California Sexual Abuse Law
Sexual abuse in California is one of the many categories of “sex crimes,” a blanket term for a multitude of offenses related to unwanted sexual activities performed without the consent of one of the parties involved. Examples of sex crimes include:
- Sexual assault and battery: These are both defined as any form of nonconsensual touching of another person’s intimate areas with sexual intent. This includes when an abuser forces another person (without their consent) to either touch themselves or touch the abuser’s intimate parts with sexual intent. Some other examples include unwanted kissing, groping, and rubbing.
- Rape: Nonconsensual sexual intercourse — often involving some form of penetration — achieved through violence or threats of violence, as well as in situations in which the victim is unable to give consent. For instance, by law, people under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not able to consent to sexual acts.
- Child molestation: Any lewd acts involving a child under the age of 14, including touching with sexual intent, child pornography, and child prostitution.
- Statutory rape: Engaging in sexual acts with anyone under 18 years old, which is the age of consent in California. By state law, minors cannot truly “give” consent.
- Sexual harassment: An umbrella term for any unwanted sexual advances or comments, as well as soliciting sexual activity through coercion.
Unfortunately, victims of sex crimes may be unsure about what legal options are available to them. Our caring lawyers can discuss your case with you and help you determine the best course of action, offering an ear free of judgment throughout the entire legal process.
Unpacking Sexual Harassment: Dealing with “Gray Areas”
Sexual harassment can be quite complex, as it involves a wide range of unwanted sexual acts and advances. Sadly, many victims of sexual harassment may feel confused by a so-called gray area or blurred line concerning what they went through. In California, an act is deemed sexual harassment if it can be considered unwelcome and abusive from the victim’s viewpoint and from an objective stance, meaning the average person would consider it abusive.
If you feel as though you were subjected to sexual harassment, it is advisable to speak to an attorney about what you went through. We know it can seem intimidating and difficult to open up about what happened, particularly when you are unsure whether the law will consider it harassment. There is no shame in enlisting the help of a professional to obtain clarity on the matter.
Paths to Justice: Civil vs. Criminal Cases
Depending on the outcome they desire for their case, sexual abuse survivors can file a claim in civil court or criminal court, or both.
In civil courts, survivors will file a case against their abuser, traditionally with the help of legal representation. An attorney will fight to recover damages from the abuser and any other entities involved that may have contributed to the abuse, such as a college dormitory with negligent security or the abuser’s employer.
In criminal cases, survivors will not be able to recover as much compensation if they win because the claim will be handled as one between the state and the abuser. Therefore, survivors will not have as much of a say in the direction of the case and may only be consulted as a witness. That being said, the outcome of a criminal case is conviction and imprisonment if the abuser is found guilty.
How Long Do I Have to File a Sex Abuse Claim?
Fortunately, California takes sexual abuse cases very seriously. There are multiple statute of limitations surrounding sexual abuse, and a lawyer can help survivors determine which statute of limitation applies to their case.
The statute of limitations in California, Assembly Bill (AB) 1619, allows survivors who were 18 or older at the time of the abuse 10 years from the date of the last abuse to file a claim, or 3 years after the date the survivor discovered an injury related to the abuse — whichever is later. AB 1619 went into effect January 1, 2019, so if the abuse occurred before this date, survivors only have 3 years after the last abuse occurred or after they discovered an abuse-related injury.
The state of California offers a larger window of time for victims of childhood sexual abuse under AB 218, allowing child sexual abuse survivors 3 years from January 1, 2020 to file claims that previously expired under the old statute of limitations, regardless of the survivor’s current age. AB 218 allows survivors until the age of 40 to file a claim, or 5 years after an injury resulting from the abuse was discovered. Again, these deadlines hinge on whichever occurs later.
Fighting Tirelessly for Sexual Abuse Survivors
For more than 20 years, The Zalkin Law Firm has fought for hundreds of sex abuse survivors to bring their abusers to justice. We are acclaimed by Super Lawyers®, the National Trial Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, and are often featured by prominent media outlets, such as the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times. If you are considering pursuing a sex abuse claim via the civil justice system, let our passionate lawyers fight tooth and nail to hold your abuser accountable for the horrific trauma they put you through. We understand a legal win cannot change the past, but it can help you obtain a sense of closure and the financial means to move on.
When you are ready, call our California sex abuse lawyers at The Zalkin Law Firm at (800) 477-2989.
Our California Office:
10590 W Ocean Air Drive, Suite 125
San Diego, CA 92130