What If I Cannot Afford An Attorney?
We work on contingency, which means that you do not pay any fees or costs upfront. In fact, you do not pay anything if we do not win. If we win your case, our fees are paid by a percentage of the amount of money we are able obtain on your behalf. We have a 99% success rate.
What Is Sexual Assault? I Am Not Sure What Happened to Me Qualifies As Sexual Assault.
Sexual assault is illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (such as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority.1 The legal definitions for terms like rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment vary from state to state. The state of California does not have only one sexual assault designation for criminal matters. For civil matters, we do not have to prove a crime has been committed. Therefore, we take into consideration all the actions that harmed the survivor physically or emotionally. No matter what happened to you, it is important to consult with an attorney rather than make assumptions of whether what happened to you “qualifies” as something for which you can seek legal action. Examples of Sexual Misconduct:
- Any unwanted or nonconsensual touching whether clothed or unclothed
- Sending or requesting nude photos
- Sexual communication via text, app, email, voicemail, social media or in person
- Exposing themselves or performing sexual acts in your presence
- Exposing you to porn
- Exploiting or coercing you to send nude photos or perform sexual acts
What If I Did Not Speak Up or Fight Back?
No matter how you responded, what happened to you was not your fault. We know from working with survivors of sexual assault that it is common to be afraid to speak up or fight back. Another common response is to shut down all together and hope it will end soon. Your body and your brain have natural physiological and neurobiological responses to trauma that were designed to protect you and keep you safe. Those safety mechanisms take over when your body perceives danger. Consent should be freely given without fear, coercion, fraud, violence, or threat of violence. Consent can be revoked at any time. Consenting to sex on one occasion does not constitute consent for another occasion. Consenting to certain sexual acts does not equal consenting to all sexual acts. Regardless of the circumstances, the law says there are certain factors in which a person does not have the capacity to legally consent. Factors Considered When Determining The Capacity To Legally Consent:
Minors cannot consent. In California, the age of consent is 18 years old.
If the victim has a physical, intellectual, or developmental disability, or other form of mental incapacitation, such as a traumatic brain injury.
If the victim was intoxicated from alcohol or drugs and unable to give consent.
If the victim was sleeping, sedated, strangulated, or suffering from physical trauma.
Vulnerable or Compromised Adults:
If the victim is considered a vulnerable adult such as an elderly or ill person or if they are a dependent adult.
Relationship of victim and perpetrator:
If there is an unequal power dynamic between the victim and perpetrator or if the perpetrator is in a position of authority such as a teacher, doctor, correctional officer, or supervisor.
Do I Need To Get A Rape Kit?
If the assault happened within the last five days, it is best to call your local rape crisis hotline and get all your questions answered about your options before it is too late to collect evidence. You can have a forensic exam completed even if you are unsure if you want to press charges or take legal action. The purpose of the forensic exam is to check that you are physically okay, collect DNA evidence, test for sexually transmitted infections, and if needed, offer you preventative medications. Evidence can be collected from clothing as well so be sure to take whatever you were wearing at the time of the incident. Having a forensic exam does not make you obligated to press charges or take civil legal action, but it can potentially help with both the criminal and civil case if you wish to pursue criminal or civil justice.
What If I Did Not Go To The Hospital Or Get A Rape Kit?
The trauma caused by sexual assault can cause survivors to immediately withdraw, shutdown, dissociate or mask their feelings by staying busy. It may take a while before a survivor feels strong enough to seek help and by then the window for collecting forensic evidence for the rape kit may have passed. Not to worry, it is okay. You do not have to have a rape kit completed to take civil action. However, if the assault happened in the last three to five days and you are considering any type of legal action, a forensic exam to collect DNA evidence would be good to have to help build your case but is not required.
What Is The Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault in California?
The answer to that question is not as simple as it may seem. Statutes of limitations can change from year to year. Those changes are not retroactive so the current statute of limitations may not apply to the date of the incident(s). Additionally, some states may pass a temporary reprieve of a statute which allows claims where the statute had expired to be filed for a certain period of time. Most importantly, the statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit for sexual assault are dependent on many factors and should be discussed with a civil law attorney experienced in working with sexual assault survivors as soon as possible because once the statute of limitations expires, you can lose your right to take action. Here on some considerations that a lawyer will use to determine the statute:
- How old was the victim at the time of the assault?
- Where did the sexual assault happen?
- What was the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator?
- Are there any circumstances that can toll (pause the clock) the statute of limitations?
What If I Want To Remain Anonymous?
We understand that navigating the justice process can be intimidating and feel like another violation of your privacy. You have a right to remain anonymous on public records. Depending on how the matter is resolved, not all civil cases will become public record. In the event, we file a claim (lawsuit) on your behalf, we can use an alias such as Jane Doe, John Doe, or initials if those aliases do not feel representative of how you identify. The parties who are considered responsible for what happened to you, including the offender, and any person, institution, or organization whose negligence led to the harm you suffered has a right to know who is holding them accountable. Therefore, they are entitled to know your identity. You are entitled to confidentiality in many forms, and it is important to consult with an attorney to understand how we can protect you. I Do Not Want To Be Labeled A Victim! We understand that words, especially labels, can hurt or feel shameful. We use the word survivor and victim as it fits the situation. In the words of the law, you are a victim of a crime if a crime has been committed against you. We know that if you are here, you were probably a victim and now you are a survivor or a human trying to survive. We choose the word survivor in our law practice and daily vocabulary because we feel it is more empowering. However, being a victim of a crime is nothing to be ashamed of. As a victim you have a right to seek justice. You can be both a victim and a survivor. We are not here to label you and we honor all survivors’ choices.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
We understand that part of the decision to file a lawsuit might be determined by deciding if the potential monetary reward is worth putting yourself through civil litigation. However, we are not able to give you an estimate of the dollar amount. Every case must be evaluated individually based on the circumstances of that particular case. There are many factors to be considered and even when cases appear to be similar by comparison, it is often not apple to apples. We pledge to investigate, research, strategize and fight to get the maximum amount of money for you while minimizing your exposure to trauma. We are your legal advisors, but all settlement offers must be approved by you. We believe it is very important to manage expectations and not provide false hope with numbers not relevant to your case. Therefore, we rarely post the dollar amounts we have won on behalf of plaintiffs.
Who Can Be Held Responsible For Sexual Assault In A Civil Lawsuit?
Every case is unique and could have more than one responsible party. After reviewing the facts of your case, we would determine who is responsible or culpable for what happened to you. We would fight to hold all parties responsible, which could include: