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Home  »  DLG NewsSex Crimes   »   Understanding Sexual Violence: Sexual Assault, Sexual Abuse, and Victims’ Rights

Understanding Sexual Violence: Sexual Assault, Sexual Abuse, and Victims’ Rights

Understanding Sexual Violence: Sexual Assault, Sexual Abuse, and Victims’ Rights

Aug 6, 2020

Experiencing sexual violence is life-changing. Assault, abuse, molestation, rape, and all forms of sexual violence are traumatic. The effects are long-lasting and difficult to deal with, impacting individual mental health and family relationships with far-reaching psychological, emotional, and physical effects. Sexual violence is something many people are uncomfortable talking about openly, and uncomfortable even defining. But because the people who experience sexual violence are actual victims of crime, it is important to be able to clearly discuss what happened, how the survivor’s life was affected, and how any future acts can be prevented. Responsible parties must be held accountable.

At Dordulian Law Group, we believe all survivors who have the courage to come forward and report an act of sexual abuse, and we believe in empowering them. No survivor of sexual violence should feel alone or afraid. If you have questions about your rights in a sexual violence case, contact Dordulian Law Group for a free consultation.

What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is frequently used as an all-encompassing term to refer to many unwanted or inappropriate sexual acts or acts related to coercing a person to engage in them. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual violence as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.”

Liability for Sexual Violence

Understanding Sexual Violence: Sexual Assault, Sexual Abuse, and Victims' Rights
Sexual violence is a crime. The perpetrator may go to prison and have to pay fines and restitution. Criminal charges punish the perpetrator, but do nothing to prevent future acts and hold institutions accountable for their failures in hiring and supervising. Schools, churches, non-profits, childcare providers, and youth groups must responsibly recruit, hire, train, and supervise both employees and volunteers. A civil lawsuit can hold institutions accountable for their acts, and compensate the victim.

Defining Sexually Violent Acts

This article will cover the types of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual violence we often encounter. In any of these scenarios, perpetrators may face criminal and civil charges, and third parties may be liable for negligent security, negligent supervision, or negligent hiring.

  • Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Sexual assault includes rape, but not all sexual assault is rape. Sexual assault may include:
    • Unwanted sexual touching or fondling
    • Forced oral sex or penetration (rape)
    • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts
    • Attempted rape

    Force is not always physical – it can be emotional or coercive. Force could be threatening to hurt someone, or tell another person or authorities about something if a person does not participate in a sexual act. According to the anti-sexual violence advocacy group RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), approximately eight out of 10 sexual assault perpetrators know their victims personally. Sexual assault can also include spousal rape or intimate partner violence.

  • Child Sexual Abuse: Child sexual abuse is any form of sexual activity with a minor. Because children cannot consent to sexual activity, engaging with a child in a sexual manner is a crime. Contact does not have to be physical. Text messages, online chats, and other digital interaction can be forms of abuse. RAINN reports that more than 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the abuser. Perpetrators may be family members, teachers, coaches, medical providers, or a parent of another child. No matter who the abuser may be, child sexual abuse is a crime.
  • Sexual Assault of Men and Boys: Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or age, can be a victim of sexual assault and related acts of sexual violence. Boys and men who are assaulted can suffer the same psychological, emotional, and physical effects as other survivors, but also experience additional challenges due to social attitudes and stereotypes. For male survivors, the organization 1in6.org provides support and resources for dealing with social stigmas and healing.
  • Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): IPV is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence is not exclusive to any gender or sexual orientation, and an act of violence in an intimate relationship is rarely an isolated incident. Post-assault apologies and promises that something will never happen again are common themes, but rarely do behaviors change. Victims of IPV may be afraid to come forward for fear of children’s safety or effects on financial stability.
  • Incest: Incest is sexual abuse from a family member. This can be extremely difficult to talk about for many reasons:
    • The survivor may care about the abuser
    • The survivor may be afraid other family members will not believe them
    • Prior attempts by the survivor to discuss have been downplayed, minimized, or ignored
    • The survivor may have been groomed to believe that what happened was normal
  • Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault: Drug-facilitated sexual assault is a sexual act that occurs involving the use of drugs or alcohol. Alcohol or drug use can be:
    • Voluntary, followed by a perpetrator taking advantage of lowered inhibitions and ability to resist
    • Involuntary, forced by the victim or given without their knowledge – This could include date rate drugs being slipped into an alcoholic drink

    Self-Blame is a common reaction to a drug-facilitated sexual assault. Many survivors feel that they’re at fault for putting themselves in a dangerous situation. When these assaults occur, it is never, under any circumstances, the fault of the victim. People do not choose to be sexually assaulted.

  • Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is another broad term that includes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, often in a workplace or learning environment. Examples of sexual harassment can include:
    • Offering more favorable grades or workplace promotions in exchange for sexual favors (quid pro quo)
    • Requesting sexual favors, even if ignored
    • Pressuring someone to engage sexually
    • Sending explicit messages or photos via text, email, or an app platform
    • Making negative comments about groups of people

    Harassment may or may not always be a criminal act, whereas sexual assault IS always a criminal act. Sexual harassment is often used in conjunction with “sexual misconduct,” which is a non-legal term to refer to numerous inappropriate sexual behaviors, which may or may not include harassment. For example, a CEO having a consensual relationship with an adult intern at work may be deemed sexual misconduct, and a violation of workplace policy, even if no crime is committed. A high school teacher having a sexual relationship with a student may be fired for sexual misconduct, and also face criminal charges for sexual assault.

  • Stalking: The Department of Justice (DOJ) defines stalking as engaging in a course of conduct directed at an individual that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety, the safety of others, or suffer substantial emotional distress. Stalking can be in person, online, or on social media. People who are stalked may feel anxious, nervous, stressed, and fear future acts of sexual violence.
  • Sexual Abuse by Medical Professionals: Sexual abuse in a medical setting is a fundamental conflict with the Hippocratic Oath taken by medical professionals, and is a violation of trust, a violation of ethics, and a crime. Health care providers who commit sexual abuse may lose their license to practice medicine and face criminal charges. Complaints should be promptly brought to the appropriate licensing agency (Medical Board of California, Dental Board of California, California Board of Registered Nursing, etc.). Employing hospitals and medical groups may face civil liability for failing to discover or stop sexual abuse.
  • Sexual Exploitation by Helping Professionals: RAINN defines helping professionals as doctors, therapists, professors, law enforcement officers, lawyers, and religious leaders. Any act of sexual violence or assault by professionals is a violation of trust and may be a crime.
  • Sexual Elder Abuse: Sexual elder abuse is any kind of sexual abuse without the person’s consent. Acts may be forced or coerced, or elderly people with dementia may be confused or unable to give consent. For people in residential care facilities or nursing homes, sexual abuse may also be considered elder abuse under the law.
  • Sexual Abuse of People with Disabilities: A person with a disability may not be able to communicate consent, and perpetrators may take advantage of vulnerabilities, and use their position of power to force, coerce, or threaten someone into engaging in non-consensual sex or performing sexual activities.
  • Prisoner Rape: Acts of sexual violence committed against an inmate may be perpetrated by another inmate, corrections officer, staff member, or medical provider.

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.

If you have experienced sexual abuse in any form, you are not alone. What happened to you is not your fault.
AB 218: California Child Victims Act

The #MeToo and #MeTooK12 Movements

In the last decade, there have been growing movements of awareness, social justice, and empowerment surrounding sex crimes. Things like the “Me Too” or “#MeToo” movement centered around film producer Harvey Weinstein gave the general public a sense of the magnitude of the problem. The original #MeToo movement centered around adults, but the cause grew, and the MeTooK12 spinoff was spread by the non-profit group Stop Sexual Assault in Schools. This group brought attention to the vast underreporting by school districts, teachers & administrators, parents, and students themselves.

Along with the MeToo movement, media and victims’ advocates are highlighting institutional sexual abuse, and specifically shining a light on so many organizational leaders who turned a blind eye to such abuse. You may remember some of the horrific accounts of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct involving:

  • Jerry Sandusky, Penn State Coach
  • Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics Doctor
  • Greg Stephen, Iowa Barnstormers Basketball Coach
  • Boy Scouts of America
  • Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Catholic Church.

