As an attorney, my obligation is to make sure that we build the strongest legal case possible for you. You can help that by gathering evidence. Note, sometimes it’s best if you don’t get the evidence, but instead tell us what and where it is so that our investigator can get it. You may not want to alert the perpetrator that you’re documenting what happened. You probably don’t want to do interviews yourself. You probably should take photos of yourself. Let’s get more specific on the kinds of evidence that we should be thinking about.
Blind report – sexual assault kit. If this happened recently (typically within 72 hours), go to the ER. You can make a “blind” medical report, if you want. The FBI explains what this is. This means the hospital won’t report their records to law enforcement. Go do this now. Even if you don’t think that you’ll ever want to bring a case, get this done. Do it for yourself—you should get medical advice at this point. Police report. I encourage you to make a report. You may be in a situation where you don’t feel comfortable doing that right away. If so, let’s talk. I can give you a sense of how an investigation would play out. Generally, law enforcement will listen to you and take steps to minimize the impact of their investigation on your life. However, they also have a job to do. The prosecutor is not “your” attorney. Most of the time, when I talk to someone about their concerns, we clear up misunderstandings. Also, there may be a victim’s advocate in your jurisdiction. They are a good resource for you. Photos and texts. Take screenshots of all communications between you and the perpetrator. Save these. A lot of phones limit the amount of texts that they save to 200. It’s possible that the texts will disappear. Even texts that don’t seem incriminating, can be useful. It’s likely that the abuser will lie about their entire history with you. With text messages, we can contradict those lies. Security camera footage. If you think that anything that happened is on some sort of closed circuit camera, considering having your attorney request that the company put a “litigation hold” on the footage. Often, the company has a retention policy and deletes footage after a period of time. If your attorney contacts them and requests that they keep the footage, there is a good chance the company will keep it. If they destroy it anyway, then a judge may instruct a jury that the footage was probably damming. How and when you do this is something an attorney helps with. Take photos. If you have visible injuries, you should take photos. Interviews. Your attorney will likely hire an investigator to interview potential witnesses. Even if these witnesses are your friends, you’ll want an investigator to interview them soon after the fact. Memories fade. People move away. It’s good to do the interviews soon. A professional will know the right questions to ask. Health evaluations. You may want to talk to a counselor or mental health professional about the impact the event had on your life. You won’t necessarily know what the impact is right away. The effects can manifest themselves over time. Your attorney can make this happen. If you decide to file a lawsuit, know that your health records may become important. [Ways to hold your employer or the person accountable] The purpose of this section is to identify some to help you understand some of the ways that an employer is liable for the assaults of their employee. Negligent hiring An employer has a duty to exercise reasonable care and caution in hiring an employee. If the employer fails to exercise reasonable care while hiring, and they hire the wrong person, then the employer may be responsible for the wrong person’s actions. Here is an example. Imagine a hotel hiring for a housekeeping supervisor. The supervisor’s job is to check the housekeeper’s work. That means the supervisor is frequently following the housekeeper into unoccupied rooms. A responsible employer would run a criminal background check on that person before putting them in that position. They should know whether that person has ever been charged with an assault. If they fail to do that, and the person had a criminal history, then they may be responsible for that decision. Consider another example. Imagine a school bus driver or summer camp counselor. The employer should check the school bus driver’s record to find out if they’re a good driver. If they hire a bus driver with a lot of speeding tickets or a suspended license, then they’re responsible if he causes a wreck. Similarly, a summer camp should check the references of their counselors. Negligent retention This is a variation of negligent hiring. Negligent retention is failing to fire someone when you should fire them. Consider a variation on our examples above. Imagine that the hotel has received complaints about the housekeeping supervisor. They’ve heard that he groped an employee or was caught doing something inappropriate. At a minimum, the hotel management should either admonish and correct the behavior (it all depends on the severity of the allegations and the proof). If they fail to fire him, when they know that he is a risk, then they’re responsible for the injuries he causes. You can imagine a similar situation for the bus driver or camp counselor. What if the school district learns that the bus driver is speeding and does nothing? What if the camp counselor gets a complaint about the counselor in the first session, but does nothing before the second session? This situation often occurs where the management has hired a relative. An uncle refuses to believe the worst about the nephew. Negligent Supervision and Training In a negligent supervision or training case, the employer fails to do a responsible job supervising or training his employees. In our hotel example above, imagine the hotel owner telling the housekeeping supervisor that “You need to keep those cleaners in line! Make sure they’re not stealing. I don’t care how you do it.” What if the supervisor interprets his orders as authorizing violence? What if there are no rules and regulations about friends at work? What if the supervisor allows his sex-offender buddy to hang out at the hotel, and that offender commits the assault? What if there is no training on how to report harassment, and the harassment goes unreported? There are other theories against an employer when the assault occurs in a workplace. Each case is different. It’s your lawyer’s job to use their experience to know which claims to bring for you.
More resources If you’re a younger person, you may want to look at our article on what to do if you’ve been assaulted at school, summer camp, or a church function. We also handle revenge porn cases.
Wonderful lawyer. Alex really followed through on our case, and he was incredibly mindful of the situation we were facing. He was both understanding and reassuring, and at the end of the day, we are much better off because of him.