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How to Calculate Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse in California

How to Calculate Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse in California

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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.

As a childhood sexual abuse survivor, your healthcare costs are 16% higher overall than the average American. Statistically, you are more likely to get by using drugs or alcohol, struggle with anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. So-called “sleeper effects” of childhood sexual abuse include obesity, obsessions and compulsions, intimate partner abuse, re-victimization, and post-traumatic stress responses.

The long-term effects of sexual abuse are enduring and not always clearly recognizable, and the circumstances surrounding the abuse may be complicated, but learning how to calculate the statute of limitations is an important first step on the path to legal resolution.

Why is there a Statute of Limitations in Child Sex Abuse Cases?

The statute of limitations is a deadline for pressing criminal charges or filing a civil lawsuit seeking compensation. It’s important to keep in mind that criminal and civil proceedings are treated differently by law and different timelines apply. But in either case, statute of limitation deadlines are put into place to ensure a case goes to trial with the best evidence possible. Memories fade with time, evidence gets lost, and witnesses move away or die—affecting the integrity of the evidence.

But when you’re the victim, the statute of limitations can be a hindrance to seeking reparation. It can take years for child sex abuse survivors to summon the courage to come forward against their abusers, especially if these individuals were well known to them. In some instances, they may have been too young to fully comprehend what is happening to them at the time, or they may have suppressed what happened until painful memories, nightmares, and debilitating fears take hold well into adulthood.

More recently, the local Catholic Church scandals and Bill Cosby rape allegations have put pressure on California lawmakers to act in extending the deadlines for victims to press charges or sue—at least in criminal court. But figuring out how to calculate the statute of limitations California has put in place can be a challenge.

How To Determine Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse in California

There are exceptions to every rule—so it’s best to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable attorney, but here are some basic questions and answers to guide you through the statute of limitations for child sex abuse in California, as of 2018.

  • Are you 26 years old or younger, and did your abuse occur before January 1, 2015?
    Section 340 of the Civil Code
    sets the legal deadline for filing civil charges of child sex abuse to “within 8 years of the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority (age 26) or within 3 years of the date the plaintiff discovers that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by sexual abuse, whichever occurs later.”
  • Are you pursuing criminal child molestation or rape charges?
    As of January 1, 2017, SB 813 went into effect in California, ending the 10-year statute of limitations on pursuing criminal charges for rape and child molestation cases. The state is in league with 16 others that have abolished the deadline without preconditions.

What To Do If You Fall Outside the Standard Statute of Limitations

The slew of legislation passed in recent years gives hope and voice to the many survivors of childhood sexual assault who are living with the emotional trauma and side effects today. Even if you think your statute of limitations has expired, a skilled legal team can often find loopholes or exceptions to the general rule that will enable your case to be settled or heard by a jury.

Some of these exceptions may include:

  • When did you discover the abuse or its cause?
    In California, the “discovery rule” states that the statute of limitation clock should be delayed until the plaintiff is aware of their injury and its cause. In such situations, the statute of limitation will be paused or “tolled” until such times as a reasonable investigation would have revealed the factual basis for the asserted legal claims.
  • Did the defendant wrongfully prevent the reporting of the abuse?
    Courts in California have found that in some circumstances, unconscionable conduct by the perpetrator (or authority figures that should have stopped the abuse) prevents the timely filing of a claim. For example, threats by the perpetrator can discourage a victim from reporting the abuse, and in these cases, the court has placed a toll on the statute of limitations.
  • Did you file a formal criminal complaint?
    Once reported to the police, the District Attorney has up to one year to decide whether to criminally prosecute the perpetrator, regardless of when the abuse occurred, according toPC 288.
    However, plaintiffs may appeal for a “tolling” (temporary hold or permanent waive) of the statute of limitations in some circumstances, such as: the defendant evading a warrant, unresponsive District Attorney, or other events that may have delayed your filing.
  • Did you report the crime to anyone?
    While the law establishes a timeline once they’re involved, whether the same rules apply to school counselors, hospital staff, or others tasked with reporting procedures is a subject of debate.
  • Was child pornography involved?
    In the state of California,Penal Code 801.2 places a 10-year statute of limitations on cases of child pornography, but most cases of child pornography involve images or electronic equipment transferred across state lines and are, therefore, prosecuted at the federal level, for which there is no statute of limitations.
  • Is there DNA evidence?
    If so, the state may toll the statute of limitations until a match is found through CODIS, the national DNA database. In California,
    Penal Code Section 803(g) says if an offense was committed after January 1, 2001, and DNA was collected and analyzed within two years of the offense, then a criminal complaint can be filed within one year of establishing the identity of the suspect—even past the statute of limitations.
  • Did your injuries incapacitate you?
    If you were hospitalized or otherwise so severely injured you could not have possibly reported the alleged offense through the proper channels, your statute of limitations may begin when you were finally able to contact officials.
  • Are you filing against an entity, rather than an individual?
    In some cases, it makes sense to prosecute the institutions that aid and abet child molestation. Punishing churches, day care centers, schools, camps, and other organizations is designed to send a message that turning a blind eye to child sexual abuse is not tolerated in our society. Depending on when the abuse occurred and who is involved, you may have as little as
    six months to a year to file these claims.

It’s Never Too Late To Be Heard

As you can see, there are many exceptions to the statute of limitations, so it’s always in your best interest to speak with an attorney or law enforcement as soon as possible, even if you worry you’ve missed your opportunity to speak up about abuse that occurred in the past.

It’s encouraging to see statute of limitations laws changing in favor of the plaintiffs. As California State Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) said in a statement, California’s SB 813 law “tells every rape and sexual assault victim in California that they matter and that, regardless of when they are ready to come forward, they will always have an opportunity to seek justice in a court of law. Rapists should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired. There must never be an expiration date on justice!”

Speaking with an attorney during a free, confidential consultation can help you decide how best to pursue justice and emotional healing. Lewis & Llewellyn have a long track record of successful settlements and verdicts in child sex abuse cases with recoveries well up into the millions of dollars. No lawsuit can erase the pain and suffering you continue to endure, but taking a stand can ensure others will not fall victim to the same predators.  Call +1 (415) 800-0590 or contact us today. 


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.

New Rights for Victims of Sexual Assault on California Campuses

New Rights for Victims of Sexual Assault on California Campuses

By Blog

California’s students have a right to attend college free from sexual harassment and assault, according to both state and federal law.

Despite these protections, there is an obvious conflict of interest for university administrators who are also tasked with simultaneously upholding a favorable reputation for their institutions. Unfortunately, some victims find that, through many loopholes and technicalities, their rights are eroding. Many are faced with an uphill battle to prosecute the abusers and protect their privacy.

Sexual assault on California college campuses remains an alarmingly common crime, mirroring the unacceptably-high rates of sex abuse nationwide, but knowing your rights is an important first step toward better advocacy and safeguards in the future.

Many California Institutions Turn A Blind Eye To Sexual Assault

California is no stranger to institution-abetted sexual abuse. As just one example, ABC News has reported, 51 women have now come forward testifying against Dr. George Tyndall, the University of California’s sole full-time gynecologist for a 30-year period from the late 1980s through his quiet retirement in 2017. A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Supreme Court in July 2018 contends the campus doctor made inappropriate comments and molested women during pelvic exams.

The lawsuit goes on to accuse USC officials of ignoring complaints made by students and nurses for years and allowing the abuse to continue for decades. “I think the hardest part is knowing that it’s gone on for so long, and knowing that they let it happen,” one of the victims involved in the lawsuit told reporters. “For me, it’s never really been about me; it’s about the fact that it happened to so many other people.” Former USC President C.L. Max Nikias resigned over the scandal, but there is no word yet whether an arrest will be made or settlements will be paid.

Sadly, this case is not unique. The national statistics for sexual assault on college campuses are as shocking as they are horrific.  

