Category

Blog

how to file a sexual harassment claim in California

How to File a Sexual Harassment Claim in California

By Blog

In some cases, sexual harassment is obvious and may involve an overt action, threat, or reprisal. In other instances, sexual harassment is subtle and indirect. In one survey conducted in January 2018, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime. 

If you’re wondering how to file a sexual harassment claim in California, the experienced attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn can help. Here, we discuss the differences between sexual abuse, assault, and harassment, laws against sexual harassment, how to file a lawsuit, and how victims can seek help.  

The Difference Between Sexual Harassment, Assault, and Abuse

Sexual contact is something that should remain private, outside the public sphere. When appropriate boundaries are breached, they may fall under:

  • Sexual Harassment: Comments, exposure, quid pro quo, unequal treatment based on sex, or retaliation, generally of a non-physical nature.
  • Sexual Assault: When you are forced to engage in involuntary sexual acts through violence, threats, coercion, or incapacitation (which is a crime under CA PC 243.3). 
  • Sexual Abuse: When you have been repeatedly forced to engage in sexual acts against your will (which is also a crime in California).

If you have experienced sexual assault or abuse, the State California Department of Justice advises that you call 911, report incidents to local police, and seek mental health care through a crisis hotline. In addition to possibly pressing charges by filing a police report and having the case forwarded to the District Attorney’s office, you may file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and/or your employer for enabling the perpetrator.

California Sexual Harassment Law

Much of the laws in California that apply to sexual harassment have to deal with incidents that may occur in the workplace. Sexual harassment is expressly prohibited in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (applying to employers with 15 or more employees) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (applying to all California public, private, state, and local employers).

According to California’s law, it is illegal to “harass an employee… because of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status.”

Both laws recognize two types of sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • Quid Pro Quo: Harassment occurs when hiring, continued employment, promotion, or benefits are contingent upon submission to sexual advances from a superior.
  • Hostile Work Environment: Harassment occurs when sexual advances are so pervasive or severe that it interferes with work or creates an intimidating environment.

Severity, frequency, and context all factor into whether or a sexual harassment claim is valid. A single act can be severe enough to be unlawful, while less severe actions can be unlawful if they are continuous in nature. A valid sexual claim involves unreasonable behavior that causes emotional distress that affects a person’s ability to work and feel well.

What is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Individuals and employers may be held liable for sexual harassment in the workplace for:

  • derogatory jokes or slurs
  • unwanted touching
  • indecent propositions
  • discussion of sexual acts
  • sharing of pornographic material
  • indecent exposure
  • unequal treatment due to sex-based discrimination
  • threats to employment status for failure to comply with a sexual favor
  • impeding or blocking free movements
  • loss of employment after complaining about sexual advances
  • persistent leering

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment in California workplaces. Under Title 2 of the California Code of Regulations, employers have “an affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct discriminatory and harassing conduct.”

What Must Employers Do to Prevent or Address Sexual Harassment?

Employers must:

  • provide every employee with a copy of DFEH’s Brochure 185
  • have a written policy covering harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention
  • provide every employee with a harassment policy copy to be signed and returned 
  • handle complaints confidentially and promptly 
  • train superiors to respond to complaints of harassment 
  • respond to the complainant 
  • take appropriate remedial action when harassment has been determined
  • document the investigation and track the progress of the complaint 
  • offer a reporting option to someone other than a direct supervisor 
  • provide supervisors with sexual harassment training every two years (for employers with 50 or more employees)

Failure to abide by any of these provisions does not automatically make an employer “guilty of creating a hostile work environment” or “guilty of sexual harassment,” though it can hurt an employer’s defense in court.

How to File a Sexual Harassment Claim in California

How to file a sexual harassment claim in California depends upon your employer’s policy. Follow the reporting procedures specified in your employer’s policy. Often, you will be required to report the incident(s) in writing, rather than by email. Be sure to maintain copies of everything sent, as well as the dates and responses you receive back. Make note of any witnesses who can corroborate your accusations.    

If your employer fails to promptly resolve the situation, you may then file a complaint with the DFEH (within one year of the last incident) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (within six months of the last incident). Extensions may apply, but it is always best to start a claim sooner rather than later.

Help for Sexual Harassment Victims

In California, victims of sexual harassment in the workplace have a right to pursue monetary damages through civil court to compensate for losses. This means you may receive finances to pay for counseling services to cope with what has happened. Prior to filing a lawsuit, you must first file an administrative complaint with the DFEH or EEOC to obtain a “right to sue” notice. You have a right to sue if the DFEH or EEOC does not bring civil action within 150 days of your complaint filing. They must notify you that you can request a right to sue and pursue legal action through the courts on your own.

California holds perpetrators of harassment personally liable for damages to victims. Beyond that, employers can be held strictly liable for supervisors or employers who commit harassment. When a supervisor is harassing subordinates, it can be reasoned the employer should have known about the harassment. Employers can be held liable for damages if they knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Contact an Experienced Sexual Violence Attorney

When considering how to file a sexual harassment claim in California, consulting with a lawyer specializing in cases of sexual violence will ensure you take the correct steps within the appropriate deadlines. Due to the complex nature of sexual harassment and sexual abuse and discrimination laws, you should seek to retain an attorney who has substantial experience filing, litigating, and trying this unique kind of personal injury case. The right lawyer will be devoted to the cause of justice for sexual abuse survivors, and she or he will serve as your advocate and confidant throughout the litigation process. 

 

At Lewis & Llewellyn, we seek to effect real change in the lives of those impacted by sexual violence, 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 to sexual abuse and harassment.You deserve to have a compassionate advocate who believes you and will navigate these complex systems on your behalf. 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.

life after sexual abuse

Life After Sexual Abuse: Seeking Justice Can Be a Step Toward Recovery

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.

 

There is no set timetable for recovery after sexual assault or abuse. Many survivors find solace in speaking with therapists while others may decide to not come forward at all. In fact, it is believed that less than 35 percent of all sexual assaults are ever reported to law enforcement. Regardless of how you decide to deal with what has happened to you, it is important to understand the resources available.  

