both survivors and friends and family.
The NSVRC’s library is quite extensive and worth checking out, whether you are a survivor or a loved one.
RAINN, on the other hand, is one of the most widely-used hotlines in America.
The site has a live chat option as well as a toll-free number.
Both the phone and online options connect people with local counselors and local resources. If you call or go online after hours, you might experience a delay.
This site lists step-by-step what survivors should do and how they should respond to a sexual assault.
Your Legal Options
Survivors should think about obtaining restraining orders. These orders give survivors the space they need to contemplate their next moves.
Generally, judges sign ex parte restraining orders based on the survivor’s affidavit.
These orders usually direct the abuser to avoid all contact with the survivor.
Even if the court is closed for COVID-19, judges are available for emergency matters, such as ex parte protective orders.
About two weeks later, the judge usually holds a full hearing. Since the judge hears from both the abuser and the survivor, effective representation is usually critical at these hearings.
In addition to personal protection orders, judges usually issue a number of other orders.
Abusers must typically avoid certain places, like a daycare or school, surrender their firearms, pay financial restitution, and attend anger management or other self-improvement classes.
At this hearing, the survivor must establish the need for a protective order by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
That’s different from establishing a sexual assault.
Survivors must only prove that, if the judge does not extend the order, their safety is in jeopardy.
Third Party Liability
Once quarantines end, droves of people might flock to bars, restaurants, and other such places.
If that happens, security measures at these places might get overwhelmed.
A burned out-light or a tiny lack of security is all it takes to embolden an evildoer.
If a sexual assault occurs at such a place under such circumstances, the bar, restaurant, or other owner could be legally responsible for the incident.
The same is true of other premises liability matters, such as falls and animal attacks.
To obtain compensation, the victim/plaintiff must prove the owner knew or should have known about the hazard, and that the incident was a foreseeable result of the hazard.
Evidence of foreseeability includes prior similar incidents in the area and prior similar incidents at that location.
More is at stake than financial compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
In these situations, justice is usually more important than compensation. If no one sounds the alarm, other people might be victimized in the same way.
Sexual assault victims have multiple legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. The sooner you call, the sooner we start fighting for you.