Real Trial
Lawyers
free case evaluation

FREE CASE EVALUATION

No Win No Fee Guarantee

Year in Review Our Video

San Diego Sexual Assault Attorney

While discussion about sex abuse often proves uncomfortable at best and traumatic at worst, shedding light on these horrors is a crucial component of helping survivors find justice. Many San Diego sexual abuse victims find themselves uncertain or embarrassed when it comes time to find the courage to speak up about their experiences. But you’re not alone. Our San Diego personal injury lawyers can help.

San Diego car accident lawyersWhen schools, churches, nursing homes and other organizations fail to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual predators, the victims often suffer lasting emotional harm. Our lawyers obtain compensation for victims of clergy sex abuse, child molestation, and other types of sexual abuse. In most cases, sexual molestation and abuse occurs because an organization failed to take reasonable steps to protect victims. Can sexual abuse be prevented? Often churches and other organizations ignore warning signs of sexual abuse — or worse, know about the abuse but do nothing to prevent it.

Can a Sexual Abuse Attorney Help Me?

The short answer is yes. If your case is suited to legal action, you will benefit from having an experienced and knowledgeable attorney by your side as you seek compensation.

There’s no surefire way to guarantee that an attorney can take on your case. With that being said, the majority of attorneys offer potential clients free consultations to determine eligibility. We operate on a contingency fee basis. That means that unless we help you recover compensation, there’s no need to worry about paying hefty fees or forking over hard-earned savings.

If you or a loved one have suffered sexual abuse and are seeking the assistance of a qualified and empathetic attorney, schedule a free consultation with Gomez Trial Attorneys today. Our team of seasoned industry professionals is always ready to help new victims find the justice that they deserve.

What Constitutes Sexual Abuse & Assault?

Terms like “sexual abuse” and “sexual assault” are so broad that it can be difficult for victims to understand whether their experiences warrant legal action. Many actions and offenses fall under broad umbrella terms such as those mentioned above.

California law states that any unwanted touching of a body part—particularly the genitals, groin, anus, buttocks, or breast—likely qualifies as a sex crime. Other factors such as where and when bodily contact occurs can also influence whether behavior constitutes a crime.

There are exceptions to these rules. Many sex crimes involve physical contact, but thousands of victims struggle to cope with non-physical sex crimes as well. Other offenses, like stalking, also qualify as sex crimes.

Crucial Information for Victims and the Public

Many of us are ill-informed of the nefarious truths that lie behind sexual assault. For example, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center states that most instances of sexual battery occur between individuals who already know each other. Concepts like these can help empower victims to move forward and take the steps they need to pursue compensation and safety. Other individuals may be able to avoid circumstances that could lead to sexual assault.

Those who hold positions of power may be especially apt to leverage that power to commit sexual abuse. Some examples of such people and positions include:

Time Limitations for Victims

Unfortunately, the law dictates that sexual assault survivors must report their experiences and file a claim within a certain time window. This can prove difficult for those who experienced exceptional trauma or may feel unsure about what happened to them. These issues, however, do not prevent California courts from holding victims accountable for meeting deadlines:

  • As of January 2020, a 3 year window of opportunity to file a civil lawsuit will be opened, allowing any victim of childhood sexual abuse that occurred at any time, to file a lawsuit during that time period. 
  • As of January 2020, survivors of childhood sexual abuse that are now age 40 or older must include certificates of merts to file a civil lawsuits prepared with assistance of an attorney and mental health practitioner.

Recovering Damages Resulting From Sexual Abuse

Sexual assault victims can receive more in court than the satisfaction of achieving justice. Certain monetary damages are fully recoverable to facilitate the healing process and ease the physical and emotional anguish that experiences like sexual assault can cause. Victims may pursue monetary compensation to account for:

  • Medical expenses acquired as a result of the assault. Ongoing psychological, emotional, and physical care also qualify as medical expenses
  • Lost income or diminished earning potential if the assault caused you to miss work or lose wages. Victims may seek compensation for diminished earning potential if their overall ability to earn a wage diminished as a result of the assault
  • Pain and suffering and mental anguish that the victim endured as a result of the assault. Most instances of sexual abuse are traumatic—they may even lead to long-term psychological complications

Those who have experienced sexual assault may also advocate for punitive damages in court. These are monetary damages paid by the offender to the victim. Many criminals who intentionally harm others—be it sexually or otherwise—are made to provide these types of damages. It’s one way that American courts attempt to prevent similar behavior and cement punishment in criminals’ minds

You’re Not Alone

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that sexual abuse is far from uncommon. In fact, statistics indicate that Californians experience sexual abuse at a higher rate than the national average. Over 86 percent of Californian women—and more than half of Californian men—report experiencing sexual assault during some point in their life. San Diego residents are not immune to this statewide problem.

Educating victims and the general public about the truths behind assaults like these plays an integral role in the prevention of further abuse.

Sexual Harassment FAQ

In a recent poll, 20 percent of men and 60 percent of women admitted they have experienced sexual harassment. Among those who experienced sexual harassment, 69 percent of women were harassed at their place of employment. Sexual harassment can include a variety of behaviors. The federal government includes “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature,” in their definition of sexual harassment, which is illegal under federal and California law.

