Defining Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Under California Law

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Ask a Lawyer: What is the Difference Between Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault?

Ask a Lawyer: What is the Difference Between Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault?

Jul 3, 2024

The sexual assault lawyers at Dordulian Law Group have decades of experience helping survivors get the justice they deserve for unspeakable sex crimes. To address these issues effectively, it’s important to understand what constitutes sexual abuse and sexual assault. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they have distinct legal definitions. Dordulian Law Group’s Los Angeles sexual assault lawyers have put together the following information which can be useful for survivors, victims’ family members, and advocates.

What is the Difference Between Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault?

What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse refers to any sexual act involving a child under the age of 18. It’s a form of child exploitation that can have long-lasting effects on the victim. Sexual abuse can be perpetrated by various individuals, including:

The key factor in sexual abuse cases is the age of the victim, regardless of whether they appear to give consent.

Understanding Sexual Assault Compared to Sexual Abuse

Understanding Sexual Assault Compared to Sexual Abuse
Sexual assault, on the other hand, is defined as any sexual act performed without the consent of the victim, regardless of their age. This can include:

  • Rape
  • Forced sexual conduct
  • Unwanted touching or groping

Sexual assault can occur in various settings, including workplaces, social gatherings, or even within intimate relationships.

What is the Role of Consent in Sexual Acts?

Consent is a critical factor in distinguishing between lawful sexual activity and sexual assault. It’s important to understand that consent:

  • Must be freely given
  • Can be withdrawn at any time
  • Cannot be given by individuals who are incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs
  • Is not implied by a person’s clothing, behavior, or past sexual history

Education about consent is vital in preventing sexual assault and promoting healthy relationships.

Common Scenarios and Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse can occur in various settings and be committed by individuals in positions of trust or authority. Some common scenarios include:

  • A teacher taking advantage of a student
  • A clergy member abusing their position of spiritual authority
  • A coach exploiting their mentorship role
  • A neighbor or family friend grooming a child for abuse

It’s important to be aware of these potential situations to protect children and prevent abuse.

Sexual Assault in the Workplace

Workplace sexual assault is a serious issue that can have profound effects on victims and the overall work environment. It can include:

  • Unwanted sexual advances from colleagues or superiors
  • Quid pro quo harassment (e.g., offering job benefits in exchange for sexual favors)
  • Creating a hostile work environment through sexual comments or behaviors

Employers have a responsibility to create safe workplaces and address sexual assault allegations promptly and effectively.

Legal Representation for Sexual Abuse Victims

For survivors of sexual abuse or assault, having legal representation is vital. An experienced attorney from Dordulian Law Group can:

  • Help uncover the truth and gather evidence
  • Deal with law enforcement and prosecutors on behalf of the victim
  • Ensure the victim’s voice is heard throughout the legal process
  • Advocate for fair and full compensation for the harm suffered

Legal representation can make a significant difference in the outcome of a case and the healing process for survivors.

Dordulian Law Group: Compassion, Support, and Justice for Sexual Assault Survivors

Survivors of sexual abuse and assault may be eligible for various forms of compensation, including:

  • Medical expenses related to the assault
  • Therapy and counseling costs
  • Lost wages due to trauma-related inability to work
  • Pain and suffering damages

It’s important to recognize that the effects of sexual abuse and assault can be lifelong. Fair and full compensation is crucial in helping survivors access the resources they need for recovery and healing.

Reporting Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault

Reporting sexual abuse or assault can be a challenging but important step for survivors. The process typically involves:

  1. Contacting law enforcement to file a report
  2. Seeking medical attention and preserving evidence
  3. Connecting with victim advocacy services for support
  4. Considering legal representation to protect your rights

It’s important to remember that there are support systems in place to help survivors through the reporting process.

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are serious crimes that can have devastating effects on survivors. Understanding the differences between these terms, knowing how to report incidents, and seeking appropriate legal representation and support are crucial steps in addressing these issues. Remember, if you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse or assault, help is available. You don’t have to face this alone.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault)

What’s the main difference between sexual abuse and sexual assault?

The main difference lies in the age of the victim and the issue of consent. Sexual abuse typically refers to any sexual act involving a child under 18, regardless of apparent consent. Sexual assault involves any non-consensual sexual act, regardless of the victim’s age.

Can sexual assault occur within a marriage or committed relationship?

Yes, sexual assault can occur within any relationship, including marriages. Consent is required for all sexual acts, regardless of the relationship status between individuals.

What should I do if I suspect a child is being sexually abused?

If you suspect child sexual abuse, report it immediately to local law enforcement or child protective services. You can also contact the National Child Abuse Hotline for guidance.

Is there a time limit for reporting sexual abuse or assault

While it’s best to report as soon as possible, many jurisdictions have extended or eliminated statutes of limitations for these crimes. In California, all adult victims of sexual assault currently have a three-year window to file lawsuits for crimes occurring on or after 2009. Most adult sexual assault claims have a 10-year deadline, while child sexual abuse claims in California no longer have a statute of limitations (for crimes occurring after January 2024). If you’re a victim of child sex abuse whose incident occurred prior to 2024, you typically have until your 40th birthday to file a civil lawsuit for financial compensation. Consult with a sexual abuse lawyer from Dordulian Law Group to understand the specific laws related to your case.

What support services are available for sexual assault survivors?

There are numerous support services available, including crisis hotlines, counseling services, support groups, and victim advocacy organizations. The National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) can provide immediate support and local resources. Dordulian Law Group’s founder and president, Sam Dordulian, is a member of the National Leadership Council for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Free Lawyer Consultations for Los Angeles Sexual Assault Victims

Want to discuss your case with an experienced and proven team of sexual assault lawyers? Schedule your free and confidential sexual abuse case consultation by calling Dordulian Law Group’s (D Law Group) SAJE Team today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM.

The SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice Experts) offers survivors a unique type of expert legal representation. Our four-tiered support network of dedicated processionals is available to you 24/7 throughout the litigation process and includes a team of elite attorneys as well as a former

LAPD sex crimes detective, an in-house clinical therapist, and two victim advocates.
Ready to take the first step towards securing justice for your sexual assault case? When you sit down with a D Law Group sexual assault lawyer for a no-obligation consultation, we will discuss all available legal options with you and provide:

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

  • An estimate for how long your case may take to reach a settlement
  • A potential value for your case
  • An anticipated final damages award amount

Call 866-GO-SEE-SAM today to learn more.


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