Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Sexual Assault Information

Campus Life

Civil Suits/Civil Protection Orders

  1. How is a civil suit different from a criminal prosecution?
    A civil suit is a legal proceeding where one person alleges a wrong committed against them by another person. A criminal case is when the state (society) alleges than a person has violated a criminal law. So, in the case of a sexual assault, the victim/survivor may choose to file a civil lawsuit, while the district attorney and/or grand jury would decide (in consultation with the victim/survivor) if criminal charges will be filed.
  2. Will the victim/survivor need a lawyer and, if so, how much will that cost?
    A lawyer is not always needed to file criminal charges. The police and the victim’s advocate can help a survivor through this process. It is likely that a lawyer would be needed for a civil case and the cost varies quite a bit depending on the circumstances.
  3. What is a civil no-contact order or protective order and how does a victim/survivor get one?
    • A victim/survivor can petition the court to issue a restraining order against an individual under certain circumstances: there must be a threat of physical violence and a relationship must exist. The restraining order is often used in domestic violence situations, although it may apply in a sexual assault case as well, if the relationship criterion is met. A fairly new tool in MA, harassment restraining orders do not require the same relationships.
    • Restraining orders may be requested at the (Attleboro) District Court during business hours and through the police after hours (in phone consultation with an on-call judge).


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