If you have been accused of rape, your case may be criminal or civil or both. An alleged rape victim (through a criminal prosecutor) may press criminal charges or they may chose not to press criminal charges and just sue; however, an alleged rape victim may both press criminal charges and sue for monetary damages.
The criminal and civil justice systems are two separate and distinct systems. In the criminal system the Government, through the prosecuting attorney, is always the plaintiff or the party who is bringing the action to court. It is not the alleged victim, but the prosecutor who pursues the case. A criminal case is brought with the purpose of serving the public’s interest in reducing the incidence of criminal conduct in society by means of punishment, rehabilitation and applying principles of justice. In the criminal system, a defendant, if found guilty, may be ordered to serve jail or prison time, pay fines and restitution if any, complete community service, take classes with a counseling agency or comply with other conditions that are appropriate for the individual case.
The civil system, by contrast, generally deals with matters like divorce, adoption, employment discrimination, personal injury, contract disputes, and bankruptcy, as well as many other types of cases. The primary focus of the civil system is to adjudicate or resolve conflicts that arise between individuals. The civil system in many instances can operate to reduce criminal conduct in society by offering individuals a viable means to resolve their differences in a civil manner rather than resorting to illegal self help measures that may escalate to violence. The civil court system resolves conflict between individuals by awarding one or more of the parties to a lawsuit a remedy which may include monetary damages caused by the wrongful conduct of the person being sued. Other types of remedies requested in the civil system are declarations of a individual rights pursuant to a specific law, injunctive relief in which the court orders one of the parties to perform a legal obligation or even orders them to stop some action they are not legally entitled to engage in. Unlike the criminal system, private parties bring cases in the civil system.