Life after sexual abuse can come with its share of challenges but seeking justice can be a step toward recovery for survivors. If you’ve found yourself struggling to cope after what has happened, it’s never too late to consider new ways to recover from sexual abuse. It’s natural to be hesitant to talk about what happened but speaking with a trusted civil attorney and filing a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse can help you obtain the justice you deserve.   

Life After Sexual Abuse: Speaking Up

Approximately seven in 10 sexual assault victims never report it, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s common for victims to blame themselves or try to convince themselves it was “no big deal.” Some survivors may be afraid to speak out against a family member or member of the community—or they do, but it’s downplayed. Shame silences, but the feelings remain years later. Some survivors have found that speaking out about the abuse has had a cathartic effect.

“It is not so much that it feels good to articulate an experience,” Kaethe Morris of Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation explained to NBC, as it is simply being treated with dignity and “regaining a sense of control and ownership” that allows healing to take place.

“Helping others is helping myself,” one survivor explained. “I refuse to let someone have my power. I refuse to let someone control me.” 

Another way to deal with life after sexual abuse can be to file a civil lawsuit. It has the potential to offer financial help for sexually abused victims.  

Life After Sexual Abuse: Filing a Civil Lawsuit

Following sexual abuse, many survivors find that they are left with financial burdens. They may have to suddenly relocate or quit employment due to safety concerns. They may be unable to concentrate at work or maintain employment. They may suffer from a litany of adverse health effects or require mental health counseling services to cope. The State of California allows survivors to collect money for intangible losses for emotional pain and suffering.

Compensation awarded in a civil lawsuit can be used to cover medical expenses, mental health counseling, wage losses, and other out-of-pocket costs related to the sexual abuse. You may choose to sue the perpetrator or another entity that enabled the abuse—such as a school, youth organization, church diocese, or employer. 

In addition to bringing you financial recompense for your suffering, filing a civil lawsuit can help:

  • break the silence of bottled-up feelings, confusion, bitterness, fear, and depression
  • validate your feelings with the support of a caring legal professional who believes you
  • hold liable parties accountable for what happened to prevent similar crimes 
  • empower you in knowing you’re standing up for yourself and taking corrective action

What If the Sexual Abuse Happened Years Ago?

If the most recent instance of sexual abuse occurred within the past three years or if you were a minor when the abuse occurred and are now under the age of 28, you may request money through the state’s victim compensation fund, which is paid for by convicted perpetrators and grant money from the federal government. You may receive up to $70,000 to cover wage losses, medical expenses, prescriptions, mental health counseling services, job retraining, safety-related home modifications, relocation, and attorney fees. To be eligible, you must have reported the crime to law enforcement “within a reasonable period of time” and cooperate with the investigation. You may need to provide medical bills to support your claim. 

Generally, California residents may seek economic redress in civil court for childhood sex abuse up until age 26 (for incidents before January 1, 2015) or until age 40 (for incidents taking place after January 1, 2015). If you’ve missed these deadlines, you may still be able to press criminal charges. Also, it’s worth discussing your claim with a sexual abuse attorney, as exceptions may apply. For instance, the rule of delayed discovery allows plaintiffs to file a civil lawsuit “within three years of the discovery that a current psychological injury or illness is linked to prior abuse.”

Work With an Experienced Sexual Abuse Attorney

Whether you’re suffering from the acute or long-term effects of sexual abuse, San Francisco Bay Area attorneys can offer you a wealth of resources when it comes to exploring the ways to recover in life after sexual abuse.   

 

The attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn in San Francisco, California have the expertise and resources to win tough sexual abuse cases. Our core objectives are to help you find hope, healing, and justice. You can’t undo what has happened, but you can empower yourself with choices and do all you can to determine the path ahead. We have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our clients and we can help you, too. Contact our team online for support and guidance to see you through this emotional time, or call +1 (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.

transgender sexual assault

Transgender Teens at Higher Risk for Sexual Assault, Study Says

By Blog

Transgender and gender non-binary teens are at a greater risk of sexual assault in schools that prevent them from using bathrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, according to one study. Of the students (ages 13-17) surveyed, 25.9% reported being victims of sexual assault. For non-transgender teens, the rates of sexual assault were reported as 15% for girls and 4% for boys. Transgender or gender non-binary teens who faced restrictive access to restrooms or locker rooms reportedly experienced a 36% rate of sexual assault.

Many wonder if the bathroom and locker room policies set forth by the schools in which these students attended may have played a role in the sexual violence that took place. If the schools didn’t take the proper measures to ensure the safety of their students, there may be grounds to file a civil lawsuit. In this article, we discuss statistics and cases of transgender sexual assault in schools around the country, laws regarding sexual assault, and how to seek justice if you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault.      

Statistics Regarding Transgender Sexual Assault and Public Restrooms

Statistics indicate that many within the transgender community avoid public restrooms for various reasons.  

  • Eight percent of transgender people say avoidance of public restrooms caused UTIs or kidney issues.
  • Twelve percent of transgender youth are sexually assaulted by peers or staff in a K-12 setting.
  • Thirty-two percent of transgender people surveyed said they limited food or drink to avoid using a restroom.
  • Seventy percent of transgender students have avoided the bathrooms at school due to harassment.

High Profile Cases of Transgender Sexual Assault Spark Debate

Several high-profile cases highlight the fact that bathroom use policies are a serious concern among the transgender community in schools across the country:

  • It took four years, but in 2018, a federal court ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, who sued his Virginia school district for preventing him from using the boys’ bathroom. Later that year, federal courts ruled in favor of trans students in Florida and Pennsylvania who were prohibited from using restrooms consistent with their identities.
  • In 2016, North Carolina became the first state to pass a “bathroom bill,” expressly banning people from using public bathrooms that didn’t correspond with the biological sex listed on their birth certificates. North Carolina’s law was repealed a year later.
  • In 2016, 19 other states considered bathroom bill laws. In over half the states, schools were the primary targets for restriction.
  • California became the first and only state to give students in grades K-12 the right to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their affirmed gender identity. In a separate bill, teens and adults were also allowed to put the gender they most identify with or non-binary on their driver’s licenses.

