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California Sexual Assault Laws

The Basics of California Sexual Assault Laws

Separate from criminal law, sexual abuse civil law dictates a person’s ability to seek justice and compensation for physical and emotional injuries resulting from sexual violence.

Below is a basic breakdown of the laws governing sexual abuse and assault in California. Note: if you or a loved one is being abused or has been assaulted, get to safety and contact law enforcement immediately.

Forms of Sexual Misconduct

There are several different forms of sexual misconduct. Some common terms include:

  • Sexual battery: the act of intentionally harming another person through sexually offensive contact with one’s body.
  • Sexual harassment: a broad term that includes unwelcome, pervasive or severe sexual advances, solicitations, sexual requests, demands for the victim’s sexual compliance, and other conduct. For more information on legal issues involving sexual misconduct in the workplace, please visit our page, “Workplace Sexual Harassment and Assault.”  Sexual battery can be a form of sexual harassment.
  • Domestic violence: a person injures another person with whom he or she is in a relationship.

Sexual misconduct might also involve intentionally distributing a private and intimate photograph, film, video, or recording – one that exposes an intimate body part of another person or shows the other person engaging in a sexual act – without that person’s consent.

No matter the conduct, if another person harmed you in a sexual manner, all responsible persons must be held accountable. An experienced attorney can help you seek justice and compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.

Sexual Assault Civil Lawsuit

The defendants in a sexual abuse civil lawsuit might include:

  • The assailant or assailants
  • Co-conspirators or those who assist assailants in committing the wrongful act(s)
  • Employers of assailants
  • Your employer, if they knew or should have known about the conduct and failed to act
  • The owner of the premises where the assault or abuse occurred as well as others who may be responsible for failing to prevent or detect foreseeable criminal conduct
  • Any parties who knew about the conduct and condoned it after the fact or failed to correct the cause of it

Hiring an experienced attorney can ensure that everyone involved is held accountable for the abuse. In addition, your claim may be different or may have a much shorter time limit to file. Rely on your own attorney to advise you.

Damages in Sexual Assault and Abuse Cases

Victims of sexual abuse and/or assault may seek compensatory damages, which compensate them for financial losses related to the abuse. These losses might include:

  • Medical bills
  • Physical and psychological therapies
  • Lost past and future wages from time away from work
  • Lost earning capacity because of the physical and emotional harm

Compensatory damages may also include “pain and suffering,” which refers to the physical and emotional distress that resulted from the abuse. During the initial consultation, an experienced lawyer will define and discuss possible compensatory damages.

In a small number of lawsuits, plaintiffs also recover punitive damages. These rarely awarded damages are meant to punish the defendant for particularly heinous intentional or reckless behavior.

As each case is different, the damages will depend on the unique facts of that case. The first step is to speak with an experienced California sexual abuse attorney.

Filing a lawsuit cannot change the devastating situation that occurred, but it can help a person seek compensation for medical bills and other resulting damages.

Time Limits to File a Claim

California’s statute of limitations gives victims a certain time limit to file a lawsuit against those responsible for the sexual assault or abuse.

For sexual harassment in the workplace, there are separate time limits for filing a job discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). It is important to contact these entities immediately if you are being harassed.

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law that gives victims of childhood sexual assault until the age of 40 to file suit against their attackers. Taking effect next year (2020), the law also extends the discovery date from three years to five years. The bill provides a window of three years to revive past claims that expired due to the previous statute of limitations.

Time limits may vary depending on the particular circumstances of your case. Once you are safe, you should contact an experienced California sexual abuse attorney to advise you on the particular time limits applying to your case. If a governmental entity may be responsible in part for your injuries, a six-month time limit applies to file a governmental claim against that entity.

Getting Legal Help

If you or a loved one is the victim of sexual assault or abuse, our San Diego sexual assault attorney can help. After contacting the proper authorities and ensuring your safety, we welcome you to contact CaseyGerry for assistance. You can reach our firm at (619) 238-1811.

Free Consultation

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