Los Angeles Sexual Assault Attorney
Sadly, if you have been a victim of sexual assault, you are not alone. In fact, every 98 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. Thanks to the growing #MeToo movement and sheer courage, sexual assault victims are coming forward in record numbers, seeking justice for themselves and helping to make sure the perpetrators do not victimize others.
What Is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault, broadly defined, is any nonconsensual, sexually offensive touching. Sexual assault is both a criminal and a civil offense. In a civil lawsuit in California, sexual assault may include the following:
- Touching of private parts, whether under or over clothing
- Forced penetration
- Forced oral sex
- Use of date rape drugs to engage in sexual acts
- Sexual acts performed on someone who is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs or who is asleep
- Sex with someone under the age of 18.
Filing a Civil Lawsuit for Sexual Assault
Civil lawsuits can provide sexual assault victims an avenue to stand up for their rights and potentially collect monetary damages against their attacker or, if the attacker is a coworker, from their employer. Pursuing civil charges has helped many of our clients regain their power in situations in which they felt powerless.
Regardless of whether the local district attorney files criminal rape charges against the attacker, there are several reasons why a victim of sexual assault may consider filing a civil lawsuit. First, in a civil proceeding, the client is fully in charge at all times, represented by their own lawyer. They decide on whether we agree to a settlement — if that is an option — or pursue litigation. In a criminal case, the police and prosecutor make the decisions, and the victim is their witness. Second, in a civil case, a victim of sexual assault may be able to obtain monetary damages for the pain and suffering, lost wages and other losses they have acquired as a result of the assault. In the employment context, the employer may be held liable and may be subject to significant punitive damages. Third, the burden of proof is lower in civil litigation. While a criminal prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the victim in a civil proceeding can prevail by proving a preponderance of the evidence that a sexual assault occurred — a much easier standard to meet.
What to Do If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted
If you have been a victim of sexual assault, the first thing you should do is to make sure you are in a safe place. If you are not, immediately call the police or 911. It can be difficult to know what to do or how to feel at this time. Know that it is not your fault. You are not alone.
You can also reach out to a national hotline to get prompt assistance for you to connect with a local sexual assault service provider. One such hotline is the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).
You may also consider reaching out to an experienced and empathetic attorney like Betsy Havens at Strong Advocates, who can help you understand and navigate your legal options. Strong Advocates will fight hard to help you get the care and justice you deserve.
Statute of limitations
Unless the victim is a minor, civil lawsuits based on sexual assault cannot be filed more than two years after the date the assault occurred or, if the attacker was convicted of felony criminal charges based on the assault, then one year following the conviction. If the sexual assault occurred at work, you are generally required to file an administrative complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing within 12 months of the assault or harassment in order to pursue a claim against your employer.
In cases in which the victim is a minor, a civil claim of sexual assault or abuse must be made within eight years of the age of majority (age 18 in California). This statute of limitations can be extended for three years if the victim discovers — for example, via counseling or regained memory — that they were the victim of child sexual abuse.