Laws Against Sexual Assault in Schools

Several laws outline a school’s responsibility to students, regardless of their gender identity:

  • Under Title IX, school systems are required to conduct an investigation if a student reports sexual assault. Since 1972, this law has safeguarded students from discrimination based on sexual identity, among other things, while engaging in educational or extracurricular pursuits funded by the federal government. Schools risk losing federal funding if they fail to take action to protect students from further harassment.
  • Further, California has a mandatory reporter law that requires school personnel to report suspected or known cases of sexual harassment directly to law enforcement.
  • Assembly Bill 1732 requires all public restrooms to add a gender-neutral toilet or urinal.
  • Assembly Bill 2119 gives transgender foster youth access to expanded medical services like counseling, hormone therapy, and surgery. In 2018, California was the only state to provide such legislation.

Can I Sue a School District for Transgender Sexual Assault?

In the aftermath of sexual assault, you may be wondering, “Can I sue my school district for sexual assault that could’ve been prevented if my gender identity had been honored?” The short answer is: YES!

The reasons to take legal action go far beyond the bathroom doors. There have been cases where teachers repeatedly interrogated transgender students or even tried to “convert” them. 

There are several avenues you can pursue, depending on the facts surrounding your case. You can file a police report and pursue criminal charges against the individual attacker. If there is credible evidence, the district attorney may seek jail time, probation, or sex offender registry for the assailant.

In addition, you may contact a civil attorney to inquire about filing a civil lawsuit seeking financial redress for losses you may have suffered. These losses may include medical expenses, counseling, medication, lost wages, mental anguish, as well as pain and suffering.

The scope of liability extends to include:

  • the individual perpetrator
  • the school itself
  • the school district
  • staff members accused of discrimination
  • mandatory reporters who knew or should have known of the assault, but failed to act

Do not be discouraged if your criminal case fails. With a broadened scope of liability and a lower standard of evidence in civil court, you can still seek justice.

Contact an Experienced Sexual Assault Attorney

Contacting a civil attorney is another option which can hold third parties such as schools and school districts liable for failing to protect you or your loved one. Many civil lawsuits result in compensation to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional pain. 

If you or a transgender loved one have been a victim of transgender sexual assault, you may be hesitant to open up to a complete stranger about the incident but the civil attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn are passionate and experienced trial attorneys who have represented both adult and child victims of sexual assault across the nation. Contact us or call +1 (415) 800-0590 for a free, confidential, no-obligation case review.

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.

repressed memories of sexual abuse

Recovering Repressed Memories of Sexual Abuse and Seeking Justice

By Blog

While California weighs the idea of extending the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse survivors to come forward in seeking justice, more research supports the idea that adults can accurately recall traumatic events repressed from their childhood—specifically repressed memories of sexual abuse. People can forget details or delay coming forward, especially if the abuse was severe, but the passage of time shouldn’t deny a person’s right to file a lawsuit for redress.

Repressed memories of sexual abuse have been a controversial topic for decades, which might cause you to question the validity of the thoughts and feelings you’ve been having. Here we discuss causes for loss of memory associated with sexual abuse, how to recover repressed memories of sexual abuse, and the role these memories play in the courtroom.

What Leads to Repressed Memories of Sexual Abuse?

There have been a variety of studies and explanations regarding why survivors of sexual abuse may experience repressed memories.

  • Encoding Errors: Richard J. McNally, a Harvard professor of psychology, explains, “Some children do not understand their childhood sexual abuse when it occurs, and do not experience terror. Years later, they recall the experience, and understanding it as abuse, suffer intense distress.”
  • Physical Trauma: Another theory is that amnesia may arise due to physical trauma. If childhood sexual abuse involved the use of violence, drugs, or physical pain, the brain may have been rendered incapable of storing the event. One study of 38 children who saw a playmate struck and killed by lightning did not recall the event at all because they, too, had been hit with side flashes of lightning and knocked unconscious.
  • Severe Psychological Stress: According to research published in Child Abuse & Neglect, learning and memory deteriorate under conditions of extreme stress and arousal. “These memory deficits are due to disturbances in hippocampal activation and arousal, and the corticosteroid secretion which can suppress neural activity associated with learning and memory and induce hippocampal atrophy.” Trauma victims are particularly at risk for this type of memory loss if there is a past history of repetitive emotional trauma, neurological injury of the temporal lobe and hippocampus, a young age, or higher baseline levels of cortisol. 
  • Childhood Amnesia: Forgetfulness naturally occurs along with neurocognitive pruning, changes in language, and brain maturation. Older children and adults frequently fail to recall events encoded during the preschool years and earlier.

Triggers for Repressed Memories of Sexual Abuse

Sexual contact can stimulate all five senses. Later contact with a similar stimulus may jog the memory, inviting an intrusive recollection of traumatic memories which is often diagnosed as PTSD. 

Oftentimes, traumatic memories are triggered during ordinary activities such as:

  • watching TV or movies
  • reading about someone else’s trauma
  • experiencing a disturbing event in the present
  • recollecting childhood stories with family members or friends
  • encountering the abuser or the location where the abuse occurred
  • major life changes like moving, marriage, divorce, pregnancy, or the birth of a child

How to Recover Repressed Memories of Sexual Abuse

You may wonder whether it’s worth digging into the furthest recesses of your mind. The American Psychological Association summarizes it this way: “The reality is that most people who are victims of childhood sexual abuse remember all or part of what happened to them. Also true is the fact that thousands of people see a psychologist every day and are helped to deal with such things as issues of personal adjustment, depression, substance abuse, and problems in relationships.”