If you’ve been sexually harassed in the workplace or another location, you have the legal right to take action against this illegal behavior. A qualified California sexual harassment lawyer can help you through the claims process and file a lawsuit for you if necessary. Until you have the chance to consult with an attorney, you likely have some questions about sexual harassment, filing a claim, or filing a lawsuit. The following frequently asked questions about sexual harassment can help clarify some lingering questions you have.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

The words sexual harassment get thrown around frequently in many different contexts, which can cause some confusion. Not all harassment is sexual in nature and sexual harassment is sometimes used synonymously and incorrectly with a variety of other terms, creating more confusion. Depending on the law and the situation, sexual harassment is an umbrella term that refers to many different behaviors that can occur in the home, at church, in school, in the workplace, and in many other locales. Yet, when filing a claim or taking legal action, the definition of sexual harassment has a very specific legal definition and is most often associated as a type of discrimination in the workplace.

How Does California Define Sexual Harassment?

Under California law, sexual harassment is “unwanted sexual advances or visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing considers the following behaviors as examples of sexual harassment in California:

  • Visual behaviors – Sexual gestures, displays of sexually suggestive objects or media
  • Verbal behaviors – Slurs, jokes, suggestive verbal abuse, and sexually graphic comments about a person’s body
  • Physical behaviors – Unwanted touching and sexual assault
  • Requesting sexual favors in exchange for special treatment
  • Retaliating after a negative response to sexual propositions

What Protects Me from Sexual Harassment at My Place of Employment?

You are legally protected from sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson was the landmark Supreme Court case that provides the precedent of sexual harassment as a violation of Title VII, wherein a bank supervisor harassed a bank teller for a few years and then terminated her for using too much sick time. More importantly, the court also set guidelines for the evaluation of sexual harassment claims.

At What Point Does Offensive Misbehavior and Rudeness Become Sexual Harassment?

Not all offensive behaviors in the workplace constitute sexual harassment, and the line between misbehavior and harassment sometimes gets blurred. Previous sexual harassment claims in Calfornia provide the threshold for unlawful conduct when the following behaviors occur:

  • Unwanted physical touching. Touching someone without their permission is the most obvious and clear form of sexual harassment when the touch is sexual in nature. Yet, each situation is different and California courts have responded differently. California’s Fourth District Court found a defendant not guilty of sexual harassment after he hugged an employee and touched her breast. Other California courts have rules that outright touching of thighs, genitals, breasts, and buttocks constitute sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Verbal behaviors. Calling someone a derogatory name, even with a sexual undertone, hasn’t historically justified a sexual harassment claim, except in severe cases when verbal remarks target a protected group of people. California’s Fourth District Court ruled in Miller v. Department of Corrections that sexist comments that include demeaning and gender-specific slurs are sexual harassment. Continued verbal harassment of this nature can serve as grounds for a complaint.
  • Sexual propositions. Asking a co-worker out on a date isn’t illegal, but continuing to ask after being told no can constitute sexual harassment and lead to other threatening and harassing behaviors. The line between harmless romantic interest and unlawful conduct is sometimes fine. In fact, many employers have strong policies against office romances for this reason. Repeated advances, retaliation, and stalking clearly cross that line. When unwanted sexual propositions go unchecked, it can embolden harassers and lead to violent and dangerous situations and sexual assault. Under California law, workplace propositions can be implied; they do not have to be verbally communicated.
  • Sexual affairs at the workplace. When colleagues have a sexual relationship at their job, especially if one is in a position of power over the other, it also blurs the line between consensual behavior and unlawful conduct. Supervisors who play favorites and give special treatment because of the relationship create an atmosphere of sexual favoritism, which falls under the umbrella of a hostile work environment for other employees. The relationship sends a message that employees must sleep with their supervisors to move up the corporate ladder.

What Responsibilities Does My Employer Have to Protect Me from Sexual Harassment?

Title VII makes sexual harassment illegal in all 50 states, but California’s laws are more specific than federal law in most cases. In 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed four additional bills into law to help enforce sexual harassment and make it easier for victims to take legal action.

The bills impact employers in several ways, such as:

  • Victims can hold employers accountable to the full extent of the law. Previously, some agreements made it illegal to release facts of a case, preventing victims from suing for civil damages. These agreements are now illegal.
  • Employers are liable for the acts of nonemployees including job applicants, interns, volunteers, and independent contractors if they sexually harass an employee.
  • Your employer cannot force you to sign a waiver that prohibits you from disclosing information about sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Employers who have five or more employees must provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisory employees and at least one hour of training to non-supervisory employees. Both must have recurrent training every two years.

What Should I Do If I Was Sexually Harassed at Work?

You shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable at your place of employment. If you are in immediate danger because of stalking or because you have been sexually assaulted, you need to call 911 as soon as possible to file a police report. This will begin the criminal investigation process and put you in contact with those who can protect you and help you cope with the trauma you’ve experienced.

