Sexual abuse can take many forms, and often is the result of gradual and seemingly innocuous acts by the pedophile or predator which escalate over time. Generally, sexual touching is defined as the touching of an intimate part of a person, including the sex organ, anus, groin or buttock of any person or the breasts of a female. In most sexual abuse cases, a plaintiff must show that the touching was unwanted or unwelcomed. However, certain classes of people are protected from any sexual contact regardless of whether or not they consented to that contact. These classes include minors under 18, mentally incompetent individuals, and victims of sexual contact by licensed healthcare providers or psychotherapists. The reason for these exceptions is that under the law, a minor or incompetent does not legally have the capacity or ability to consent to sexual contact, and thus even actual consent is irrelevant and invalid. Similarly, licensed healthcare providers are barred from engaging in any type of sexual contact with patients during the time of treatment, regardless of consent. Psychotherapists are also prohibited from engaging in any sexual contact with a patient during the time of treatment and for a period of at least two years thereafter.
Unfortunately, the psychological and emotional trauma of sexual abuse can be devastating. Making matters worse, the lasting effects of the trauma often goes undetected or undiscovered by the victims who may employ complex defensive and coping mechanisms which mask their emotional injury and blind them to their own suffering. For adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, the California legislature has recently enacted laws that recognize the effects that victims’ elaborate coping mechanisms can have on their ability to recognize their injuries. These new laws have extended the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse to either the victim’s twenty-sixth birthday or to no later than three years after he or she discovers or should have discovered that the sexual abuse has caused them emotional injury. In some cases, that discovery may come very late in a victim’s life.
Generally, in actions for sexual abuse the sexually abused individual sues the perpetrator, but, in some cases, can also sue the employer of the perpetrator (for example, a school or church) who failed to take adequate actions to protect them, and the public at large, from the perpetrator. If a plaintiff can prove sexual abuse, he or she can recover damages for past and future medical treatment, past and future wage loss, pain and suffering and punitive damages.
If you have been sexually abused, please call or contact our law firm for a consultation.
Please also see the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center’s website for victim support information and resources:
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