Kissing someone without their consent could constitute battery (also called sexual assault), depending on the circumstances. After all, when you extend your hand to shake someone else’s, you do not simply grab their hand. The other person is given a choice to reciprocate or decline. Consent is about respecting another person’s boundaries.
Some may think an unwanted kiss is not criminal misconduct because the initiator had no ill will or that a kiss is not overtly sexual. However, that is simply not the case; any non-consensual physical act could be a crime.
How does California Define Consent?
Understanding the laws regarding consent in California can help you determine whether you have a sexual battery claim. California Penal Code § 261.6 defines consent as “positive cooperation in act or attitude pursuant to an exercise of free will. The person must act freely and voluntarily and have knowledge of the nature of the act or transaction involved.”
This definition generally applies to those over 18 years old. In the eyes of the law, someone under 18 years old cannot consent to various physical acts. Also, consent cannot be given by anyone who is impaired by alcohol or drugs, asleep, unconscious, or mentally incapacitated.
Further, consent is not freely given if someone is threatened, coerced, or intimidated into an act against their will.
California Grants Legal Rights to Sexual Assault Survivors
It can be extremely difficult to come forward and tell someone about being sexually assaulted. However, it is important to know you have rights, and there are people who are ready to support you on your journey to recovery.
The perpetrator is always responsible for their actions and the harm caused–– never the survivor. This sentiment is echoed within the justice system by punishing the accused with criminal convictions. While this can bring some closure for the survivor, the process focuses primarily on the criminal aspects of the case–– and not so much on giving closure.
What Is a Civil Sexual Assault Claim?
By filing a civil lawsuit, a survivor can hold the perpetrator accountable for any physical, emotional, or financial harm they have caused through their wrongdoing. In some cases, more than one party may share liability in addition to the perpetrator. For example, liability may rest with:
- A building owner who does not provide adequate security or lighting
- An institution or company that fails to provide security
- An institution or company that covers up any sexual misconduct
A sexual assault survivor who suffers damages because of a non-consensual act could file a civil lawsuit, even if there is no corresponding criminal case or conviction. Further, in a civil case, the burden of proof is lower compared with what is required to prove a criminal case, and plaintiffs may seek financial damages for:
- Medical bills
- Rehabilitation treatments, such as mental health counseling
- Lost wages or future loss of earnings
- Pain and suffering from physical and emotional distress
This is not an exhaustive list.
Is There a Time Limit for Filing a Sexual Assault Claim in California?
Adult survivors of sexual assault have ten years to commence civil action after the event or within three years of discovering an instance of sexual assault.
In addition, the California Assembly Bill 218, enacted in 2020, increases the time survivors of childhood sexual abuse have to file a lawsuit. Therefore, multiple timelines could apply to your case, so it can be beneficial to discuss your situation with a sexual abuse attorney. They can provide much-needed support during this challenging time and uphold your legal rights. They can also file your case within the appropriate deadline to protect your right to damages.
Our Attorneys in California Are Standing by to Help with Your Sexual Assault Case
If you or someone you care about has endured sexual assault, the Fight for Survivors attorneys from Greenberg Gross stand ready to help. As well as protecting your legal rights, our lawyers are committed to providing the focus, attention, and support you deserve by:
- Listening to you, answering your questions, and ensuring you are properly cared for
- Conducting a confidential review of your case
- Investigating the matter to gather important evidence
- Guiding you through the legal process
- Preparing you for and accompanying you to any meetings, interviews, or hearings
- Working at your side to pursue the compensation you deserve
Begin Your Free Case Review Now
Our award-winning trial attorneys have litigated sexual assault cases at the highest level. We want to be part of your support system during this challenging time. While we manage your case, you can spend time with your loved ones, build your career, and pursue your favorite hobbies.
With us on your side, you can breathe easy knowing you have a trusted legal advocate on your side. Contact us for a free consultation to learn about your legal options and what we can do for you today.