Aside from violence and assault, you need to report harassment to your employer as soon as possible—but consult an experienced sexual harassment attorney who can advise you on your approach. If your employer has formal reporting procedures, you should follow those guidelines. If you have exhausted addressing the harassment with your employer or you fear retaliation, your next step is to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or state Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The federal government states that when the following three conditions are present, it’s time to file an EEOC claim:

  • The harassment must be unwelcome and based on your protected status under Title VII.
  • You must feel the harassing behavior is abusive.
  • Another person must reasonably find the harassing behavior is “severe and pervasive” enough to create a hostile work environment.

What Types of Sexual Harassment Claims Can I File?

Under federal law, you can file two broad types of sexual harassment against your employer when you’ve been sexually harassed at the workplace:

  • Quid pro quo. This type of harassment, sometimes called “this for that,” occurs when a supervisory employee makes a decision about an employee’s termination, demotion, discipline, work schedule, and denial of a promotion based on whether the employee accepted or rejected unwelcome requests for sexual favors or advances.
  • Hostile work environment. Any employee, supervisor, contractor, customer, or other person someone interacts with at the workplace can create a hostile work environment if they harass someone with unwelcome conduct. Some examples of behaviors that can create a hostile work environment include discussing sexual activity, telling off-color jokes, displaying inappropriate material and media, using demeaning language, indecent gestures, crude language, and violent physical conduct.

How Do I File a Sexual Harassment Claim?

Residents of California can file a claim with the EEOC or with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the agency who protects Californians from unlawful employment practices like sexual harassment. You do not, however, have to file a claim with both agencies. DFEH will automatically cross-file your claim with the EEOC. If you are a federal employee, you must file with the EEOC because DFEH does not have jurisdiction over your claim.

You can start the EEOC claim process online and make an appointment, you can visit one of their field offices to file a claim, or you can file with a state or local agency like DFEH.

Some things you need to consider before you take action against your employer:

  • You cannot file a lawsuit until you file a claim with the EEOC.
  • You should have complete and detailed records of times and dates documenting interactions with your harasser. Keep this information available to share with the EEOC and a lawyer to give more credibility to your case.
  • You can protect your identity by having another party file on your behalf.

What Happens After I File a Sexual Harassment Claim Against My Employer?

Once you file your sexual harassment charge, the EEOC will notify your employer within 10 days. The agency assigns an investigator to gather information and determine whether reasonable exists to explore the charge. An investigator can request more information from you, more information from your employer, and make a site visit to conduct interviews. When the investigation is complete, the EEOC will issue a Letter of Determination or a Dismissal and Notice of Rights to you and your employer.

A Letter of Determination indicates the EEOC investigator found cause for your sexual harassment charge and recommends you and your employer to go through a conciliation process. If conciliation isn’t fruitful, the EEOC can file a suit against your employer in federal court. If they decide not to sue, they will send you a Notice of Right to Sue, which means you have 90 days to file a lawsuit. A Dismissal and Notice of Rights indicates the EEOC investigator did not find reasonable cause for your charge and informs you that you have 90 days to file a lawsuit against your employer in federal court.

Should I Hire an Attorney for My Sexual Harassment Claim?

It’s often in your best interest. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can help you in the following situations:

  • Retaliation can be a real threat when victims file claims. Even if your employer doesn’t retaliate against you, your harasser might be angry and escalate their behavior towards you. It’s not always easy to protect your identity, but you should try to do so when possible. A lawyer can correctly file the claim on your behalf.
  • If the EEOC investigator finds reasonable cause for your charges and you need to go through a conciliation process, a lawyer can be by your side. Lawyers don’t just offer emotional security in these situations: they can also ensure you have all the proper paperwork and documentation, and make sure your voice is heard throughout the process.
  • If you want to file a federal lawsuit against your employer, an attorney can handle all the details and timelines so you follow the letter of the law. Additionally, your attorney can help build a strong case against your employer, so they are held accountable for allowing harassing behavior to occur at the workplace.

Gomez Trial Attorneys Can Help

Gomez Trial Attorneys team works determinedly to help our clients seek the compensation that they deserve. Regardless of the abuse that you or a loved one may have suffered, you deserve to see your case handled fairly in a settlement or going to court. Our lawyers have excelled within some of the nation’s top law schools and gone on to distinguish themselves through academic and trial success.

We understand that your attorney should act as your partner throughout the legal process. That’s why we’ve hand-selected some of the industry’s most well-informed and trustworthy individuals to help build our practice. At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we’re committed to offering clients a suite of valuable resources and a team of helpful legal professionals.

Call Our San Diego Sex Assault Attorneys if You Are a Survivor

If you or a loved one have survived sexual abuse in San Diego or throughout the State of California, contact our offices today. One of our representatives will speak with you to learn more about your case. You deserve compensation for the emotional and physical pain and suffering you’ve endured—don’t wait.

We will listen to you with compassion, confidentiality, and respect. You can reach us at (619) 237-3490 or through our confidential contact page.


Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619)-237-3490

Contact Us background image

FREE CASE EVALUATION

No Fees Unless We Recover Money On Your Behalf

Practice Areas