The best way to recover repressed memories of sexual abuse is to work with a trusted therapist. A licensed mental health practitioner can help you revisit past trauma in a safe environment and work through any conflicts that may arise. Therapy can help you heal and can help you if you decide to seek compensation after being sexually abused. By filing a civil lawsuit, you can work with an attorney to recover financial compensation for medical expenses, counseling costs, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering. Furthermore, a lawsuit stops the cycle of abuse by holding individuals and third parties accountable. 

Are Repressed Memories Admissible in Court?

The most common challenge to the emergence of latent memories hinges on the amount of time that has elapsed since the trauma took place. Under current legislation in California, childhood sexual abuse survivors have eight years after the age of majority to file a civil lawsuit or within three years of the date of discovering that the psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by sexual abuse.

Most courts recognize the potential for repressed memories to come to light into adulthood. However, the use of credible, scientific expert testimony becomes paramount to the legal decision to allow repressed recollections at trial. 

When repressed memories come to light during a therapy session, increased scrutiny may be applied. In the past, courts have examined four factors with regard to a theory or technique used by the expert: whether it is testable; whether it has been subjected to peer review; whether it has reported or known error rates; and whether it is generally accepted in the scientific community. Though evidentiary standards can be high, working with experienced sexual abuse attorneys can help you obtain justice.  

Work With an Experienced Attorney to Obtain a Recovery

There are several reasons why survivors may delay coming forward—experiencing repressed memories of sexual abuse can be one of those reasons. No matter when you or your loved one decides to come forward about the sexual abuse they’ve suffered, there is always someone willing to listen.  

Speaking with an attorney during a free, confidential consultation can help you decide how best to pursue justice and emotional healing. Lewis & Llewellyn has a long track record of successful settlements and verdicts in cases of sexual abuse with recoveries well into the millions of dollars. No amount of compensation can erase the pain and suffering you’ve endured, but taking a stand and filing a lawsuit can help 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.

compensation after being sexually assaulted

How to Recover Compensation After Being Sexually Assaulted

By Blog

In 2018, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault published a report that found the annual cost of sexual assault in California to be $140 billion. That amount includes the tangible costs of sexual violence in California such as medical and mental health care, prevention, investigation, sanctioning, treatment, and victim services. It also includes intangible costs such as lost quality of life and lost work productivity. When considering these costs on an individual level, it’s not uncommon for survivors of sexual assault to want to seek compensation after being sexually assaulted. Seeking litigation in civil court is one way to obtain a recovery. 

Measuring Harm in Cases of Sexual Assault

The harm suffered as a result of sexual assault is oftentimes more difficult to measure as compared to other personal injury cases. It helps to seek care in the immediate aftermath of sexual assault. During the first 48 hours after an incident, medical professionals can document physical damages, such as bruises, cuts, broken bones, head trauma, or sexually transmitted disease. Investigators are then able to provide their medical opinion on the need for treatment. 

Oftentimes, the damage suffered as a result of sexual assault is psychological and doesn’t immediately emerge. One common timeframe for symptom emergence occurs when a survivor of sexual assault reaches puberty, causing body image distortions, avoidance from peers, persistent victimization, or a stymied approach to relationship formation. Other common triggers include life events such as marriage, death, divorce, or the birth of a child. Emotions such as fear, shame, humiliation, self-blame, or guilt may also emerge, leading to depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

It’s important to note that there need not be physical signs of trauma to recover compensation in a civil lawsuit.

How to Recover Compensation After Being Sexually Assaulted?

One of the most effective ways to obtain compensation after being sexually assaulted is to file a civil lawsuit. In a civil lawsuit, the scope of liability can be expanded to include more than the individual perpetrator—third parties can also be held liable in court for their role in enabling the assault. Suing a responsible third party is often a more effective strategy to recover damages, as they typically have insurance and more funding available to pay than an individual. It is also important to hold institutions enabling assault accountable to remedy the hazardous environment being created and prevent future incidents of sexual assault

What to Expect When Filing a Civil Lawsuit

The initial phase of exploring your civil claim will involve telling your story to your attorney. Working with an attorney that has experience communicating with victims of sexual assault should make these difficult conversations much easier. Next, the attorney will be responsible for crafting a strong legal argument for liability and identifying the right legal causes of action in your case. Once you and your attorney have identified which legal issues are at stake, you can prepare your complaint by filing paperwork with the proper court and compiling evidence to build your case.

When it comes to gathering evidence, the standard of proof is lower in civil court compared to criminal court, but there are still sexual assault laws in California that could impact your civil lawsuit. Attorneys must prove that your case meets the definition of sexual assault, the sexual activities were not consensual, you’re within the statute of limitations, and the accused is not protected by a signed agreement or shield law. If a lawsuit is being filed against a mandatory reporter, it must be proven the individual neglected their duty of care.

Once a legal complaint has been filed, those being sued will often try to have the case dismissed by filing legal challenges with the judge. If your case survives these challenges, it will ultimately be up to the jury to decide whether there is liability and how much money will compensate you for the harm you have suffered. 

California Crime Victim Compensation

Another way to recover compensation after being sexually assaulted is to apply for victim compensation. Each state has a victim compensation fund to provide direct financial assistance following a violent crime. The money is obtained through court fees paid to the state by convicted perpetrators, rather than tax dollars. The federal Victims of Crime Act, enacted in 1984, also provides annual grants to the state. In California, the maximum amount that can be given per application is $70,000. Other limits may apply per expense. 

If approved, the California Crime Victim Compensation Fund can cover crime-related costs, including:

  • up to $70,000 for permanent disability-related lost wages or up to five years of lost financial support
  • up to $70,000 for medical (doctor, hospital care, surgery, prescriptions, ambulance, assistive devices)
  • up to $70,000 for job retraining or employment services
  • up to $10,000 for 40 hours of mental health counseling
  • up to $2,000 for one-time relocation cost when recommended by a police officer or therapist 

In order to qualify for this type of assistance:

  • you must report the crime to law enforcement “within a reasonable period of time”
  • even if no arrest is made, you must cooperate with law enforcement
  • you must file your application within three years of the assault, although minors have until age 28
  • you may need to submit a police report or medical bills to support your claim

Let an Experienced Attorney Help You Recover Compensation

A lack of financial resources should never be a reason why you don’t obtain the help you need after a sexual assault. Many rape crisis centers, support groups, and non-profit programs offer free counseling services to help you through the aftermath. 