  • Though it looked at just two major colleges, the Campus Sexual Assault Study found that 1 in 5 women were the victims of sexual assault while attending college.
  • Similarly, a survey of 2,000 college women conducted by the Medical University of South Carolina found 11.5% of women had been forcibly raped, drugged and raped, or raped while incapacitated.
  • The National Institute of Justice’s 1996 Sexual Victimization of College Women survey concluded that between one-fifth and one-quarter of women were victims of sexual assault over the average five-year course of a college career.
  • A reputable survey by the Centers for Disease Control looked at women across all age groups and found nearly 1 in 5 women are raped in their lifetime, and 44.6% experience non-rape sexual violence.

New Rights for Victims of Sex Assault on California Campuses

Sometimes it feels like you are alone, but California legislators have been busy pushing for legislation that will make it easier for sexual assault cases to come to light and be addressed quickly, affording victims greater safety, more resources for recovery, and the opportunity to be believed. While it may seem like some of the latest rights are common sense practices, they are easily overlooked by busy college administrators if they’re not pushed to the forefront of the agenda by tying such measures to government grant money or legal exposure.

SB 967 (2015) – Right to be believed based on a preponderance of the evidence

Prior to 2015, college student victims had to prove “beyond a shadow of doubt” that they did not consent to sexual interactions. Without a clear and forceful “NO,” it was hard for survivors of sexual assault to prove the acts were unwanted. Students were left on their own to seek legal help and counseling, and many did not.

Having an affirmative consent standard changes the dynamic in favor of the survivor. Now, when considering the evidence, campuses must decide if it is “more likely than not” (greater than 50% likelihood) that the victim did not consent to the sexual interaction. Instead of “No means No,” the message has shifted to “Yes means Yes.” The bill defined consent as “affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.”

Fixing a broken system of investigating sexual assault takes a comprehensive approach with trained counselors to support survivors, thorough examinations, and timely hearings. Supporters of the law say SB 967 mirrors Title IX by requiring your school to refer you to health, counseling, advocacy, and legal services in the community, and by implementing prevention programs and survivor-centered response policies.

AB 2654 (2016) – Right to be informed of official school policies on sex assault

Before AB 2654, students were left in the dark about where to turn for help after a sexual assault on campus. Even if you found out how to lodge a complaint, you were likely to be left in limbo for an extended period of time, wondering whether anyone was investigating your case.

In July 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2654 into law, requiring each public or private post-secondary education institution in California to have “a written policy on sexual harassment, including information on the complaint process and the timeline for the complaint process, which shall be available on its Internet Web site.” In other words, colleges are now legally responsible for making it easy for students to understand the school’s policy on sexual assault as well as how quickly an investigation must be handled.

Colleges must also include available resources and remedies for on- and off-campus incidents in written policy, and provide you a copy, as well as faculty and staff members. The policy must appear in orientation materials and in all written statements of other college policies.

AB 1896 (2018) – Right to confidentiality when speaking with college counselors

While California state law (section 1035 of the Evidence Code) has always protected confidentiality in hospitals, clinics, and rape crisis centers, the previous definition did not include college counselors. Now, these conversations will be afforded the same legal protections from police scrutiny.

Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) spearheaded a bill to protect the confidentiality of communications between sexual assault victims and college campus crisis counselors.

“With increased attention to the alarming issue of sexual assault occurring at college campuses, there is a strong need for sexual assault counselors to provide a safe environment and appropriate assistance for survivors,” Cervantes explained. As soon as this bill goes into effect, victims of sexual assault can speak freely with to their college crisis counselor without fear of scrutiny by law enforcement officials.

AB 1896 was unanimously approved by the state senate and was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on July 18, 2018. The provisions of the bill will go into effect on January 1, 2019.

California Presses On Toward Sexual Assault Victims’ Protections

California continues to lead the nation in expanding resources for survivors of sexual assault on campus. Last year, the UC system implemented sweeping plans to add mandatory education training for staff, provide confidential advocates for victims, and ramp up staff to handle Title IX cases. Funding increased from $67,000 in 2013 to $1.6 million in 2016-2017.

