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Victims of Sexual Assault & Abuse

How a Lawyer Helps Victims of Sexual Assault and Abuse in California

Sanford Jossen protects those who have been victims of sexual abuse throughout Los Angeles County and the State of California

Sexual assault and abuse cases are often high profile in the media and sometimes the perpetrators are not the only party subject to legal action. Institutions or businesses that conceal or turn a blind eye often can be sued for damages. Whether a teacher, coach, clergyman, school bus driver, daycare worker or someone acting in another capacity has sexually assaulted or abused you or your child, you have legal rights. Protecting and enforcing your rights vigorously is our job and passion. The Law Offices of Sanford Jossen has extensive experience in representing clients in civil cases who are victims of sexual assault, molestation, care-taker and teacher negligence and abuse.

What is sexual assault and abuse?

Every state has its own laws that govern crime involving sexual assault and abuse. California statutes define the terms “sexual assault” and “sexual abuse.”

Sexual assault includes any of the following:

  • Rape
  • Statutory rape (sexual intercourse with a minor)
  • Rape in concert (gang rape, more than one party to the rape)
  • Incest
  • Sodomy
  • Lewd or lascivious acts upon a child
  • Oral copulation
  • Any sexual penetration (however slight)
  • Child molestation
  • Any intrusion into the genitals or anal opening (including use of objects)
  • Intentionally touching the genitals or intimate parts (breasts, inner thighs, buttocks) for sexual arousal or gratification
  • Intentional masturbation of perpetrator’s genitals in the presence of a child
  • Sexual exploitation (selling obscene material, child prostitution, pornography)

Sexual abuse is sexual assault or sexual exploitation.

Civil lawsuits for sexual assault and abuse

To seek damages for harm resulting from sexual assault or abuse, you must file a civil lawsuit. In cases involving governmental entities, you must file a claim against all responsible governmental entities before you file a lawsuit or your lawsuit will be dismissed and you will get nothing. This is critical. Civil lawsuits differ from criminal lawsuits in that individuals file lawsuits instead of government authorities to punish liable parties by recovering compensation for damages.

Time limitations, called statute of limitations, exist for filing a sexual molestation, assault or abuse lawsuit against someone or an institutional or governmental entity. As discussed above, in cases involving governmental entities, you must first file a claim with all responsible governmental entities. This is a required condition before you file a lawsuit. You cannot file a viable lawsuit against a governmental entity until you have first filed the governmental claim. The governmental claim must be filed within 6 months of the event, except in certain circumstances. This is a very complex area of the law. Do not assume that you have 2 years under the general personal injury statute of limitations. General personal injury statute of limitations do not apply when it comes to governmental entities. This is why it is so important to have an attorney who specializes in this area of the law.

In cases against private entities, you must file the claim within eight years of the age of majority (18 years of age), which means you must file the lawsuit before you reach the age of 26. However, there are exceptions based on the discovery of sexual abuse or its damages. In some cases, you can file within three years of the discovery of the psychological injury or illness caused by the sexual abuse. The reason for the discovery rule is that sometimes victims repress memories and do not realize what occurred or do not experience the adverse effects until many years after the actual sexual abuse occurred. In other cases, you may have less time to file a lawsuit, such as where a hospital may be involved and there is an issue involving potential medical malpractice. Also, if you have a cause of action for false imprisonment as part of your claim, the statue of limitations may be less than within 8 years of majority or 2 years for general negligence actions.

What has to be proven in these types of cases?

In the past, proving sexual assault was often the child’s word against the adult’s. Even when the child reached majority and was considered an adult, proving sexual assault was still challenging. When multiple children suffered sexual assault the task becomes easier. However, today with emails, texting, phone cameras and other digital media, there is more opportunity for investigating and finding physical evidence to substantiate a lawsuit. It is critical to obtain physical and mental examinations and make reports to authorities as soon as possible so that forensic examinations can be obtained.

In a civil suit, the burden of evidence is a preponderance of the evidence, which is a lesser burden of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt — the proof required in criminal trials. Preponderance of the evidence involves convincing a judge or jury that the accusation is more likely true than untrue. It is critical that a parent who suspects that his or her child has been the victim of sexual molestation or a child who has been the victim of sexual molestation contact an experienced attorney, such as Sanford Jossen, as soon as possible so that medical, forensic and other actions can be taken in order to obtain and preserve evidence as soon as possible. Cases which simply involve “he said/she said” type of evidence may not be sufficient to meet the burden of proof. Evidence has to be collected and obtained as soon as possible in the best interests of the child victim. Our offices can assist in this process.

Awardable damages

In a sexual abuse case, you can pursue economic damages, which may include past medical and other bills related to the injury along with estimated future bills for medical treatment, counseling, related expenses and lost earning capacity. You can also pursue noneconomic damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and mental anguish. In some cases, the court may also allow you to seek punitive damages, which punish the perpetrator and serve as a deterrent for similar future criminal activity.

Contact us to schedule a free consultation today

Call 866-862-6607 or contact the Law Offices of Sanford Jossen online to arrange a free consultation with a lawyer in our El Segundo law office.