Whether you are an adult victim or the parent of a victimized child, the aftermath of sexual assault 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.

The attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn have the experience, grit, and compassion to help you obtain justice and recover compensation after being sexually assaulted. Contact our team online for support and guidance to see you through this emotional time, or call +1 (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.

ways to recover from sexual abuse

3 Ways to Recover From Sexual Abuse

By Blog

The ways in which one chooses to recover from sexual abuse can vary widely. Because the effects of sexual abuse aren’t always immediate, it can be difficult to fully comprehend or pinpoint exactly how the abuse has affected you. Oftentimes, survivors of sexual abuse don’t experience issues until years after the abuse.   

In efforts to prompt healing after an act of sexual assault, it is important to seek out the proper care and guidance. Recovering from sexual abuse can be a complex process that takes one through the full gamut of emotions but seeking medical assistance, contacting the police, and working with an experienced sexual abuse attorney can be among the ways to recover from sexual abuse. 

What Are Ways to Recover From Sexual Abuse? 

1.  Seek Medical Assistance

When you’re involved in a serious car accident, you typically go to the emergency room. When you develop an illness you can’t shake, you may decide to visit your doctor. The same should apply after an act of sexual assault has occurred. The last thing you may want is to be physically examined, but the first 72 hours after a sexual assault are crucial when it comes to gathering medical evidence.

It is recommended that children be seen by experts at facilities such as the Children’s Interview Center and CALICO. These agencies partner with law enforcement, family services, mental health professionals, and attorneys to provide sensitive, comprehensive care to children affected by sexual abuse. In addition to providing therapy, these groups facilitate forensic medical exams, interviews, and parent education.

Adults may call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to ask about sexual assault forensic examiners. A medical forensic exam can be provided free of charge, typically including a full body examination with samples of blood, urine, body surface areas, and hair. Seeking physical care for your discomfort is a wise move, as any physical symptoms you are experiencing now may give rise to chronic conditions if left untreated.

If you have missed the window for acute care, there is no harm in speaking with a doctor or therapist regarding symptoms that emerge later. Commonly, victims suffer heightened mental and emotional symptoms once they reach puberty, after forming a new relationship, a death in the family, or the birth of a child. PTSD, anxiety, depression, flashbacks, phobias, and mood disturbances are the most common psychological symptoms. 

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

2.  File a Police Report

It is estimated that only 16 to 38 percent of rape victims report what happened to law enforcement. When the assailant is known, victims are even less likely to contact the police. Yet, the only way to get the perpetrator behind bars is to speak up about the incident to the proper authorities.

You are not the only one who can report crimes of a sexual nature. In cases of child sex abuse, certain people in which you interact—such as mandatory reporters—may be legally required to report known or suspected abuse to the police; failing to do so subjects them to fines or even jail time.  

To file a police report, you can call 9-1-1, visit a police station, or let medical professionals know you’d like to report the incident to authorities when you go in for your forensic medical evaluation. Many law enforcement agencies have sexual assault response teams in place to provide a survivor-centered, coordinated response. A typical sexual assault report will follow a standard protocol that includes: a description of what occurred from the victim’s perspective; indications of force; lack of consent; signs of premeditation; a timeline of trauma; and documentation of the victim’s observed response.

When it comes to a case being tried in criminal court, it’s important to note that a higher standard of evidence is needed, meaning that the evidence must prove the events happened beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict the suspect. If successful, the perpetrator could be fined, put in jail, placed on probation, and registered as a sex offender. For many victims, it is a relief to see justice served in a way that protects the community from a known sex offender.

3.  File a Civil Lawsuit

When it comes to assessing the damages in a case of sexual assault, it’s not as simple as a standard personal injury case that may involve a slip and fall or car accident. With a sexual abuse case, the bulk of a victim’s damages are emotional, rather than physical. Attorneys must work with a team of experts, including psychologists, to assess the past, current, and future unseen damages caused by the abuse.  

Adding to the difficulty of determining the damage caused by sexual abuse is the fact that some victims repress the memories of the abuse for years or even decades. And some impacts are only seen at later stages of one’s life. 

Fortunately, filing a civil lawsuit allows victims the opportunity to recover compensation for:

  • medical expenses
  • therapy costs
  • lost earning capacity
  • pain and suffering
  • punitive damages

In civil court, victims are also able to pursue a case against third parties who may have been involved in some way. For instance, a school district can be sued for hiring and retaining a child molesting teacher. Or an athletic organization sued for failing to provide supervisory oversight of their programs.  

Another benefit to filing a civil lawsuit is that the standard of evidence in civil court is lower than criminal court. It based on a preponderance of evidence which means you must prove that your version of events is 51% or more likely to have happened. So even if you have unsuccessfully pursued criminal charges, you may still secure a victory in civil court and receive money to cover your losses. 

Whether you’re suffering from the acute or long-term effects of sexual abuse, San Francisco Bay Area attorneys can offer you a wealth of resources when it comes to exploring the ways to recover from sexual abuse. The civil attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn are dedicated to providing comprehensive support to those recovering from sexual abuse. Contact our team online for support and guidance to see you through this emotional time, or call +1 (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.

California assembly bill 218

California Assembly Bill 218: Exploring the Outcomes of Similar Legislation in the Past

By Blog

For many survivors of childhood sexual abuse coming forward about what they’ve endured is difficult. Oftentimes, by the time a survivor has decided to seek justice, their time limit has expired due to the statute of limitations in their state. In California, lawmakers are hoping that California Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) can expand the scope of child sexual abuse litigation. 

In this article, we discuss the current statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse, the historical context behind bills similar to AB 218, and how sexual abuse survivors can seek justice against their abusers and any enabling third party.