Adding a Title IX compliance officer and providing better funding for Title IX cases are excellent steps toward reducing—and working toward preventing—sexual assault on California campuses. However, survivors of sexual assault should know their rights: to be believed, to be informed, and to have their conversations with crisis counselors be protected.

At Lewis & Llewellyn, we hope California institutions will continue on the right path, despite the threat of federal rollbacks that would protect abusers, and that California continues to implement legislation that seeks to ensure sexual assault cases are quickly resolved fairly and expeditiously, while providing more resources to survivors of abuse to aid in their recovery.

If you have been a victim of sexual assault on any of California’s college campuses, contact us or call +1 (415) 800-0590 to discuss your rights and civil litigation options.

 


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.

Lewis & Llewellyn - How to File a Cilvil Law Suit for Child Sexual Abuse in California

How to File a Civil Lawsuit for Child Sexual Abuse in California

By Blog
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.

 

Upon the discovery of potential child sexual abuse, there are several paths you may choose to take in your pursuit of justice and healing. Should you confront the perpetrator? File a police report? Call an attorney?

Filing a civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse in California is one possibility you might explore for holding the abuser accountable and recovering compensation related to your case. If you’re considering filing a lawsuit, this guide will cover who is eligible to file a civil lawsuit, who and what entities can be named as a defendant, the potential benefits of a civil action, what you need to know to file a civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse in California, and why you may want to work with experienced civil litigators rather than go it alone.

Who Can File a Civil Suit for Child Sexual Abuse in the State of California?

Child sexual abuse is defined in California as any sexual act involving a minor under 18 years of age. The child may file a civil lawsuit with the help of a “next friend” or “guardian ad litem,” such as a parent, older sibling, or other legal guardian. If you are a caregiver of a child affected by sexual abuse, you may also be able to sue for the emotional distress caused by knowing a child entrusted to your care was abused.

However, if you are an adult who was victimized as a child, the full impact of the sexual abuse may not become apparent until years later when you have trouble concentrating in school or maintaining employment due to depression, anxiety, and other latent emotional consequences. There are even cases where an individual’s discovery of abuse does not come to light until many years after the fact.

If you are an adult survivor who was sexually abused as a child, the State of California generally allows you to bring civil lawsuits until you are 26 years of age, or within three years of discovering physical harm or a psychological injury caused by sexual abuse, whichever period is later. There are, however, many exceptions to this rule, and there are numerous benefits to filing a lawsuit sooner rather than later. If you believe your case may be approaching (or has passed) the statute of limitations, reach out immediately to an legal team that specializes in navigating complex statute of limitation issues.

Who Can Be Named as a Defendant in Civil Cases Involving Child Sexual Abuse in California?

The list of defendants in civil sexual abuse lawsuits can go well beyond the perpetrator of the abuse. Molestation is often aided and abetted by institutions who turn a blind eye to complaints of inappropriate conduct. While the ultimate objective of any civil lawsuit is financial compensation, many find that holding institutions accountable for wrongdoing is a key step in the healing process as well.

In cases where the perpetrator is deceased or has no assets, seeking compensation from third parties that contributed to or condoned the abuse can provide an alternative route to just compensation. Often most importantly for victims, though, lawsuits brought at the organizational level can help enact meaningful institution-wide change to stop sexual abuse from happening again to another child.

Civil lawsuit defendants may include:

  • Children’s organizations like the Scouts or Big Brother programs
  • Children’s Aid Society for abuse committed by a foster parent
  • Public and private schools for offenses committed by teachers, coaches, or staff members
  • Daycare centers and owners for abuse committed by daycare workers
  • Religious institutions for assaults by priests, nuns, ministers, or other clergy members
  • Corporations for employing known sex offenders or ignoring complaints

The Differences Between Criminal and Civil Lawsuits Involving Child Sexual Abuse

In California, all criminal cases brought by the state district attorney, or D.A., are based on violations of the California penal code. The D.A. controls the proceedings, while you and/or the abuse victim serve primarily as witnesses.

