Sexual Assault in Georgia

Sexual Assault in GeorgiaGeorgia recognizes that sexual assault is a crime. O.C.G.A. Section 16-6-5.1 specifically recognizes that sexual assault by “persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority” over another is a felony. People with disciplinary authority include teachers, principals, assistant principals or other school administrators. Sexual assault by an employee of a juvenile justice probation office of a probationer is a felony. Sexual assault by an employee or agent of law enforcement against a detainee is a felony as well, as is sexual assault by a hospital employee or agent against a patient.

Sexual assault by a psychotherapist against a patient is also a crime, and consent is not a defense. The statute provides for up to 25 years imprisonment. Sexual battery in Georgia is a misdemeanor unless it is done to a child under the age of 16, in which case it is a felony. Rape is a felony in Georgia.

Consent is a crucial factor in determining whether an act is consensual or constitutes sexual assault. Although the State of Georgia does not define consent in reference to sexual activity, rape occurs when it is performed against “a female forcibly and against her will,” and the phrase “against her will” means without consent. Additionally,  a victim who has a developmental disability or lacks the mental capacity to make ordinary judgments on his or her own or an individual who is unconscious due to the use of drugs or intoxication is unable to give consent to sexual acts.

Criminal charges related to sexual assault

Sexual assault offenses may cover a range of non-consensual sexual acts, and criminal charges can vary based on factors such as the severity of the conduct, the age of the victim, the use of force, and other circumstances. In Georgia, sexual assault offenses include:

  • Rape: Engaging in sexual intercourse without the other person’s clear and voluntary consent may be considered rape. Georgia law distinguishes between different degrees of rape, such as statutory rape, which involves sexual activity with a person under the age of consent, 16 years of age in Georgia. If a person is not at least 16 years old, they cannot consent to sex with anyone.
  • Romeo & Juliet statutory rape: Sexual activity between an offender 18 years old or younger and no more than four years older than the victim, who is at least 14 years old. Even with these age limits, engaging in sexual activity with someone below the age of consent is illegal.
  • Sodomy: Engaging in any sexual act involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another person without the other person’s consent. Consensual sodomy between two consenting adults in a private place is not a criminal offense in Georgia, although it once was. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws criminalizing consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex were unconstitutional, invalidating sodomy laws in Georgia that criminalized same-sex relations between consenting adults.
  • Aggravated sodomy: Sodomy committed with force and against the will of another person or with someone who is under the age of 10.
  • Sexual Battery: Intentionally making physical contact with the intimate parts of another person without their consent. Under Georgia law, “intimate parts” refer to the primary genital area, anus, groin, inner thighs, or buttocks of a male or female and the breasts of a female.
  • Aggravated sexual battery: Typically considered a more serious offense than simple sexual battery, aggravated sexual battery typically involves sexual battery with additional aggravating factors, such as the use of force, the age of the victim, or the mental capacity of the victim.
  • Child molestation: Engaging in certain sexual acts with a child under a certain age. Child molestation in the first degree involves performing or submitting to any immoral or indecent act with a child under age 16 with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the accused. Child molestation in the second degree involves the same acts but with a child who is 16 or 17 years old.

Penalties for sexual assault offenses vary based on the specific charges and circumstances. Sentences may include imprisonment, fines, probation, and mandatory registration as a sex offender. For example, the penalty for rape can range from a minimum of one year to life imprisonment, depending on factors such as the age of the victim, use of force, and the presence of aggravating circumstances.

Civil causes of action for sexual assault

Civil and criminal cases are separate and distinct legal processes. In a criminal case, the state prosecutes the perpetrator for violating criminal laws, and if convicted, the perpetrator may face penalties such as imprisonment or fines. On the other hand, a civil lawsuit is initiated by the survivor seeking damages in the form of monetary compensation.

With the help of experienced attorneys, survivors of sexual assault in Georgia have the option to pursue civil lawsuits against the perpetrators. Civil causes of action may include claims for damages such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Hospital bills
  • Counseling or therapy costs
  • Treatment for mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

In some cases, third parties such as employers, property owners, or institutions may be held liable if they negligently contributed to the assault. For example, an employer could be held responsible if it failed to address complaints or took inadequate measures to prevent harassment.

Sexual assault reporting and support

Sexual assault is a grave crime with severe legal consequences in Georgia. Understanding the definitions, criminal charges, and available legal remedies is essential for survivors seeking justice and support. Legal professionals, victim advocates, and support organizations play crucial roles in assisting survivors through the legal process and helping them rebuild their lives.

Victims of sexual assault are encouraged to report the crime to local law enforcement, as prompt reporting can be crucial for investigations and prosecutions. Georgia provides support services for survivors of sexual assault, including counseling, medical assistance, and legal advocacy. Organizations such as the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault (GNESA) offer resources and assistance. Survivors seeking legal advice can seek guidance from attorneys specializing in sexual assault cases.

At Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, we understand how traumatic sexual assault is. Our lawyers will guide you through the Georgia claims process, help ensure that you obtain the compensation you deserve, and fight aggressively to hold the responsible parties accountable. To schedule your initial consultation with an experienced Atlanta sexual assault lawyer, call us or fill out our contact form today. We want to help.