What is the Purpose of California Assembly Bill 218? 

Under previous legislation in California, childhood sexual abuse survivors had eight years after the age of majority to file a civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse or within three years of the date of discovering that the psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by sexual abuse. 

AB 218 amends the law regarding the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse by: 

  • expanding the definition of childhood sexual abuse, which would instead be referred to as “childhood sexual assault”
  • increasing the time limit for initiating an action to recover damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual assault from age 26 to age 40
  • extending the deadline to file a civil lawsuit—from three to five years—for those who’ve recently discovered that the psychological injury or illness occurring in adulthood was caused by the sexual assault they endured as a child
  • allowing courts to compel the defendant to pay up to three times the amount of actual damages to a plaintiff if an attempted cover-up was involved
  • providing a three-year lookback window for previously expired claims

“The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. “We shouldn’t be telling victims their time is up—when, in reality, we need them to come forward to protect the community from future abuse.”

History of Bills Similar to AB 218 

If the points addressed in AB 218 sound familiar, it’s because there have been similar bills before:

  • AB 3120 (2018): Sponsored by Lorena Gonzalez, this bill passed by the Assembly and Senate would have expanded the definition of child sexual abuse to include child sexual assault, increased civil recovery filing deadlines to age 40 or five years from the time of discovery, allowed plaintiffs to recover up to three times the damages from institutions that attempted to cover up the abuse, and removed the six-month limitations for suing a government (public) entity, allowing survivors to commence action at any time. Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the measure on September 30, 2019.
  • SB 924 (2014): Authored by Senator Jim Beall, SB 924 sought to reform both criminal and civil statute of limitations, increasing the age of filing from age 28 to age 40. Governor Brown vetoed SB 924 “as a matter of fundamental fairness,” and said he “did not see evidence of a compelling reason to lengthen the statute of limitations for civil claims against third parties.”
  • SB 131 (2013): SB 131 would lift the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims affected after January 1, 2014. Victims age 48 or older as of January 1, 2014 would have a one-year lookback window to file for damages. Victims age 26 would have until age 48 (or five years from the date of discovery) to file their civil complaints. Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill in October 2013, stating that the bill would only open private institutions to lawsuits while leaving public institutions (like schools) free from risk.
  • SB 640 (2008): Proposed by Senator Joe Simitian and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, this bill attempted to remedy the disparity between suing public and private entities for childhood sexual abuse by allowing victims to sue public institutions until age 48 or five years from the date of discovery. However, there would be no revival period for expired claims. Despite the bill’s passage, some school districts continue to mandate a six-month filing procedure in their formal codes.
  • SB 1779 (2002): In the passage of SB 1779, third-party defendants could be sued within three years of an adult plaintiff’s “discovery of harm.” This was an increase from the maximum age of 26 that existed prior. SB 1779 also allowed a one-year lookback window for reviving claims that had previously lapsed due to the statute of limitations. 

Keep in mind all these bills pertain to civil law and the right to pursue compensation for child sex abuse. On the criminal front, California abolished the previous 10-year statute of limitations for pursuing jail time for offenders with SB 813 in September 2016. However, the provisions of the law were not retroactive and simply apply to any sexual abuse taking place after the bill’s passage.

Why Was the Last Child Sexual Abuse Bill Vetoed?

The governor cited several reasons for vetoing AB 3120 last year:

  • Fairness: In citing his veto of SB 131, Brown stated that the use of statutes of limitations in the name of “fairness” dates back to Roman Law and the Limitations Act of 1623 in English law. “There comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits,” he wrote. “With the passage of time, evidence may be lost or disposed of, memories fade and witnesses move away or die.”
  • Redundancy: California law has already addressed this issue and amended the law with SB 1779, allowing up to age 26 or within three years of the discovery of harm for adult survivors to sue—not only the individuals responsible, but also “entities who knew or should have known of the sexual abuse and failed to take action.” SB 1779 took the “very unusual step” of providing a retroactive window for the revival of previously time-barred cases.
  • Past Mistakes: Governor Brown acknowledges that, in the past, the California Supreme Court has interpreted the law differently than legislators intended. In 2007, government and public institutions were shielded from the one year of revived lapsed claims, which created disparity and unfairness in the law. A year later, the legislature attempted to address the unfair distinction, but SB 640 “did not restore equity between these two sets of victims.” Brown added, “I can’t believe the legislature decided that victims of abuse by a public entity are somehow less deserving than those who suffered abuse by a private entity. The children assaulted by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State or the teachers at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles are no less worthy because of the nature of the institution they attended.”

Ultimately, the most recent bill (AB 3120) was broader than SB 131 but failed to fully address the inequity between state defendants and private defendants.

What You Can Do to Seek Justice for Childhood Sexual Assault 

If you are an adult victim or the parent of a victimized child, the aftermath of childhood sexual assault 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. 

If you have any questions about California Assembly Bill 218 or about your legal options for pursuing justice in a childhood sexual assault case, contact the experienced San Francisco attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn.

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 +1 (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.

California senate bill 360

California Senate Bill 360 Would Mandate Clergy Report Child Abuse Learned From Confessions

By Blog

California lawmakers have taken action in response to numerous allegations of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. California Senate Bill 360 aims to protect children by breaking the seal of confession and requiring members of the clergy to report child sexual abuse as mandated in the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA). For victims of child sexual abuse suffered at the hands of church clergy, this could mean their abusers would no longer be able to hide behind the sacrament of confession.    

What Is California Senate Bill 360?

California Senate Bill 360 was first introduced by Bay Area Democratic Senator Jerry Hill on February 20, 2019. According to Hill, “Recent investigations by 14 attorneys general, the federal government and other countries have revealed that the clergy-penitent privilege has been abused on a large scale, resulting in the unreported and systemic abuse of thousands of children across multiple denominations and faiths.”   

The first draft of the bill proposed “deleting that exception for a penitential communication, thereby requiring clergy to make a mandated report, even if they acquired the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a penitential communication.”

