Sexual Abuse

Strengthening California’s Historic Rape Shield Law: How SB 1386 Heightens Protections for Rape and Sexual Assault Survivors

California has always been at the forefront of protecting the rights of sexual assault survivors, and the introduction of Senate Bill 1386 (SB 1386) is a significant step forward. This new legislation aims to strengthen the California’s historic rape shield law, providing even greater legal protections for survivors of rape and sexual assault so they can feel safe in pursuing justice and accountability.

Understanding California’s Rape Shield Law

Before diving into SB 1386, it’s essential to understand the foundation it builds upon. California’s rape shield law, initially enacted in 1985 to protect survivors from invasive and irrelevant inquiries about their sexual history, has been a critical tool in ensuring fair treatment during legal proceedings. This law prohibits the introduction of evidence regarding the victim’s past sexual behavior, unless it is directly relevant to the case at hand. The goal is to prevent victim-blaming and focus on the accused’s actions rather than the victim’s past.

The Introduction of SB 1386

SB 1386, introduced by Anna Caballero, aims to close existing gaps and strengthen these protections further. This bill addresses several key areas to enhance the support and privacy of sexual assault survivors during legal processes.

Key Provisions of SB 1386

Expanding Privacy Protections: SB 1386 broadens the scope of privacy protections for survivors by limiting the disclosure of personal information. This includes not only their sexual history but also details about their mental health, medical history, and other personal records that are irrelevant to the case.

Strengthening Confidentiality: The bill reinforces the confidentiality of communications between survivors and their advocates, ensuring that conversations with sexual assault counselors and support organizations remain private. This encourages survivors to seek help without fear of their personal information being exposed in court.

Enhancing Legal Support: SB 1386 mandates additional legal support for survivors, including the provision of court-appointed attorneys to represent their interests during specific hearings. This ensures that survivors have a dedicated legal advocate to protect their rights and navigate the complexities of the judicial system.

Tighter Controls on Evidence Admission: The bill imposes stricter requirements for admitting evidence related to the victim’s past sexual behavior. Prosecutors and defense attorneys must demonstrate that such evidence is directly relevant and necessary for the case, significantly limiting its use in court.

Increased Penalties for Violations: To enforce these protections, SB 1386 introduces tougher penalties for any violations of the rape shield provisions. This serves as a deterrent against the misuse of personal information and ensures that those who breach these protections are held accountable.

The enhancements introduced by SB 1386 have profound implications for survivors of rape and sexual assault:

Empowerment and Confidence: By ensuring greater privacy and legal support, SB 1386 empowers survivors to come forward and seek justice without the fear of being re-victimized by the legal system.

Fairer Trials: Stricter controls on evidence admission ensure that trials remain focused on the perpetrator’s actions, leading to fairer outcomes for survivors.

Encouraging Reporting: With strengthened protections, more survivors may feel encouraged to report assaults, knowing that their privacy will be respected, and their rights safeguarded.


Senate Bill 1386 marks a significant advancement in California’s commitment to protecting the rights and dignity of rape and sexual assault survivors. By closing gaps in the existing rape shield law and introducing new safeguards, this legislation ensures that survivors receive the support and privacy they deserve during one of the most challenging times of their lives. As we continue to advocate for survivors’ rights, SB 1386 stands as a testament to California’s dedication to creating a more just and compassionate legal system.

If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, remember that you are not alone. There are resources and advocates ready to support you. Your courage in seeking help and justice is a powerful step towards healing and change. When you’re ready to stand up, we will stand with you.

Recognizing Denim Day: A Stand Against Sexual Violence

The Origins of Denim Day

Denim Day has its roots in a troubling 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision, which overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans. The judges concluded that the jeans were so tight that the victim must have helped remove them, implying consent. This decision sparked immediate and widespread outrage. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim and in protest against the court’s decision. This act of defiance launched the annual Denim Day, which has been recognized globally ever since.

Why Denim Day Matters

Denim Day serves as an annual reminder of the critical work still needed to combat victim-blaming and to support survivors of sexual assault. It highlights a pervasive culture that too often allows the clothes a person wears to be used as an excuse for sexual harassment and assault. By participating in Denim Day, individuals, organizations, and communities make a collective statement that there is no excuse and never an invitation to sexually harass or assault.

For law firms like ours, which represent survivors of sexual assault, Denim Day is particularly significant. It provides an opportunity to reinforce our commitment to supporting survivors, advocating for their rights, and working tirelessly to secure justice on their behalf. It’s a day to educate the public about the impact of sexual violence and to challenge the misconceptions that often surround these crimes.

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From a legal standpoint, Denim Day underscores the importance of understanding consent and the need to continually fight against the misconceptions that lead to victim-blaming in courtrooms. As attorneys, it is our duty to ensure that survivors feel heard, respected, and believed. We strive to create a legal environment where survivors can come forward without fear of judgment based on their appearance or any other superficial factors.

Supporting Survivors

Beyond legal advocacy, recognizing Denim Day is about standing with survivors. It’s about creating spaces where their stories are heard and validated. It’s also an opportunity to provide resources and support for those affected by sexual violence. We encourage everyone to educate themselves and others about these issues, to volunteer their time and resources to local support groups and crisis centers, and to advocate for policies that protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.


Denim Day is not just about remembering a misguided court ruling; it’s about continuously pushing for changes in how society views and handles cases of sexual assault. As we mark this day, let us renew our commitment to fight for a world where no individual ever has to fear that their words, their actions, or their clothing could be used against them in their most vulnerable moments. Let us wear denim, not just as a symbol, but as a promise to support and believe survivors, challenge harmful stereotypes, and work towards true justice.

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For anyone affected by sexual violence seeking help, please reach out to us. We, at Haeggquist & Eck, are here to fight for you, to advocate for your rights, and to support you through every step of your journey towards healing and justice.

New Federal And State Laws Give Sex Abuse Survivors More Time To Sue Abusers 

President Biden signed a law on September 22, 2022, that removed the federal statute of limitations on civil lawsuits alleging child sex trafficking, child pornography and other federal crimes harming children, the “Child Sex Abuse Victim Act.” Previously, most survivors had only until age 28 to sue in federal court, even though many people do not disclose their abuse until they are much older, on average, when they are 52 years old, according to researchers.1 

How To Determine If My Case Qualifies As A Federal Sex Offense? 

The answer to this question is more complicated than it may appear. Facts such as the exact nature of the offense, or whether there was interstate activity involved in committing the offense, may determine whether it falls under federal or state jurisdiction. It is important to discuss your case with an attorney so they can make the determination.  

When Did The Sex Offense Occur? 

The date of the offense also matters when determining the statute of limitations. The Child Sex Abuse Victim Act is not retroactive, and it is not a reprieve from the existing statute of limitations at the time of federal sex offense. That means it does not change the statute of limitations for federal crimes that were committed before the bill was signed on September 22, 2022. The existing statute of limitations at the time the crime was committed still applies.  

State Statute of Limitations Still Apply 

In addition to federal statutes of limitations, each state has its own statute of limitations. Some states have passed reprieves on statute of limitations which grant victims of child sex abuse a period of time to file claims for abuse where the statute of limitations had previously expired. In California, Assembly Bill AB 218 became effective in 2019, allowing victims of child sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits for abuse that happened up to 50 years prior. The reprieve, also known as a “look back window” closes December 31, 2022. 

The California Sexual Abuse And Cover Up Accountability Act 

In California, the Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act of 2022, AB 2777, becomes effective January 1, 2023. This bill offers a reprieve from the statute of limitations until December 31, 2026, for survivors seeking to recover damages suffered as a result of a sexual assault that occurred on or after January 1, 2009, that would otherwise be barred solely because the statute of limitations has or had expired. The bill would additionally revive claims seeking to recover damages suffered as a result of a sexual assault that occurred on or after the plaintiff’s 18th birthday when one or more entities are legally responsible for damages and the entity or their agents engaged in a cover up, as defined, and any related claims, that would otherwise be barred prior to January 1, 2023, solely because the applicable statute of limitations has or had expired, and would authorize a cause of action to proceed if already pending in court on the effective date of the bill or, if not filed by the effective date of the bill, to be commenced between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2023.2 

At Haeggquist & Eck, we understand that there is no statute of limitations for the trauma experienced by sexual assault survivors. Eliminating the statute of limitations for federal offenses is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the right to pursue civil justice by filing a claim for offenses that are handled at the state level still have complex statutes of limitations that should be discussed with an attorney. Time is of the essence, so it is best to seek a consultation sooner than later. Seeking a free and confidential consultation does not obligate you to take further action.  


  1. Fast Democracy 
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