Protecting the Rights of Sexual Assault Victims & Their Families
Sexual assault includes any type of unwanted sexual contact. This includes cases where the victim did not consent or was unable to consent due to intoxication, unconsciousness, or disability. Types of sexual assault include:
- Sexual abuse
- Groping or unwanted touching
- Unwanted penetration
- Rape or attempted rape
- Sexual exploitation
Sexual assault can involve cases where the victim was physically pressured but may also include cases involving coercion, intimidation, or emotional manipulation.
Sexual assault affects people of all ages, races, genders, and sexual identities. Men and those who identify as LGBTQ are often more reluctant to report their assault, but this in no way diminishes the harm they have suffered.
The Criminal Justice System Isn’t Your Only Option
While cases of sexual assault often involve criminal charges, there are limits to what the criminal justice system can accomplish. The burden of proving charges beyond a reasonable doubt may mean that an abuser walks free. Even if a conviction is obtained, the victim is left with substantial expenses related to the attack.
Filing a civil claim for damages can help you take control of your future. Civil claims only require that allegation be proven by a preponderance of evidence—which simply means it is more likely than not that the charge is true. This means a civil conviction is possible even if criminal charges were dropped or the defendant was found not guilty.
Even though no amount of money can ever fully erase the effects of the trauma you’ve suffered, a civil claim can provide you with the resources you need to move forward with your life. Damages may include:
- Medical costs related to the attack
- Mental health counseling
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning potential
- Pain and suffering
Additionally, your spouse or registered domestic partner may be entitled to compensation for loss of consortium. This is a term that refers to the effects the assault had on your relationship, such as a loss of companionship, intimacy, and moral support.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, punitive damages may be awarded. These are damages that are intended to punish the defendant for their behavior, as opposed to providing specific compensation for a recognized loss.
More Than One Party May Share Liability
Typically, people think of sexual assault as having one perpetrator. However, your attacker may not be the only person who is legally responsible for the harm you have suffered.
Under California law, any party that violated a duty of care that resulted in your injury can be required to pay damages. This means you may have a claim against:
- An employer who failed to conduct adequate pre-employment screenings or who allowed an employee who posed a known safety risk to continue working
- The owner of a hotel, apartment building, or other property with inadequate locks, lighting, or security precautions
- The hosts of a concert or other public event that failed to provide adequate security to ensure the safety of all guests
- A school, church, or community organization that was negligent in supervising vulnerable young people
How the Statute of Limitations Affects Your Claim
If you were an adult when the assault occurred, California’s statute of limitations allows you two years from the date of the assault to sue for damages in the civil court system. However, if your abuser has been convicted of a felony criminal charge related to the incident, you have one year from the date of the judgment to file suit—even if this is past the standard two-year deadline.
If you were a child when the assault occurred, you have until your 40th birthday to file a civil case. If you are over 40, you will need certificates of merit from a mental health professional who certifies there is a valid reason the harm was not discovered sooner and an attorney who states your claim has a valid legal basis.
Protecting Your Privacy
Often, one of the reasons victims of sexual assault are reluctant to come forward is a concern about protecting their personal privacy. They may fear unwanted media coverage, damage to their reputation, or negative consequences for their family members.
Victims of sexual assault have no reason to ever feel guilty about taking steps to protect their legal rights. However, cases can be filed using a pseudonym such as John Doe or Jane Doe if this makes you feel more comfortable.
Schedule a Consultation to Discuss Your Options
The attorneys at Case Barnett Law are dedicated to helping victims of sexual assault share their stories, gain closure, and hold their abusers accountable for the harm they’ve suffered.
Contact us online or call our office at 949.861.2990 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.