However, before the measure went to the Senate floor, lawmakers accepted recommendations from the Catholic Church. Most notably, the bill would not apply to churchgoers making confessions, but only to other members of the clergy. On May 23, 2019, California state legislators voted in favor of the amended Senate Bill 360. As passed, the bill would protect the seal of the confessional—except in cases where a priest is hearing another priest or coworker’s confession.

California Senate Bill 360 Controversy

Despite the concessions made by state senators, there has been significant pushback from the Church, which generally does not like the State meddling in their affairs. The California Catholic Conference and the Pacific Justice Institute are leading the opposition against the bill, which has also attracted a number of outspoken critics.

Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gómez said he was “deeply disappointed” by the vote, and called the bill “an unacceptable violation of our religious freedoms that will do nothing to protect children.” He urged California Catholics to “continue to pray and make your voices heard.”

Some fear the mandated reporter laws could push people away and interfere with their ability to seek the spiritual help they need, out of fear of the law.

Father Pius Pietrzyk, a civil lawyer who teaches at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, adds that the Mandated Reporter Law should not apply to priests because they are “not licensed by the state,” as doctors, lawyers, and social workers are. He argued, “Unless Senator Hill is contending that priests must be licensed by their state, essentially he’s turning priests into agents of the state, which is precisely what the First Amendment is meant to avoid. It’s hard to argue that this bill is anything but a direct assault on the First Amendment.”

What Is California’s Mandated Reporter Law?

In California, the physical abuse, emotional abuse, molestation, and neglect of a child must be reported to local law enforcement if you work with children. Failing to do so is punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. California’s “mandatory reporters” are explicitly spelled out in CANRA. Among those included is anyone who works with children—teachers, coaches, daycare workers, camp staff, physicians, film developers, and clergy. 

However, as it’s currently written, an exception is granted for “a clergy member who acquires knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a penitential communication… intended to be in confidence… for which there is a duty to keep those communications secret.” Known or suspected abuse must still be reported for church workers outside of formal confessions, but the law has always protected the sanctity of the sacrament of penance—meaning that priests could openly confess their sins of child molestation to other priests, without fear of reprisal—that is, until now.  

What Does This Mean for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse?

California is not alone in its pursuit of justice. Since 2002, states like Louisiana, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, and Florida have unsuccessfully tried to pass similar laws. Currently, other states with laws requiring priests to act as mandatory reporters of child abuse, even if the information was gained during confession, include Connecticut, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

If this bill becomes law, in addition to going after the perpetrator, survivors of child sexual abuse will also be able to hold the Catholic Church liable for failure to abide by CANRA, essentially allowing the abuse to take place. An experienced attorney will be able to step up and fight for justice, especially if a mandated reporter failed to do so.

Contact a California Sex Abuse Attorney to Seek Justice

Regardless of whether or not California Senate Bill 360 becomes law, victims of child sexual abuse have rights. If you or your child silently suffered sexual abuse while clergy members looked the other way or attempted to cover up the abuse, contact a San Francisco attorney. 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 +1 (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.

what is sexual coercion

Clients Ask: What Is Sexual Coercion?

By Blog

In the state of California, “yes means yes” is used to define sexual consent. This means that someone who is of age to legally consent to a sexual act has to actually say “yes” instead of not specifically say “no.” A permittance of a sexual act can be complicated in cases where a person’s sexual consent was based on fear or coercion. Many clients ask “what is sexual coercion?” and wonder how can it impact their claim of sexual assault.     

What Is Sexual Coercion?

When sexual coercion occurs, one’s consent falls somewhere between “yes” and “no.” Abusers use tactics like threats, pressure through constant communications, trickery, isolation, the use of drugs and alcohol, or physical force to pressure someone into complying with unsought sexual activity.

Sexual coercion can exist in many forms and take place in various situations. 

  • Sexual coercion can be used in relationships when a partner threatens to seek sexual pleasure from another person if their partner declines. 
  • It can occur in the workplace when a superior offers a promotion, for example, in exchange for sexual favors. 
  • Coerced sex can also be common among athletes when peers threaten to seek revenge porn or a position or playtime is revoked by a coach if a sexual relationship doesn’t continue.  
  • In situations involving human trafficking, sexual coercion can exist when victims are threatened with deportation or harm to their families.  

California has laws in place designed to punish those who engage in sexual activities without complete consent.  

Sexual Coercion Laws in California

While California doesn’t have a sexual coercion law per se, the concept is included in the state’s rape law (PC 261), which legally defines rape as:

  • when an individual engages in sexual intercourse with another person
  • the sexual act is done against the victim’s will, or without consent
  • the act was accomplished through physical force, violence, menace (intent to harm), fear of bodily harm, fear of retaliation, fraud, or— most notably—duress (a direct or implied threat sufficient to coerce a reasonable person to perform or agree to allow)

There are also various laws that are designed to protect against:

Do I Have a Case of Sexual Assault If I Consented?

It is possible to seek litigation in incidents involving sexual assault, even if you agreed to the sexual act(s). If compensation for personal damages as a result of the sexual assault is what you seek, an experienced civil attorney will know exactly how to prove your case of sexual coercion. In most cases, they are able to reference a person’s criminal history or past reports of inappropriate behavior.

Typically, in cases of sexual assault where the victim was coerced, the following is considered:

  • Victimization: Victims of coercion are often selected based on background and perceived vulnerabilities. Perpetrators typically target individuals based on age, education level, socioeconomic status, living situation, language ability, religion or culture, immigration status, drug addiction, mental capacity, and history of prior abuse.
  • Abuse: A perpetrator’s conduct may involve physical abuse, but more commonly focuses on verbal abuse, intimidation, and false promises.
  • Circumstances: The result of such fear often leads to the victim’s helplessness, lack of support, isolation, restricted movement, financial and emotional dependence, exhaustion, and diminished self-worth.
  • Harm: Violence, financial hardship, homelessness, reputational damage, psychological trauma, deportation, or child custody could be the actual or perceived consequences of failing to do as the perpetrator says.  

