California Sexual Abuse Lawyers
As per California law, sexual crime is defined as forced or illegal sexual conduct against a person. Any form of sexual assault is a serious crime that can have long-lasting and detrimental effects on the survivor. A sexual abuse attorney can help you file a civil case against the offender and pursue compensation on behalf of you or your child.
Sexual assault is one of the most prevalent and yet underreported crimes in the United States. Although much has been done in the last two decades to curb sexual abuse crimes and empower victims, the statistics are still alarming. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds.
According to a statewide assessment of California, at least 86% of women and 53% of men have experienced sexual abuse compared with 81% and 43% nationwide, respectively. The report further indicates that Californians who identify as homosexual and Californian males born outside the U.S. are more likely to face sexual abuse.
It’s clear that sexual abuse is highly prevalent, especially among marginalized communities. There is a great need for more comprehensive prevention efforts, especially through the introduction of sex education surrounding the topics of consent and harassment.
What constitutes a sex crime under California law?
As per California law, sexual crime is defined as forced or illegal sexual conduct against a person. This includes any form of unwanted touching or exposing yourself to the other person without their consent.
Sometimes, sex crimes may lack physical contact. For instance, stalking, indecent exposure, and solicitation are all deemed sex crimes.
If found guilty of a sex crime, an offender is marked on the National Sex Offender Public Website regardless of the crime’s severity. Once marked, there is little one can do to have their name removed from the national database.
Types of Sexual Abuse in California
Various types of offenses fall under the sexual-abuse umbrella. Some of the most common types of sexual abuse in California include:
This form of abuse happens when a member of a church clergy uses their position of power to perpetrate sexual assault on an individual or individuals in their congregation. Due to the high prevalence of this type of sexual abuse in California, the state legislature passed a law in 2019 that provides a 3-year window for childhood-sexual-abuse survivors to come forward and sue the culpable church and priest (no matter how many years ago the offense occurred).
For many decades, leaders in the Catholic Church have been covering up sexual assault accusations. However, various dioceses in California are attempting to be more transparent with the public by producing reports that include names of sexual perpetrators.
Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) face sexual abuse claims filed by thousands of victims. Over the years, the organization has been keeping secret records known as “Perversion Files,” which included the names of scouting leaders and volunteers guilty of sex crimes.
School Sexual Abuse
The extent of sexual abuse in California schools is hard to quantify. California law takes the safety of students seriously, requiring school administrators, teachers, and other staff to report suspicions of sexual harassment against underage students.
There are numerous incidences of sexual abuse by California coaches, but unfortunately, most of them go unreported or unprosecuted. In most cases, underreporting happens when victims don’t fully understand their rights. The California Safe Sport Act intends to make sports safer for youngsters.
Uber and Lyft
Uber and Lyft have received thousands of complaints from passengers and drivers who claim to have been sexually assaulted while using the service. Uber received nearly 6,000 sexual assault claims in 2018 and 2019, while Lyft received over 1,800 claims in 2019 alone.
If you or a loved one are a victim of any type of sexual assault, you can report the case to the police department or relevant authorities, and you can also pursue a civil lawsuit.
Effects of Sexual Abuse
In the aftermath of sexual abuse, a victim often suffers from emotional, physical, and psychological pain. The effects of the trauma vary from one person to another and can require a long-term or short-term healing process.
Emotional and Psychological Effects
Victims of sexual abuse may experience lifetime emotional issues after the ordeal. Understanding the mental health impacts will help the survivor receive necessary assistance.
Some emotional effects of sexual abuse include:
- Depression: Sexual abuse can trigger this mood disorder, making the victim feel sad and hopeless. These feelings can last for a prolonged period, interfering with daily activities. In such cases, you should seek professional assistance.
- PTSD: After being sexually abused, a victim may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Some common signs of PTSD include flashbacks, avoiding situations associated with the traumatic event, getting startled, losing sleep, and constantly feeling on edge.
If a loved one has been sexually abused, you should look out for:
- Eating disorders
- Sleeping problems
- Flashbacks and nightmares
- Feelings of shame and guilt
- Social isolation and withdrawal
- Suicidal thoughts
Sexual abuse can directly cause physical pain and injury. These symptoms and conditions can heal on their own or cause long-term issues. Some common physical effects include:
- Vaginal or anal bleeding
- Difficulty walking
- Sexually-transmitted infections
- Unwanted pregnancy
Who can sue for sexual abuse in California?
Any victim of sexual assault or abuse in California can file for damages against their perpetrators. Some of the common violations that serve as a basis for civil sexual assault lawsuit include:
- Child sexual abuse
- Rape, sodomy, or lewd and lascivious acts
- Non-consensual act of a sexual nature
- Sexual battery
- Non-consensual oral copulation
- Indecent exposure
- Sexual assault by physicians
- Sexual assault by rideshare drivers
What Is California's Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault?
As per California’s statute of limitations, adults who are sexually assaulted on or after their 18th birthday and wish to file a lawsuit must do so within ten years of the last date of the assault, or within three years of discovering that the assault caused an injury. Due to the recent passing of Bill 218, if the person was a minor below 18 years when assaulted, the prosecutor has until the victim’s 40th birthday or five years after discovery to file charges.
If you don’t file the charges within this time limit, you may lose your right to seek justice—even if the law eventually prosecutes the offender. However, if the defendant is convicted of felony charges, you have one year to file a case from when the judgment is pronounced.
However, there are two exceptions whereby the prosecutor may still file charges even if the statute of limitations has expired:
- Existing supporting DNA evidence of the crime is found
- The evidence is filed in compliance with California’s DNA exception rule
If you are over 40 years, you need to obtain a certificate of merit from a mental professional stating that you have a valid reason for delayed discovery. In addition, you need another certificate from your attorney stating that they have reviewed your files and the findings of the mental health professional and determined that your claims are valid.
What to Do If You're a Sexual Assault Victim
If you are a victim of sexual assault, there are certain steps that you need to follow after the assault:
- Prioritize Safety and Well-Being: In the immediate aftermath of sexual assault, you might experience shock, overwhelming emotions, or derealization. In such moments, it is important to focus on coping mechanisms and self-care that have helped you in the past.
- Seek Support: After the overwhelming feelings have subsided and you feel physically safe, you should connect and confide in someone you trust.
- Pursue Medical Attention: While it’s up to you to decide the best course of action according to your physical, emotional, and psychological needs, it is highly recommended that you seek medical attention after a physical assault. A health practitioner can treat any physical injuries and ensure the well-being of your sexual and physical health. If you were raped, you can get a rape kit to help with sexual-assault forensic exams, such as collecting DNA samples.
- Consider Your Legal Options: It can be challenging to file a sexual assault case, especially if the perpetrator was someone you know. The services of a sexual assault attorney can help you better understand your rights and ensure your protection.
How a California Sexual Abuse Attorney Can Help You
Any form of sexual assault is a serious crime that can have long-lasting and detrimental effects on the survivor. A sexual abuse attorney can help you file a civil case against the offender and pursue compensation on behalf of you or your child.
The Sacramento sexual assault lawyers at Cutter Law P.C. are knowledgeable in civil litigation and sexual assault cases. We will help you pursue justice for the damages you face and also bring your abuser to justice. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault in California, don’t hesitate to contact us.