California Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Sexual abuse is a crime that often goes unpunished. Statistics show that only 25 out of every 1,000 perpetrators are imprisoned, leading many victims to believe they must suffer in silence.
Sexual abuse is widespread and can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic status, or other characteristics. Compiling statistics from various sources, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network reports that an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds. Every nine minutes, that victim is a child.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, it is not your fault–no matter the circumstances. An experienced California sexual abuse lawyer can determine the best avenue for you to seek justice and receive compensation for the abuse you endured.
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How common is sexual abuse in California?
Sexual abuse runs rampant in California. Conducted in 2019, the Measuring #MeToo in California study reveals more than 86 percent of women and 53 percent of men report experiencing sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime. These statistics exceed the national averages by five and 10 percent, respectively. However, these numbers are likely low due to underreporting.
What causes a victim not to report sexual abuse?
Victims of sexual abuse don’t report the incident(s) for different reasons. They may feel ashamed and embarrassed and blame themselves. Other times, the abuser may threaten the victims not to tell anyone. Most often, sexual abuse victims are children who may not even understand that they were abused until later in life.
In recognizing this, California adopted AB 218 in 2019 to allow child sexual abuse victims to sue their abusers and seek compensation years after it happened. Additionally, the California Child Victims Act was enacted in January 2020, encouraging victims to come forward and demand justice from their abusers. It provides a three-year window in which child abuse victims can file a claim regardless of the statute of limitations.
If you witness child sexual abuse, you may be legally required to report it. In the state of California, you are legally mandated to report sexual abuse under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act if you are a:
- Health care professional
- School teacher or staff member
- Clergy member
- Sports club official
- Daycare, day camp, or youth center worker
- Nursing home administrator
- Social worker, probation officer, parole officer
- An employee of the fire or police department
Recent Cases of Sex Abuse in California
Sexual abuse in California is prevalent, and various high-profile sex abuse cases have dominated news stories over the past several years.
Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego
In 2002, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego revealed that 23 of its priests had been accused of sexually abusing children. Today, over 50 priests comprise the list of alleged sexual perpetrators. Numerous sexual abuse lawsuits have been filed against the Diocese and its priests.
The California Department of Justice deemed clergy abuse a significant problem and has created an online complaint form that provides clergy abuse victims a place to report it.
MacLaren Hall opened in the 1940s with the intent to house non-delinquent minors. Over the years, it began to house children from the county juvenile hall due to overcrowding. In 2003, MacLaren Hall closed due to lawsuits claiming the facility failed to properly care for the children and the staff abused the residents.
Multiple reports of sexual abuse at MacLaren Hall have recently come out in light of the new California state legislature that extends the statute of limitations for child abuse victims. In June 2022, a lawsuit was filed against the county on behalf of 12 victims. An additional lawsuit was filed shortly after on behalf of 31 other victims.
Water Polo Coach, Bahram Hojreh
In 2018, former USA Water Polo Club players sued the club, alleging that water polo coach Bahram Hojreh sexually abused them from 2012 to 2017, and the club failed to protect them. While in the pool with them, the players alleged that Hojreh would put his hands under their bathing suits and touch them. He told them to fight him off and said he was doing this to show them what to expect when playing the sport in college.
In 2017, other clubs complained that Hojreh’s players were sexually assaulting them during matches. According to the lawsuit, Hojreh taught and encouraged his players to do this. The lawsuit argued that the water polo club failed to do anything to stop the abuse despite knowing about the complaints.
The USA Water Polo and International Water Polo Club agreed to settle a claim against the coach for $13.9 million. Hojreh was charged criminally with lewd acts on a child, sexual penetration with a foreign object, and sexual battery by fraud.
Christian Youth Theater
In 2020, former theater students at the Christian Youth Theater in San Diego started posting stories on social media about years of horrific sexual abuse they endured at former teachers’ hands. Dozens of students reported unwanted sexual touching, sexual comments, and sexual advances by teachers at the theater.
Six former students filed a lawsuit against the organization, claiming it knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.
Two former instructors, Brad Davis and David Hott, currently face sexual abuse charges. In June 2022, Brad Davis pleaded guilty to the charges; David Hott’s case is still pending as of September 2022. Other adult instructors and staff members have been identified in the allegations.
California Department of Public Health
In a recent allegation, the California Department of Public Health is accused of allowing a sexual predator to continue to work in numerous nursing homes, despite knowing for several years that he was sexually abusing patients.
These incidents and others show that sexual abuse is an ongoing issue that needs to be stopped. Victims of abuse have the legal right to seek justice for horrific acts of abuse.
No one should go through the healing process of abuse alone. The expert team of California sex abuse lawyers at Herman Law has helped thousands of people who have experienced this trauma.
What is the difference between sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual violence?
Although they are often lumped together and used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual violence.