Consent is the most obvious defense a perpetrator attempts to use, but an experienced litigator will make sure the court considers: What factors caused the victim to acquiesce? Even if there was initial consent, someone always has a right to revoke consent at any time, during a sex act or afterward if the perpetrator attempts future acts.  

Contact an Experienced Sexual Assault Attorney

An experienced civil attorney can help you navigate the complexities of filing a civil lawsuit for sexual assault. The effects of sexual assault as a result of coercion may include PTSD, anxiety, and depression that can persist for several months, several years, or even decades. These effects may surface later or worsen with time; working with an experienced attorney will help you obtain a recovery should you need to compensate for personal damages suffered as a result of the incident.

At Lewis & Llewellyn, you will work with a qualified and experienced civil attorney. Even if the incident took place years ago, our team has the experience, grit, and compassion to help you obtain justice and maximum compensation. Contact us online for support and guidance or call +1 (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.

victim blaming sexual assault

How Victim Blaming Keeps Sexual Assault From Coming to Light

By Blog

Too often in cases of sexual assault does victim blaming occur. Suggesting that a survivor of sexual assault was the “ideal victim” or somehow “asked for it” allows the abuser to avoid accountability for their actions. Sexual predators also use a tactic of claiming victims “made them do it” or “enjoyed it” to increase the victims’ feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion that allows the crimes to remain hidden for many years.

While the societal scales have tipped toward believing victims of sexual abuse, the problem of victim blaming has not been erased. We discuss different types of victim blaming and harmful myths about sexual assault, describe how predators use shame to keep committing crimes, and outline steps a survivor can take to seek justice.

Was It My Fault?

Often, survivors of sexual assault grapple with confusion and insecurities, wondering, “was it my fault?” or “could I have prevented this somehow?” In some cases, survivors may ruminate in regret, wishing they hadn’t gone to a party or drank alcohol.

Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Perpetrators are responsible for their own actions. Regardless of what you were wearing, what you said, how you behaved, the decisions you made—the rule of consent in California is based on “yes means yes,” rather than “no means no.” Consent is not a one-time deal; it must be given every time, regardless of past history, and it can be revoked at any time.

If you didn’t give an affirmative “yes” to the sexual activity and maintain that “yes” throughout the encounter, it was not consensual. If you were asleep, intoxicated, incapacitated, disabled, or a minor at the time, you were unable to legally give consent and you are not to blame.

Studies show that sexual abuse survivors who blame themselves are more likely to develop and maintain symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This makes them more hesitant to come forward and abusers more likely to abuse again.  

The Role of Rape Culture in Victim Blaming for Sexual Assault

Victim blaming is often prevalent in rape culture—an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Many who hold positions of power and authority perpetuate these beliefs, which makes it all the more troublesome.

In defense of former USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, interim president of Michigan State University John Engler claimed the young women and girls abused by the doctor “appeared to be enjoying the spotlight.” Victims may be afraid to come forward because they don’t want to be viewed as self-seeking, vindictive, or in it for money. His comments drew fire from critics and ultimately led to his resignation, but many hold these same opinions which, in turn, leads to more sexual crimes being committed.

Myths Surrounding Victim Blaming and Sexual Assault

Many efforts to promote safety against acts of sexual assault often end up inadvertently placing the blame on victims. Reports of sexual violence often detail the behavior of the victim; what they were wearing; where they were; the time of day; if they were alone; and if they consumed alcohol. All of these things suggest that those choices were dangerous or incorrect in some way. Such advice creates a culture of fear—and not just for women. It means people fear going out alone in the dark or wearing outfits society might deem provocative, or enjoying a drink on a night out. Advice such as this polices the behavior of innocent people, rather than the actions of the abusers

Here are a few myths regarding sexual assault:

  • Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers. Ninety percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. It could be a romantic partner, a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance. It could be a coach, a teacher, a priest or nun, a camp counselor, or a family physician. The betrayal of trust leads to an increased sense of guilt for victims who blame themselves in failing to recognize early warning signs of grooming.
  • It’s only sexual assault if the victim fought back. There are many reasons why fighting back is not feasible. You may have been pressured into submission. Confusion or shock may have affected your normal responses. Some rape victims experience tonic immobility, an involuntary response that arises during periods of extreme fear, characterized by total muscle paralysis; the body freezes and essentially “plays dead” as a survival mechanism.
  • Once sexually aroused, one can’t control their behavior. While sexual arousal is a strong and natural occurrence, it is a controllable urge. A person may choose to ignore the urge and leave the situation, respecting the feelings and wishes of others.
  • False allegations of rape are commonly made to ruin a person’s good reputation. Only 2-10% of rape reports are proven false. For children, the percentage is even lower. In fact, rape continues to be the most underreported crime due to the embarrassment, shame, and unfair blame experienced by some survivors. Medical exams and interrogation by law enforcement can intensify the trauma if the group handling the claim is not experienced in dealing with sexual assault survivors.     

Seeking Litigation Against Sexual Assault Can Stop the Cycle

If you’ve experienced victim blaming as a result of sexual assault, you don’t have to deal with the aftermath alone. Call the police and/or an attorney who can help you through recovery and prevent the perpetrator from victimizing others.  

You will find compassion at Lewis & Llewellyn in San Francisco. Our experienced attorneys have made a commitment to fight cases of sexual assault and abuse. We recognize the tremendous courage it takes to come forward with a story of sexual assault or abuse, often years later.
Recognized for our track record of multi-million-dollar settlements and awards, our passion lies in holding the worst type of predators accountable for their wrongs and helping survivors find a measure of dignity in the aftermath of trauma. If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, contact us or call +1 (415) 800-0590 for a free, confidential, no-obligation case review.

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.

THIS PAGE IS DEDICATED TO OUR SEXUAL ABUSE PRACTICE. CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT OUR BUSINESS PRACTICE.