“Community Grooming” is a theme in these cases, where people in positions of leadership and trust groom communities around them to believe they are having positive impacts in their victims’ lives.

AB 218: California Child Victims Act

On January 1, 2020, a piece of California legislation called AB 218 took effect. The bill essentially extends the time that California child sexual abuse survivors may file a claim, including non-recent abuse. AB 218 has several components:

  • If you are 40 years of age or younger and are a survivor of sexual abuse, you are eligible to file a lawsuit for financial damages, regardless of when the crime occurred.
  • If you are over age 40, you may still file a claim during the three-year “lookback window,” which began on January 1, 2020. This means that if the previous statute of limitations barred you from filing a lawsuit, that statute is now temporarily removed, and you can file a civil lawsuit. Essentially, from 2020 to 2022, the statute of limitations is eliminated, and you are eligible to file a claim for financial damages.
  • As an adult at any age, you may bring a claim within five years of the date you discover (or reasonably should have discovered) that a psychological injury or illness (such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD) was caused by the childhood sexual assault.

Another important part of AB 218 is the “Treble Damages” clause. This clause permits courts to compel a defendant to pay up to three times the amount of actual damages to a childhood sexual abuse survivor, if an attempted cover-up of the abuse occurred. In many sex abuse cases, institutions destroyed evidence, told blatant lies, and took other actions to cover-up perpetrator abuse.

Our advice has always been, whenever possible, to report sexual abuse promptly after it occurs. Legal claims based on assertions of abuse present many challenges. Other victims and other witnesses who may corroborate your account may have died, moved away, or say they do not remember. Records like background checks and disciplinary actions may be destroyed without ever having been digitally archived.
What is Sexual Violence?

From an investigation perspective, it is much easier to identify details like specific dates of encounters, first and last names, addresses, classroom numbers, and makes and models of cars from a month ago versus 15 years ago. You also may easily access records of communications from a month ago, whereas communications from 15 years ago may be destroyed. However, we believe it is important to investigate all claims, regardless of how much time has passed. That’s why we hired a former LAPD Detective Supervisor from the elite Sex Crimes Division, Moses Castillo, to serve as DLG’s Chief Investigator on all sexual abuse cases. We will do everything we can, using every resource available, to help you. As with all of our personal injury cases, we are only paid for our services if we recover money for you. For our clients, this means there are no upfront fees and there is no financial risk to pursue a claim.

Why Choose DLG For Your Sexual Assault or Sexual Abuse Case?

We want our clients to feel secure, safe, and confident in our legal abilities, and their future. DLG’s experience, expertise, and resources set us apart from other law firms, giving our clients a true advantage. We have assembled a team of Sexual Assault Justice Experts (SAJE). This includes:

  • Samuel Dordulian, the Founder of DLG, a former Deputy District Attorney
  • Chief Investigator Moses Castillo, a Former decorated LAPD Sex Crimes Division Detective
  • A licensed Clinical Therapist on staff with 15 years of experience helping survivors
  • Two dedicated Victim Advocates available to our clients 24/7

If you’ve experienced workplace sexual harassment, our expert attorneys can help you recover financial damages you deserve. Contact us online or by phone for a free consultation today.

We know you have many choices in selecting a Los Angeles sexual violence lawyer to represent you. Because your future depends on the outcome of your case, choosing the right attorney is the most important decision you can make. We have a success rate of more than 99%, and our case results include more than $100 million recovered. Other attorneys consistently refer sexual abuse cases to DLG, because they appreciate and respect our track record and ability to help their survivor clients recover maximum damages.

Schedule a Free Consultation with DLG Today

Ending abuse and pursuing a new future is not something anyone must do alone. If you’re ready to take the first step towards seeking justice against your perpetrator and recovering the financial damages you deserve, help and hope is just a phone call, email, or click away. Our legal team is available to speak with you 24/7.

Call us at (800) 880-777, email us at info@dllawgroup.com, or contact us online for a free consultation about your case today.

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