California Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Sexual abuse is a terrible crime that often goes unpunished. Many survivors of sexual abuse believe they have to suffer in silence. Fortunately, recent changes in California law allow victims to come forward and fight for their legal rights after sexual abuse. An experienced California sexual abuse lawyer can help you determine the best avenue to seek justice and receive compensation for the horrifying abuse you endured.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse is extremely common, and it can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic status, or other characteristics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, in the United States, more than one-third of females and about one-quarter of all males have been victims of sexual violence involving physical contact.
If you were a victim of sexual abuse, it was not your fault, no matter the circumstances. Many victims of sexual abuse were children when they were abused. Sometimes victims do not begin to understand that they were being abused until years later. In recognizing this, California recently changed its laws to allow victims to sue their abusers many years after the abuse happened. No matter how long ago the abuse happened, you may still have the legal right to seek compensation from your abuser. The new California Child Victims Act will hopefully encourage victims to come forward and force their abusers to compensate them for their horrific acts of sexual abuse.
What should I do if I am a victim of sexual abuse in California?
A sexual abuse victim needs to take steps to protect his or her legal rights as soon as possible.
First, you should contact law enforcement to report the abuse. If the abuse was recent, get a physical examination immediately so a doctor can assess any physical injuries.
You should also document every detail of the abuse while your memories are fresh, including times, places, and frequency of the abuse, as well as details about your abuser.
Sexual abuse survivors should also contact sexual abuse lawyers to determine whether they can take legal action. An experienced sexual abuse attorney can be invaluable in assessing your claim and advising you about your legal rights.
How common is sexual abuse in California?
Sexual abuse runs rampant in California and throughout the United States. Reported cases indicate that about one in four females and one in six males will be sexually abused before they reach age 18. These numbers are probably low because underreporting is a serious detriment to understanding the full scope of the problem.
Victims of sexual abuse often don’t report the crimes for several reasons. First, the victims usually feel shame and embarrassment, and they may blame themselves for the abuse. Other times, the abuser threatened the victims not to tell anyone about the abuse. Most often, sexual abuse victims are children, so they may not even understand for many years that they were abused. Sexual abuse of a child is never the child’s fault.
Sexual abuse often occurs at the victim’s home or in the perpetrator’s office, such as in a church or gym office – basically anywhere the abuser can get alone with the victim. Furthermore, most survivors of childhood sexual abuse know their abusers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 90% of sexual abuse victims know their abusers. In most cases, perpetrators of sexual abuse are the victim’s family members, coaches, teachers, counselors, or family friends. Many states now have laws that require reporting child sexual abuse. Individuals and institutions required to report include health care professionals, school teachers or officials, clergy members, sports club officials, daycare workers, and nursing home administrators.
Recent Cases Of Sex Abuse In California
Sexual abuse in California is unfortunately very common, and some high-profile sex abuse cases have dominated news stories in the past several years. After the Boston Globe’s 2002 explosive story about widespread clergy abuse and institutional cover-ups, lawsuits against the Roman Catholic church have exploded in the United States. Just recently, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego came under fire for covering up years of abuse by priests. The California Department of Justice has deemed clergy abuse to be such a problem that it has posted an online complaint form on its website for victims of clergy abuse to report it.
In 2018, twelve former players of the USA Water Polo Club sued the club, alleging that, from 2012 to 2017, water polo coach Bahram Hojreh sexually abused them, and the club failed to protect them from the abuse. The players that were the victims of sexual assault alleged that, while in the pool with them, Hojreh would put his hands under their bathing suits and touch them while telling them this conduct was normal.
In 2017, players from other clubs complained that Hojreh’s players were sexually abusing them during matches by grabbing and attempting to penetrate their genitals underwater. According to the lawsuit, Hojreh taught and encouraged his players to do this. The lawsuit alleged that, despite knowing about these complaints, the water polo club failed to do anything to stop the abuse.
The USA Water Polo Club’s member club in California eventually agreed to settle a claim against the coach for $13.9 million. Hojreh was also charged criminally with lewd acts on a child, sexual penetration with a foreign object, and sexual battery by fraud.
In another story involving sexual abuse, recent allegations have come to light against the Christian Youth Theater in San Diego. In 2020, former theater students started posting stories on social media about years of horrific sexual abuse that they endured at the hands of former teachers. The students report incidents of unwanted sexual touching, sexual comments, and sexual advances by various teachers at the theater. The students claim that the theater knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it.
In another case, in April 2021, a man in Stockton, California, was sentenced to seventeen years in prison for forcing teenage girls into prostitution.
There have also been recent allegations of sexual abuse occurring in nursing homes in California. 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 in California is unfortunately very widespread. Victims of abuse have the legal right to seek justice for horrific acts of abuse.
No one should have to go through the healing process from child sexual abuse alone. The expert team of California sexual abuse attorneys 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 sometimes lumped together, there are distinct differences between sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual violence.
Sexual assault refers to a sudden, violent, and single sexual act against a person. Sexual assaults are usually perpetrated by adults against adults, and they’re often perpetrated by men against women. Examples include a single act of rape or touching someone’s breasts or crotch on a subway.
Sexual abuse is generally where an adult engages in a pattern of having sexual intercourse or performing sexual acts on a child. This includes oral sex, anal sex, penetrating the child with a foreign object, and other acts. Sexual abuse can include contact or no contact child abuse. For example, making a child watch an adult masturbate is a form of non-contact sexual abuse. Another example is using a child to create pornography.
Sexual violence refers generally to any sexual conduct that is unwelcome, and it includes both sexual assaults and sexual abuse.
What Are The Warning Signs Of Sex Abuse?
Although sexual abuse is sometimes difficult to detect, 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? Are they afraid to be around a specific person?
Signs of sexual abuse include depression, anxiety, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and risky sexual behaviors. Your child may have new tearing, bleeding, or swelling in the genital area. Also, if your child is actively trying to avoid being alone with an adult in their life, you may want to pay attention to this. Often, abusers are respected and trusted adults we wouldn’t suspect of ever harming our children. Abusers don’t come with warning signs.
What are the long-term effects of sex abuse?
A person who suffered from sexual abuse often has long-term mental and emotional problems. A person will often feel shame, humiliation, and fear if they’ve been abused. Often, when someone was abused as a child, they will blame themselves. Victims of sexual abuse may have difficulties maintaining normal relationships, and they may suffer from sexual dysfunction. Sometimes, it takes years of therapy to heal from sexual abuse. It’s crucial to have an experienced attorney who will fight for justice to be able to help pay for the therapy or other recovery costs on your journey as you heal.
Who Can Sue For Sexual Abuse In California?
People often want to know who is allowed to sue for sexual abuse. The victims themselves can bring suit on their own behalf. Parents and guardians can also bring suit on behalf of their minor children.
How Much In Damages Can I Receive For A Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Filed In California?
You can recover money damages in a sexual abuse case for economic costs you incurred as a result of abuse, including medical expenses, counseling, mental health treatment for psychological injuries, and loss of wages due to missed work. California law recognizes that sexual abuse victims may also be entitled to non-economic damages for pain and suffering. It’s usually up to the jury to determine the amount of damages you’re entitled to for pain and suffering.
You may also be able to receive punitive damages if you can show that the conduct of your abuser was particularly egregious. For instance, punitive damages are more likely to be awarded if the abuse happened over a long period of time. Recent California law also now allows for triple damages where the victim of the abuse can show an employer or institution covered up the abuse.
How Can I Prove Sexual Abuse?
To prove sexual abuse using physical evidence, child sex abuse victims will need to show that they were present with the person who abused them. Even if the abuse happened years ago, it’s helpful to document a timeline of the dates and places where sexual predators or perpetrators abused you. To prove mental and emotional damage from the abuse, you should gather all documentation of medical bills, including therapy, medications you’ve taken, and records of missed work because of the psychological trauma you endured. An experienced sex abuse lawyer will know how and where to gather the necessary evidence to prove sexual abuse.
When Do I Have To File A Claim By In California?
Every state has laws that provide a deadline for bringing a personal injury lawsuit. The legal term for this deadline is known as a statute of limitations. Once the deadline expires, a person is forever barred from bringing the lawsuit.
Under previous California law, a victim of child sexual abuse had until they were 26 years old to bring a civil lawsuit. If they were abused by an adult, the time limit was three years. These time limits were very problematic because, in most sexual abuse cases, it takes many years for the survivor to process and come to terms with their abuse.
In 2019, California enacted a law that allows victims of child sexual abuse to bring a civil lawsuit up until the age of 40 or within five years of discovering the abuse as an adult.
For people whose claims have been barred, the new law called the California Child Victims Act also 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 who may be liable for the abuse. The law also allows victims to recover three times the regular amount of damages if the institution, such as a church, covered up the abuse.
Remember, the deadline for filing a claim under this law is December 31, 2022. If you’re otherwise barred from bringing a claim under the new statute of limitations, you must bring your claim by this date. An experienced sexual abuse attorney in California can give you legal advice about how long you have to file your claim.
What Is The Difference Between A Criminal Sexual Abuse Case And A Civil Sexual Abuse Case In California?
In criminal sex abuse cases in California, you generally file a police report with law enforcement, and a prosecutor brings charges against the perpetrator. If your abuser is found guilty of sexually abusing you during a criminal prosecution, then they will face serious time in prison. The burden of proof for the government in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you bring a civil lawsuit against your abuser, then you must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the abuser owed you a duty not to harm you, they violated that duty, and that their conduct did harm you. Unlike in a criminal action, in a civil lawsuit, you can also bring a claim against third parties who allowed the abuse to happen. For instance, if your abuser was a teacher or coach, or a member of religious institutions, you may be able to recover money damages from the school or religious institution that employed them if you can show that administrators knew or should have known about the abuse but failed to stop it. This was the case for many victims of clergy sexual and physical abuse.
How Can A California Sexual Abuse Attorney Help Me?
If you are a victim of sexual abuse in California, an experienced sex abuse attorney can help you in numerous ways. First, the attorney will listen to the details of your case to determine the best course of action to take. The attorney will also gather all 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. An attorney can walk you through every stage of your case, offering legal advice and fighting for you to receive the highest amount of compensation possible for your injuries.
If you hire an attorney to file a sexual abuse claim on your behalf, you pay nothing upfront. You do not have to pay unless you win your civil case or receive a fair settlement offer.
Contact Herman Law today for a free California case evaluation.