Sexual Abuse and Misconduct
Examples of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct Claims:
· Sexual assault/battery – touching an intimate part of another person against that person’s will;
· Statutory rape – Nonforcible sexual activity in which one of the individuals is below the age of consent;
· Distribution of private materials – the disclosure without consent of private/intimate photographs, videos, and/or recordings that may expose intimate body parts of a person or showing that person engaging in a sexual act.
· “Sextortion” – threat to distribute private or sensitive materials including if the victim does not pay with money, images of a sexual nature or sexual favors;
· Stalking – A pattern of fixated behavior which is repeated, persistent, intrusive and causes fear and/or distress in the victim;
· Harassment – Unwanted behavior from someone else, such as unwanted phone calls/messages, verbal or online abuse, physical gestures and facial expressions, or use of images, that makes the victim feel distressed, humiliated, or threatened;
·Compelled prostitution – When a person is forced to engage in prostitution by “force, threat or fraud;”
· Child Pornography – Disclosure or possession of intimate visual materials of a person under the age of majority;
· Online Solicitation of a Minor – Online communication with a person under the age of majority in a sexually explicit manner.
Who may be liable for sexual abuse/misconduct?
Depending on the situation, any or all of the following may be liable to the victim:
· The assailant/predator;
· Employers of assailant/predator;
· Schools/School Districts/Day Care Centers/Places of Worship intended to protect the victim;
· Property owners where the abuse/misconduct occurred;
· Anyone who knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to correct it;
· Anyone who knew or should have known of the proclivities of such behavior by the assailant/predator;
Damages in Sexual Assault/Misconduct Cases
· Medical bills (past and future);
· Mental health therapy;
· Wage loss (past and future);
· Loss of earning capacity;
· Pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, phsycial impairment, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humilitation and emotion distress.
How long do sexual abuse survivors have to file a civil claim?
In civil cases, the time limit to file suit is different depending on if the victim is an adult or a child:
In any civil action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of sexual assault, where the assault occurred on or after the plaintiff’s 18th birthday, the time for commencement of the action shall be the later of the following:
1. Within 10 years from the date of the last act, attempted act, or assault with the intent to commit an act, of sexual assault by the defendant against the plaintiff.
2. Within three years from the date the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that an injury or illness resulted from an act, attempted act, or assault with the intent to commit an act, of sexual assault by the defendant against the plaintiff.
As of January 2020, California passed the California Child Victims Act "CCVA" whereby childhood victims of sexual assault will have until their 40th birthday, or within 5 years of the discovery of the abuse, to file a civil lawsuit. The law also allows for a three year window for the revival of any claims that would have been barred by the statute of limitations.
Claims against government entities may have different timelines
If a public entity is a defendant (e.g. a school district, government entity, state hospital) the time limit can be as short as six months from the incident to file a government claim. This is true if you are a child or an adult bringing a lawsuit. If you miss the six-month deadline, your lawsuit could be barred.
Civil lawsuits are different than criminal lawsuits
Criminal laws are put in place for the protection of the community in order to hold sexual predators accountable by punishing them and deterring them from committing other criminal acts in the future. Civil lawsuits on the other hand allow the victims to be compensated for their injuries, pain, suffering, humiliation and inconvenience. These “damages” come in the form of financial compensation. Likewise, another important difference in the burden of proof of these cases. IN criminal cases, the government must prove a defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” whereas in a civil case the burden on plaintiff is only by a “preponderance of the evidence” or more likely than not.