Some individuals might use the terms “sexual abuse” and “sexual assault” interchangeably. However, these are two different crimes under California law. Learning the difference between sexual assault and sexual abuse can help you understand your options for holding someone who hurt you by committing a sex crime in Los Angeles accountable for their actions.
What Is Sexual Abuse Under California Law?
What is the difference between sexual assault and sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse describes sex crimes against minors under 18 years of age. Sexual abuse is used in this context instead of sexual assault in this instance because sex crimes against children often involve grooming the child. This abuse can result in sexual assault as a pattern of abuse that occurs over a long period of time.
Legally, minors cannot give consent to sexual conduct. Even if a teenager or a child agrees to a sex act, it is a crime under California law. Even with consent, it is the exploitation of a minor.
Sexual abuse can take many forms. It includes any sex acts committed with or against a minor. Examples of sexual abuse include:
- Exposing sexual organs to a minor, including a female’s breast
- Rape, sodomy, and statutory rape
- Sex trafficking
- Masturbation in the presence of a minor
- Child pornography
- Child molestation (sexual fondling of a minor)
- Sending obscene messages to or sharing obscene material with a minor
Sexual abuse can occur between an adult and a minor or two minors. It includes fondling, kissing, and touching. Sexual abuse can also include forcing a child to touch their private parts.
Signs of sexual abuse for children include:
- Trouble sitting or walking
- Overt efforts to avoid a specific person without an apparent reason
- Displays an interest or known in sexual activities that are inappropriate for the age level
- Avoids changing clothes in front of other people
- Does not want to participate in physical activities
- Runs away from home
- Has a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or pregnancy
- Has unexplained bruises or injuries
- Changes in mood, loss of interest in favorite activities, and/or withdraws and isolates
- Has feelings of guilt, fear, and shame
- Begins regressing without another cause
- Experience nightmares and/or anxiety attacks
The impact of sexual abuse can be highly harmful to a child. In addition to the physical harm, sexual abuse of a minor can have devastating psychological consequences.
Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Abuse in California
What is sexual assault under California law? Sexual assault is a sex crime committed against an adult. In general, sexual assault is a one-time act instead of a long progression of sexual abuse.
Under California law, sexual assault is referred to as sexual battery. California Penal Code §243.4 describes sexual battery as unwanted and non-consensual touching of another person’s intimate part. Examples of sexual assault could include:
- Forcing a person to perform sexual acts
- Unwanted touching or kissing
- Sexual conduct under duress, coercion, or intoxication
- Sexual conduct combined with unlawful restraint
- Forced sexual contact with a person
- Touching a person’s genitalia or a woman’s breast
Sexual battery and sexual abuse are punishable by fines and jail time. The sentences can be enhanced depending on the circumstances of the crime and the person’s criminal history. Furthermore, the person must register as a sex offender.
As with sexual abuse, sexual assault can profoundly impact the victim. Victims of sexual assault may experience PTSD, severe anxiety, and depression. They may also sustain physical injuries from the assault, including broken bones, traumatic brain injury, and STDs.
Can a Victim File a Personal Injury Claim for Sexual Abuse or Sexual Assault?
In addition to the criminal charges, a person might face a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse or sexual assault. As a victim, you could sue the perpetrator for damages under California tort laws.
Victims of sex crimes could receive compensation for their economic damages, including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Cost of counseling and therapy
- Loss of income and benefits
- Reductions in future earning potential
- Out-of-pocket expenses
Additionally, victims may seek compensation for their non-economic damages. These damages represent the harm, pain, and suffering caused by sexual abuse or sexual battery. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Mental anguish
- PTSD, depression, and other psychological conditions
- Emotional suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Decrease in quality of life
- Loss of consortium
In addition to compensatory damages, the attacker may be liable for punitive damages because the act was intentional wrongdoing. Punitive damages “punish” the person for their wrongdoing, but you receive the money the person is ordered to pay in punitive damages.
You Don’t Have To Go Through This by Yourself
A sexual assault lawyer can explain your legal rights and your options for holding the person who hurt you accountable for their actions. An attorney also assesses your case and provides guidance when you need a trusted source of legal advice.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.