Sexual assault happens far too frequently, and often in familiar places. Statistics show that a majority of sexual assault survivors are assaulted by people they know in a place where they spend a lot of time together: in the workplace, at school, or even in the home.
Many survivors of sexual abuse struggle to cope with the significant emotional and mental suffering their abuser caused, not to mention the possible physical injuries they sustained. While criminal proceedings may or may not result in an abuser receiving the appropriate punishment, a California sexual abuse lawyer can help you bring a claim against the liable party, as well as against any other person or entity—including community organizations and religious institutions—who ignores the warning signs and allows abuse to occur under their watch.
A civil lawsuit could help you seek the justice you deserve by going directly after the guilty party for financial damages. Remember: you are neither to blame nor responsible for your abuser’s behavior, and if you would like to pursue compensation from them, help is available. Contact a credible personal injury attorney today for guidance and counsel about how best to proceed when it comes to filing, arguing, and succeeding with a civil claim against a sexual abuser.
Sexual Assault: What to Know
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a non-profit focused on anti-sexual-violence efforts, defines sexual assault as:
- Unwanted touching of a sexual nature
- Forcing someone to perform sexual acts
- Attempted rape
- Rape, or forcible penetration of the body
After a sexual assault occurs, the survivor may be unsure about what to do next. They often also worry about how they can heal from their injuries, which may be both physical and emotional. Recovering from sexual abuse varies from each individual’s circumstances and could take weeks, months, or even years.
In addition to criminal charges, survivors of sexual assault can sue the perpetrator in civil court for damages. While criminal charges can result in severe legal fines and jail time for someone who commits sexual assault, civil charges are a way for survivors of sexual assault to potentially hold their attacker responsible for the medical costs associated with their own personal healing. These costs could include hospital or doctors’ visits, as well as counseling or therapy.
Who an individual can bring a civil lawsuit against is dependent upon the facts of each case. In some instances, a plaintiff can sue more than one party for the assault. For example, if a sexual assault occurred at a college, a plaintiff may sue the university administration or a department head for allowing the assault to happen under their watch.
If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, it is often wise to seek guidance from a personal injury lawyer as well as a criminal attorney. A sexual assault civil claim might be tough to prove because of the evidence that is required and the different parties that may be involved. Even so, know that a dedicated injury lawyer will fight diligently to hold the party at fault liable for actions.
Consequences for Sexual Battery in California
Examples of sexual abuse that are specifically made illegal under California state law include rape, molestation, and unwanted touching. Specifically, California Penal Code §243.4 states that a misdemeanor sexual battery conviction carries up to six months in jail and up to a $2,000 fine, or $3,000 if the abuser was the employer of the person assaulted). A felony sexual battery conviction can result in imprisonment for up to one year and a fine up to $10,000.
However, a criminal judgment against an abuser does not preclude their victim from filing a civil lawsuit as well. A California sexual abuse lawyer can help an individual seek compensation for any and all losses and injuries—both physical and psychological in nature—they suffer. In certain cases, punitive damages may be available as well.
Types of Sexual Abuse
Any type or amount of unwanted sexual attention, contact, or activity can qualify as sexual abuse. Specifically, sexual abuse can include any of the following actions:
- Taking and/or distributing sexual photos or videos without permission
- Making unwanted sexual requests
- Exposing genitals to someone or forcing someone to expose themselves
- Forcing someone to view pornographic videos or photos
- Unwanted oral sex performed on or by someone
- Forcing someone to touch genitalia, or to allow the abuser to touch them
- Forced penetration of or by another non-consenting individual
Some of our society’s most vulnerable members are forced to experience these behaviors, including children and teens. They are often made to feel powerless by their abusers or are taken advantage of by someone in a position of power.
Where Sexual Abuse Often Occurs
Unfortunately, sexual abuse can occur anywhere at any time, and often where victims least expect it. For example, survivors of sexual assault frequently report abuse takes place at:
- Medical facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, by healthcare professionals like doctors and nurses
- Schools by teachers and administrators
- The workplace by co-workers, who may include managers and supervisors
- Religious institutions by priests, ministers, and other members of the clergy
- Community organizations by nonprofit leaders and coaches
- Colleges, including in sorority and fraternity houses, by other students
- Home in violent domestic relationships
In addition to civil and criminal charges faced by the perpetrator of sexual abuse, organizations that harbor or assist such abusive acts can be held liable in civil court as well under certain circumstances. A California sexual abuse lawyer can explain more about what options a person may have to pursue compensation from organizations that aided or abetted sexual abuse.
Many times, abusers are individuals traditionally thought of as trustworthy. They use their positions and reputations to take advantage of the vulnerable. Counselors, teachers, members of the clergy, and coaches are all trusted members of the community who have unique relationships with youth. Tragically, they may also be enablers or perpetrators of sexual abuse.
When individuals are abused by such individuals, they are sometimes caught between feelings of loyalty and admiration of the perpetrator. In some cases, abusers may threaten the other party, making them feel afraid of sharing their abuse for fear of retribution or additional abuse. Those who have survived sexual abuse deserve help. A California sexual abuse lawyer can work to ensure the voices of abused individuals are heard, and that they receive the justice they deserve.
Warning Signs of Abuse
It is important to keep in mind that the consequences of abuse can manifest in individuals in different ways. If a case involves a child, then there can be a wide range of differences in their behavior or personality. If they were calm and peaceful in the past and their behavior becomes erratic and sexual in nature, this could be a warning sign of abuse. This can be particularly concerning if it is a small child who has never before shown interest or displayed sexual behaviors in the past. This is an indication that there could be some kind of sexual abuse occurring.
If the case involves a teen or adult, the signs can be less clear. People act in very different ways. They could stop talking about certain subjects, or be evasive when one brings up a related topic. An individual should not hesitate to reach out to a professional California sexual abuse lawyer as soon as they think that a loved one has been sexually abused.
How a California Sexual Abuse Attorney Can Help
You have the right to live life to the fullest despite the pain another person may have caused you. In addition to other kinds of personal injuries suffered as a result of negligence or carelessness, this same principle also applies to cases in which another person committed an act of sexual abuse against you. A California sexual abuse lawyer can help you stand up for your rights and move positively into the future. To schedule a consultation and start exploring your legal options, call today.