Upon obtaining a plea bargain or a guilty verdict, a successful criminal case can result in a combination of the following:

  • A prison sentence
  • Fines, or or a court-ordered payment to be made by the convicted offender.
  • Mandatory counseling
  • Probation
  • Registry on the sexual offender list

California law, however, does not require that compensation be paid to the victims of sexual abuse upon a criminal conviction. With a civil lawsuit, a complaint is filed on your own behalf, or the behalf of your child, in civil court. The jury may be asked to award damages based on:

  • Medical expenses
  • Therapy costs
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

In the case of a civil lawsuit stemming from child sexual abuse, you will likely need to make critical decisions about whether or not to file a lawsuit, who to name as a defendant, whether or not to accept a settlement offer, and/or pursue a trial. If found liable, the abuser and enablers may be ordered by the court to pay monetary damages to compensate the victim and punish the perpetrator, as well as potentially the perpetrator’s employer or other third parties who knew about the abuse and turned a blind eye.

Why a Civil Lawsuit May Be a Good Option

Perhaps you and your family have already been down the criminal charges road. You’ve reported the abuse to the police only to find that the prosecution went nowhere. You’ve contacted the D.A. and cooperated with a police investigation, only to be blindsided when the state accepts a plea bargain for a lesser charge or decides not to pursue the charges at all. Discouraging as the legal system may sometimes be, choosing to pursue a civil lawsuit can still result in an award of just compensation.

One of the advantages of contacting an attorney to help you file a civil lawsuit is that the standard of proof is lower than it is for a criminal prosecution. You need only establish abuser and third party liability by a preponderance—or majority—of the evidence. Simply put, in a civil case, the judge and at least 9 out of the 12 jury members must agree that it’s at least 51% likely the alleged crime was committed, as opposed to convincing all 12 jurors the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, as with a criminal case.

How to File Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Paperwork in California

To file a lawsuit for child sexual abuse in California, you will need several documents:

  • A civil case cover sheet: This document briefly outlines the names, addresses, and phone numbers of both parties; the general nature of the case; and the type and amount threshold of damages sought.
  • A legal complaint: This document describes the parties to the lawsuit, alleged offenses committed, the harm suffered, and the relief that is sought.
  • A summons notice to serve the defendant(s): The summons lets the other party know a lawsuit is pending and sets a timeline of 30 days within which a formal response must be provided. If the defendant does not respond, you may seek a default judgment.

As a civil case progresses, additional paperwork will be required, however, these three are the key pieces you need to start your lawsuit. The judicial council forms can be found on the California Courts website or at your attorney’s office. They must be completed in full and filed with a clerk at one of the Superior Courts in California, either in person or by mail. Filing fees may be required unless you are working with an advocate who pays the upfront expenses associated with your case.

Remember, at this stage, there is no burden of proof required. You need only allege facts that, if proven, would entitle you to legal relief.

Should You Consider Finding a Lawyer to Help with Your Civil Lawsuit?

It can be challenging to decide whether to press criminal charges or file a civil suit. If you’ve already decided, there is still a legal maze of paperwork in figuring out how to file a civil lawsuit for child sex abuse in California. Whether you are an adult victim or the parent of a victimized child, the aftermath of child sexual abuse may take you through the full gamut of emotions—but you don’t have to go through it alone. An experienced legal representative can act as your advocate, providing counsel and empowering control over the course of the proceedings.

Working with a California attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases is about more than legal advice and paperwork. Lawyers can also point you in the right direction for seeking medical attention, connecting with crisis social workers and counselors, dealing with insurance issues, and getting your life back in the wake of disturbing events that were beyond your control.

Whether you’re advocating for your child or are an adult seeking closure for abuse suffered years ago, Lewis & Llewellyn has the experience, grit, and compassion to help you obtain justice and maximum compensation. Contact our team online for support and guidance to see you through this emotional time, or call (415) 800-0590 to schedule an appointment with an advocate today.

 


 

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.

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