California Sexual Abuse Lawyers

Allison Worden Personal Injury Lawyer

Allison Worden, Sexual Abuse Attorney

Calls were growing for California lawmakers to protect women prisoners from sexual abuse as documents revealed that sexual abuse suffered at the hands of prison guards was a much larger problem than previously realized. As part of the state’s new transparency law, the disciplinary records of corrections officers fired for sexual abuse were disclosed.

Some incidents involved the fondling of mentally ill inmates while they were in restraints. Others reported non-consensual sex between guards and inmates. There were instances of officers requiring inmates to wear revealing clothing or observing the inmates as they changed clothes. A few reports documented officer’s requesting inmates to them write sexually explicit letters.

The documents also reveal that at least six officers were fired for sexual misconduct during a four-year period. However, it is believed that there are many more unreported instances of sexual assault. Victims may not file a complaint while incarcerated due to fear of retaliation.

In the meantime, California and several other states have lifted the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases. Allowing individuals to file a claim for a longer period of time threatens to result in thousands more sexual abuse cases. In particular, claims against Catholic clergy members could result in more than $4 billion in payouts.

One victim in San Diego, who is now 71, whose abuse occurred in the 1950s when she was a child, described the ability to come forward with the allegations as a whole new beginning for her and other survivors who have remained silent for decades. She like many others believed that too much time had passed to pursue a legal claim against their abusers. It is estimated that as many as 5,000 new sexual abuse cases could be filed in California, New York, and New Jersey alone.

While seemingly unrelated, both of these cases demonstrate the silence and fear experienced by many sexual abuse victims. The need for legal protections for vulnerable populations has never been more apparent. Children abused at church or at school, or women facing abuse during incarceration are among the groups most in need of protection.

If you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault, you may be eligible for compensation for injuries. You may also recover for any injury-related costs you have suffered. You may be entitled to compensation for the psychological impacts you suffered as a result of the abuse. An attorney experienced in sexual abuse laws can help you understand the legal process of claiming damages for your injuries.

San Diego’s Catholic Clergy Accused of Sexual Abuse

In September 2018, the Catholic Diocese of San Diego disclosed eight additional clergy members accused of sexual abuse. At the time, the bishop stated that the publication of the names was a “response to the terrible moment we’re in.” He was referring to a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that found that more than 1,000 children had been molested by Pennsylvania priests. The public demanded that the names of the priests credibly accused of sexual abuse be released and that victims be compensated.

The names released by the San Diego Diocese were added to those it released in 2007. The list was created after a landmark legal case. The case was settled when Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $660 million to more than 500 victims of sexual abuse. The additions included priests either accused since 2007 or whose cases had been misplaced and not included in the earlier settlement. The 2007 case remains one of the largest church sex abuse settlements in the nation.

The California Law Making Catholic Church Suits Possible

In California, the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases was set to expire at age 26. Victims who do not come forward by their 26th birthday were barred from filing a legal claim. With no legal recourse, victims could not seek compensation from their abusers or those who attempted to cover up the abuse. The new law, which went into effect in January 2020, provides the following provisions:

  • A three-year “look back” period. During this period, there is no statute of limitations for victims now over 40 years old. In effect, even those who were abused decades ago are permitted to file a personal injury lawsuit against their abusers.
  • An extended statute of limitations for all child sexual abuse survivors to file a claim by age 40, rather than 26.

This is the third time that the state legislature has attempted to extend the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases. Former Gov. Jerry Brown twice vetoed similar bills in 2018 and 2013. With a new governor and increased publicity regarding sexual abuse, California’s lawmakers have now succeeded in enacting the amendments. Increased public awareness through the #MeToo movement and investigations into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church helped provide the necessary public support.

The Expenses Associated With Sexual Abuse and Assault

Sexual abuse and sexual assault victims suffer economic and non-economic expenses. Some of the details of those expenses and related statistics include:

  • The immediate costs sought by victims requiring medical treatment after being sexually assaulted or abused is, on average, $2,084.
  • As of 2002, the total cost of sexual assault to survivors was $18 million.
  • The lifetime costs of sexual abuse are greater per person than the lifetime treatment of common health issues such as stroke or type 2 diabetes.
  • The survivors of sexual abuse suffered during adolescence have an expected lifetime income that is $241,600 less than that of adults who did not suffer abuse during adolescence.
  • Women who suffer sexual abuse in adolescence are three times less likely to complete high school than those who do not suffer abuse.
  • In the United States, a child suffers sexual abuse every nine minutes.
  • 80,600 incarcerated inmates are sexually assaulted each year.
  • One out of every six women survives rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. About 3 percent of men in the United States have survived rape or attempted rape.

Sexual abuse can cause harm to a child’s psychological and social development. Improper development can cause multiple disruptions later in life. Some of the developmental processes that are affected by sexual abuse of a child include emotional regulation, cognitive style, and coping mechanisms.

Sexual abuse may deprive victims of educational opportunities that can lead to earning a higher income as adults. In addition, the consequences of sexual abuse may also influence the victim to turn to alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse is used as a coping mechanism to alleviate the emotional pain resulting from the abuse. Some victims may suffer other long-term issues including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, psychological distress, and inappropriate sexual behavior. Other consequences of childhood sexual abuse that carry on into adulthood include:

  • A poor perception of physical health
  • More frequent visits to the doctor
  • Chronic diseases and chronic pain, including fibromyalgia, extreme premenstrual syndrome, and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sexual problems, including painful intercourse
  • Mental health issues such as depression or personality disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Self-mutilation
  • Suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completion
  • Commitment issues and inability to trust others
  • Greater family and personal conflict
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Spousal violence
  • Permissive parenting
  • Parentification of children
  • Early motherhood
  • Premature childbirth
  • Postpartum depression

Why Does Sexual Abuse Occur?

One of the questions most frequently asked by victims of sexual abuse is: “Why did this happen to me?” While there is no definitive answer, it is important to know, as a victim, that the abuse was not your fault. Some potential clues as to the reasons for abuse include:

  • A relationship between two people who have an imbalance of power due to age, intellectual abilities, status, and role.
  • Sexual abusers often have more than one victim that they have power over.
  • Sexual abusers tend to minimize their behavior and blame others when caught or accused.
  • Many sexual abusers have feelings of being out-of-control in their life and their relationships with other adults.
  • The sexual abuser’s victims are often victims of opportunity in that they’re someone that the abuser knows and has consistent contact with. Ninety percent of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser, as opposed to only 10 percent who are abused as a stranger.
  • Abusers, when caught, will often promise that it will never happen again. Often, the abuse continues, either with the same victim or with a new victim.
  • Contrary to popular belief, not all sexual abusers are pedophiles. Many prefer adult partners, but abuse children during times of stress. The victims of this type of abuse are most often family members.
  • As many as 40 percent of child sexual abuse victims are abused by older and more powerful children. Juvenile offenders don’t necessarily go on to become adult predators and they’re often more responsive to treatment than adult offenders are.
  • Most child sexual abuse survivors do not go on to abuse other children.

Where Sexual Abuse Takes Place

In addition to church and prisons, other organizations and institutions have faced an increase in sexual abuse allegations in recent years. Some of those include:

  • Boy Scouts of America: A lawsuit alleged that hundreds of individuals who have participated in the Scouts were sexually abused by troop leaders. At least 350 abusers have not appeared in the organization’s files. The organization has failed to both appropriately vet volunteers or disclose abuse allegations to children and parents involved in the organization. About two dozen men have been arrested for sexual abuse that they committed as troop leaders. Claims assert instances ranging from fondling to sodomy. Among those accused include police officers, teachers, military and community leaders, and even a psychologist. One man who suffered sexual abuse as a Boy Scout 40 years ago is looking forward to filing a claim.
  • School-sanctioned sports teams and private club sports
  • Schools: Public, private, and charter schools are among those that opponents of California’s new law. They claim organizations will suffer under the weight of the claims that are predicted to be filed when the new law goes into effect. Colleges and universities across the country are also the subject of numerous investigations and allegations into sexual abuse and assault.
  • Children’s theatre organizations
  • Daycare facilities

This is not an exhaustive list of all the places where sexual abuse occurs. However, these locations are places where abusers may come in contact with their victims. The most likely location for sexual abuse is in a family home. Victims commonly suffer abuse in the victim’s home or the home of friends and family members.

What Is Grooming?

Many sexual abusers develop relationships with a child and his or her family before the abuse takes place. “Grooming” involves a gradual gaining of trust that furthers the abuser’s ability to be alone with the child. Some common signs of “grooming” include:

  • Special attention, outings, and gifts focused on one child
  • Isolation of one child from other children
  • Filling needs and roles within the family. For example, a male abuser may befriend a single mother and her child. The abuser may perform tasks and services around the home, attempting to satisfy a father role for the child.
  • Treating the child as if he or she was an adult
  • The gradual crossing of physical boundaries and becoming increasingly more intimate or sexual with the child
  • Maintaining secrecy through the use of threats, intimidation, and blame

Call Our California Sexual Abuse Lawyers Today if You Need Help

Only about a third of all sexual abuse and assault cases are ever identified and even fewer are reported. If you were the survivor of sexual abuse or sexual assault, regardless of the circumstance, contact The Gomez Law Firm. Our experienced sexual assault attorneys can help you understand the process of filing a claim and provide you with the support and compassion you deserve.Remember the three-year look back period will lift the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases. You may be eligible for compensation even if the abuse took place decades ago.

Let us help. Contact us or call (619) 237-3490 to schedule a consultation.


The Gomez Law Firm
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619)-237-3490
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