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What to Do If I Was Pressured Into Sex?

By November 12, 2019January 29th, 2020Blog
pressured into sex
This post was written before the passage of AB-218. For information regarding the statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit for childhood sexual assault/abuse, click here or contact our team of experienced representatives.


One in 16 U.S. women (3.3 million) report “rape” as their first sexual encounter. Not always do these cases involve attacks from strangers. Rather, these incidents sometimes involve someone known by the victim—someone who can pressure them into having sex. 

By law, rape is defined as an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person not the spouse of the perpetrator under circumstances such as where a person is incapable of giving legal consent; forced to endure the unwanted sexual act; or prevented from resisting. If you were pressured into sex, it may classify as rape or sexual assault and you may be able to press charges and seek compensation in civil court.  

What Happens If I Said “Yes?” 

Even if you initially agreed to sex, you have the right to revoke that consent at any time during the sexual act. The pressure to have sex can also be called sexual coercion, which occurs when one’s consent falls somewhere between “yes” and “no.” Abusers may use a variety of tactics to get what they want, such as threats, constant communications, trickery, isolation, the use of drugs and alcohol, mockery, physical force, or psychological manipulation.

You may have been pressured into sex if you were:

  • asked to have sex by a superior at work or offered a promotion for sex
  • threatened with sanctions if a sexual relationship didn’t continue
  • targeted for sex based on your language, culture, education level, immigration status, drug addiction, impaired mental capacity, or history of prior abuse
  • intimidated, fearful, uncertain, or felt helpless while having sex
  • a minor at the time
  • under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • made to feel you “owed” someone sex because of past activities or gifts

A number of laws in California protect citizens from sexual coercion in the workplace, in the military, on college campuses, and in nursing care facilities.

What to Do If You Were Pressured Into Sex

There may be many situations that could lead to you feeling pressured into sex. Thankfully, there are just as many courses of action you can take to prevent feeling uncomfortable or seek justice if the act has already taken place. 

Communicate your wishes clearly. Sometimes the pressure for sex comes from a romantic partner or someone you care about. It’s best to have a conversation about sex as early as possible. Allow time for your partner to process it, as there could be some strong emotions or feelings. If your partner doesn’t agree with your wishes, you may need to consider walking away from the relationship.

Keep healthy boundaries. When you reach college age, you may find the increased freedom liberating. However, keep in mind, certain situations can send signals to people looking to have sex with you. For instance, if you’ve just enjoyed a nice outing and your date invites you back to their place, they might assume you’re interested in sexual activity. Be sure to clearly communicate your wishes. It may also be a good idea to go out in the company of trusted friends, where it’s mutually agreed you arrive and depart as a group, leaving no one behind.  

Have an exit strategy. Sexual pressure can arise suddenly while on a date or out with a friend. Know what you will say in case of such an event. You could say something along the lines of “I like you, but I just want to have fun tonight and not have sex.” You could also say, “I need time to think.” Before you head off with a date, consider setting your phone alarm to ring or arrange to have a close friend call you in an hour, in case you need an excuse to leave. 

Speak to someone. There are many resources available to you, should you need to speak with someone about your feelings. A confidential advocate can reinforce how you feel and help you determine a healthy course of action. Sometimes just talking about it removes a huge burden from your shoulders.  

Report it. If you are a minor under the age of 18, know that it is illegal for someone to pressure you into sex—particularly an adult. Depending on where the sexual harassment occurs, you (or your parent) may report it to another trusted adult—such as a school official, coach, daycare worker, clergy member, or scout leader. California has a mandatory reporter law whereby individuals tasked with your safety must report known or suspected sexual abuse to the proper authorities.  

File a police report and press charges. If you are fearful for your safety, you may want to consider filing a police report. If the police gather enough evidence to make an arrest, they will then decide whether to forward the case to the district attorney (DA). If accepted, your case will go forward to trial as a state matter. If the accused is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, jail time, probation, community service, a fine payable to the state, and sex offender registration could follow.

File a civil lawsuit seeking damages. Sometimes sexual pressure leads to personal damages such as medical bills, therapy bills, lost wages, or lost quality of life from pain and suffering. Filing a civil lawsuit can help you recover financial compensation for many of these losses. Civil courts allow for an expanded scope of liability that allows you to hold other entities accountable for what happened to you (like church dioceses, school districts, or youth organizations) if applicable. There is also a lower evidence threshold, where a judge and jury must believe your story was at least 51% or more true. Even if you were unsuccessful in criminal court, your case may prevail in civil court. Filing deadlines differ in civil court and they may change over time. It’s best to contact a legal professional who has experience in cases like yours.   

Let an Experienced Sexual Assault Attorney Help You 

Being pressured into sex can be a traumatic experience that affects you both mentally and physically. It is important to take the proper measures to obtain healing and justice. If you were involved in a physical sexual act against your will, you may have grounds to press charges and sue. For the best results, consider working with an attorney who specializes in cases of sexual assault.  

At Lewis & Llewellyn, we seek to effect real change in the lives of those impacted by sexual assault, as well as society as a whole, by strategically bringing civil proceedings that shine a spotlight on the individuals and entities that condone, cover-up, or turn a blind eye.

You deserve to have a compassionate advocate who believes you and will navigate the damages you may have suffered as a result of your assault. We can’t promise you’ll receive a specific amount of money, but we can guarantee the best legal remedy from our team of experienced California sexual assault attorneys. Contact us today, or call +1 (415) 800-0590 to set up a free initial consultation.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this blog or on this website should be construed as legal advice from Lewis & Llewellyn LLP. Neither your receipt of information from this website, nor your use of this website to contact Lewis & Llewellyn LLP creates an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm or any of its lawyers. No reader of this website should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this website without seeking the appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction.