Category: Sexual Abuse

Harvey Weinstein has been accused by more than 80 women of various acts of sexual misconduct. The allegations range from relatively minor instances of sexual harassment to more serious charges, including rape. In addition to facing criminal charges for his more recent indiscretions, Weinstein could also be vulnerable to civil penalties. At least one of Weinstein’s accusers has formally filed civil charges against him for sexual battery and assault.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit For Sexual Assault

California law allows victims injured by another person’s negligent or intentional conduct to file a personal injury claim for damages. Many times, we associate personal injury claims with things like car accidents, defective products, or wrongful death. However, victims who suffer harm because of sexual assault are also entitled to take legal action.

Why would a victim file a personal injury lawsuit after being sexually assaulted? There are two primary reasons. First, a personal injury lawsuit will give the victim the power to hold his or her abuser responsible. The lawsuit can bring attention to that person’s behavior and help to protect others in the future. Second, a personal injury lawsuit can allow a victim to recover much-needed compensation after an attack. Sexual assault can cause a victim to suffer serious and life-changing physical, emotional, and psychological injuries. The damages awarded in a personal injury lawsuit can help the victim to cover (financial and emotional) costs related to these injuries.

Proving Sexual Assault in a Civil Lawsuit

What does a victim need to prove in order to recover compensation from his/her attacker? Many sexual assault claims will attempt to prove that the attacker committed a sexual battery in violation of the law. Sexual battery, as defined in Civil Code Section 1708.5, is the act of engaging unwanted sexual contact with another person’s intimate parts. Intimate parts include the vagina, penis, anus, groin, buttocks, or female breast. In order to successfully recover compensation, the victim will have to prove:

  1. The defendant intended to cause harmful or offensive contact with the victim’s intimate parts;
  2. The defendant did so without consent; and
  3. The victim was harmed or offended by the sexual contact.

Each of these elements must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. This basically means that the victim’s case must appear to be more likely true than not. As you can see, the standard of proof for civil sexual assault cases is significantly less than the standard of proof for criminal sexual assault. The different levels of proof that are required for a finding of guilt is a huge reason why a person may be acquitted on criminal charges but found guilty of the same offense in a related civil lawsuit. Victims of the crime seeking damages have a considerably easier time establishing guilt than prosecutors seeking criminal penalties.

Evidence in Sexual Assault Cases

Many cases often boil down to the word of the victim vs. the word of the alleged abuser. Any other evidence that can help to support a victim’s case will often be essential to a positive outcome. Evidence that may be helpful in a civil sexual assault case include:

  • Photographs of injuries the victim suffered during the unwanted sexual encounter;
  • Medical records to support the victim’s claim that the sexual conduct was unwanted;
  • Eyewitness testimony;
  • Physical evidence, such as semen, hair, or clothing fibers;
  • Text messages or emails supporting the victim’s case;
  • Phone records establishing the location of the accused;
  • Photographs or video footage.

What happens if the defendant is convicted of a crime? Can this conviction be used as evidence in the civil case? Maybe. California courts have said that evidence of misdemeanor conviction cannot be used as evidence in a civil trial unless that crime is classified as a crime involving moral turpitude. Sexual assault is classified as a crime involving moral turpitude in California. So, if the defendant in a civil case is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime involving moral turpitude, that conviction can be introduced as evidence in a civil trial. If the defendant is convicted of a related crime, but one that is not classified as a CIMT, it cannot be introduced unless the defendant brings it up himself.

Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney

Have you been the victim of sexual battery or sexual assault in Los Angeles? Call personal injury lawyer Joshua W. Glotzer today to learn about the benefits of filing a personal injury claim for damages. For the better part of the past two decades, Mr. Glotzer has handled thousands of complex personal injury matter and helped his clients recover millions in compensation. He understands that an injury can change your life forever and will fight to make sure that you are fairly compensated. Call his Los Angeles office today to schedule a free consultation.