There is absolutely no situation in which you should have to tolerate unwelcome sexual contact. If you or a loved one has experienced any sort of physical contact or behavior that you did not consent to, it is important to know you have rights and your voice matters. There are a number of sexual assault laws in Washington that carry varying degrees of civil and criminal consequences. Understanding the basics of Washington state laws on sexual assault is a good first step toward seeking justice and compensation for what you have been through.
Understanding Sexual Assault Laws in Washington State
Chapter 9A.44 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) contains all of the sex offenses defined by the state. It is important to note that, though most sexual offenses have associated criminal charges, they can also be tried in civil court. Criminal court seeks to punish offenders through criminal penalties like incarceration or probation. Civil court is where a victim can seek monetary compensation for their losses that stem from the misconduct. Both remedies are important.
The most significant factor in most Washington state sexual assault laws is consent. According to the statute on sexual assault laws in Washington, consent means that at the time of the sexual contact, actual words or conduct indicate freely given agreement to that sexual contact. Sexual contact is any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person done to gratify the sexual desire of either party or a third party.
Consent Is Key
Unfortunately, consent is also one of the most common defenses used by sexual predators. They often claim that the person claiming assault gave consent to the conduct. Do not let them intimidate you. It does not matter what clothes or makeup you wear—once you say no, the answer is no, and any further contact lacks consent.
In some cases, a victim cannot legally grant consent. Consent requires that you know and understand what you are agreeing to. Therefore, you cannot consent if any of the following applies:
- You are threatened, coerced, or manipulated into the act;
- The abuser or another physically forces you to perform the sexual act;
- You are inebriated (too drunk, high, or drugged to make a conscious decision);
- You are unconscious at the time of the activity;
- You are not mentally able to consent due to an illness or disability; or
- You are under the age of 16.
In all of these situations, the victim is unable to give consent. This is not ok. Many people think of sexual assault as a physical attack, but it can also be a manipulation. If you are coerced into a sexual act based on a threat of harm to yourself, your livelihood, or your family, this is not consent. An experienced attorney can listen to the circumstances of your case and determine how the sexual assault laws in Washington apply.
How Can the Legal System Help?
Though there is no way to undo the pain of sexual abuse, Washington State sexual abuse laws are designed to help you achieve justice by making your abuser pay for their wrongs. Lawsuits filed in the civil court system allow you to expose the abuse and the abuser. Rarely do sexual predators stop at only one victim, but holding them accountable is one way to help dissuade them from committing future wrongful acts.
The civil court will also grant financial awards that serve to compensate you for what you have been through. No amount of money can ever truly make up for such a traumatic experience, but it is the closest remedy the court system has to make amends and hold the wrongdoer accountable.
Victims of sexual assault may be entitled to compensation for the mental, physical, emotional, and financial damage incurred from the sexual assault. Each case is unique, and the amount of compensation depends on the individual circumstances of the abuse. It is important to seek counsel from an experienced attorney who can help you pursue maximum compensation and take your life back.
If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted, please know that your bravery in stepping forward could make a huge difference by stopping the abuser from continuing the cycle. Your stepping up can also give others the courage to follow in your footsteps. As experienced sexual abuse attorneys, the team at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner understands the sensitive nature of your case and is committed to providing compassionate representation. We are ready to help you seek justice and compensation. Contact us for your free case consultation.