Sexual assault is a sudden, violent, and single sexual act against a person. Sexual assaults are usually perpetrated by adults against adults and often performed by men against women. Examples include a single act of rape or touching someone’s breasts or crotch on a subway.
Sexual abuse is sexual activity that occurs without consent. This can include unwanted sexual touching, rape, and forcing the victim to look at sexual body parts, among other acts. Sexual abuse most often describes behavior against a minor.
Sexual violence is any sexual conduct where consent is not obtained or freely given. In addition to physical contact, it can include false promises, abusive comments, and nonconsensual digital sharing of explicit images. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the perpetrator is usually someone the victim knows, such as a friend, family member, neighbor, or coworker. It can occur in person, online, or through technology.
What are the signs of sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse can be challenging to detect, but victims often present bruises around the breasts or genital area, unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, or torn, stained, or bloody undergarments.
If you are a parent, there are specific signs to look for in young children. First, notice whether your child’s personality has changed. Have they become more withdrawn, depressed, or anxious lately? Do they act secretively? Have their grades dropped? Do they suddenly act fearful when around adults, or are they afraid to be around a specific person? Often, abusers are respected and trusted adults we wouldn’t suspect of ever harming our children.
What are the long-term effects of sex abuse?
A person who suffers from sexual abuse often endures long-term mental and emotional problems. Victims of sex abuse may have difficulties maintaining normal relationships and suffer from sexual dysfunction. Sometimes, it takes years of therapy to heal.
The Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Foundation shares the lifelong physical and emotional effects of sexual abuse:
- Personality Disorders
- Complex PTSD
- Disassociative disorders
Having a competent attorney who will fight for you and recover damages is crucial to help pay for the treatment and other recovery costs on your journey as you heal.
What damages can I receive for a sexual abuse lawsuit in California?
In a sexual abuse case, you may be eligible to recover economic damages, which include medical expenses, counseling, mental health treatment for psychological injuries, and loss of wages due to missed work.
California law recognizes that sex abuse victims may also be entitled to non-economic damages, such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress. It’s usually up to the jury to determine the damages you receive.
In some cases, you may be eligible for punitive damages that punish the abuser or the organization that allowed the sexual abuse to occur.
California law allows for triple damages where the victim can show that the employer or institution covered up the abuse. The California sexual abuse lawyers at Herman Law can help you understand your rights and what damages you may be eligible to receive.
How can I prove sexual abuse?
In sex abuse cases, the credibility and testimony of the victim are the most relevant components of evidence. It is especially crucial for survivors who come forward years or decades after the incident.
According to the National Institute of Justice, forensic evidence is also essential, which includes DNA evidence, trace evidence, toxicology, cellphone and digital forensics, and impression and pattern evidence. Additional items, such as photographs, videos, gifts, and money, can be used.
Documentation of medical bills, including therapy, medications, and records of missed work because of the psychological trauma you endured, are helpful to prove mental and emotional damage from the abuse. A skilled California sex abuse lawyer will know how and where to gather the necessary evidence to prove sexual abuse.
Who can sue for sexual abuse in California?
The victim of sexual abuse can file a claim. If the victim is a minor, the parents and legal guardians can file a claim on behalf of their child or teen.
How long do I have to file a claim in California?
Every state has laws that provide a deadline for filing a civil lawsuit. The legal term for this deadline is the statute of limitations. Once the deadline expires, a person is barred from filing a claim.
For example, under California law, victims of childhood sexual abuse can file a civil lawsuit 22 years from the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority or within five years the plaintiff discovered (or reasonably should have discovered) the childhood abuse as an adult.
For people whose statute of limitations has been exceeded, the California Child Victims Act allows victims of any age, no matter how long ago the abuse happened, until December 31, 2022, to file a lawsuit against their abuser and other persons that may be liable for the abuse.
Time limits can vary based on the type of sexual abuse endured. An experienced sexual abuse attorney in California can guide you through the process and discuss related exceptions.
What is the difference between a criminal and civil sexual abuse case?
In a criminal sexual abuse case, the state brings charges against the perpetrator. If your abuser is found guilty, they will potentially face time in prison. The burden of proof in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you bring a civil lawsuit against your abuser, you must prove, usually by a preponderance of the evidence, that your allegations are accurate and that the defendant caused damages.
Unlike in a criminal action, you can also file a claim against third parties who allowed the abuse to occur in a civil lawsuit. For instance, if your abuser was a teacher or a priest, you may be able to recover damages from the school or institution if you can show that administrators knew or should have known about the abuse but failed to stop it.
Listen to the details of your case to determine the best course of action to take.
Discuss strategy with you and start to develop the case.
Gather the necessary evidence, including dates and times when you were present with your abuser, statements of other victims of the abuser, and any physical evidence of the abuse.
Walk you through the stages of your case and set expectations, offering legal advice and answering any questions you may have.