California has a series of strict laws regarding sexual assault. Thousands of sexual assault incidents, also known as sexual battery in some cases, are reported each year. Even with the high numbers of reported sex crimes, countless others are never reported, investigated, or charged.
California prosecutors do not take allegations of sexual assault lightly. If you or someone you know is involved in any aspect of sex crime investigation, it is crucial that you work with an experienced and professional attorney.
Sex Crime Defined
The most common definition of a sex crime involves the unwanted touching of a body part. Of course, the nature of the contact and specific body part are also used to define what is a sex crime and what is not. The definition of a sex crime can also include non-physical acts, such as stalking, solicitation or prostitution, and indecent exposure.
Let’s say you are attending a concert full of fellow fans of your favorite band. While standing in the crowd, someone pushes past you, and part of their arm bumps into your breast. This would most likely not be considered a sex crime. If, however, at the same concert, someone made an effort to purposefully grope your buttock, groin, or breast, it would meet the definition of a sexual assault.
To prove sexual assault, the prosecution must prove the following:
- The defendant (accused) intended to touch the other person for sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse. This is different than a medical professional doing an exam where the intention is not sexual.
- The touching was against the victim’s will.
Sexual Assault and Rape
Sexual assault is a large umbrella under which various sex crimes fit. That is to say, that rape is considered a form of sexual assault, even if not all sexual assaults are considered rape.
Previously, state law defined rape as an “act of nonconsensual sexual intercourse accomplished with a person” under any single set of specific circumstances. However, after the passing of AB 701, California law has expanded the definition of rape to include “all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault”.
The specific circumstances surrounding consent with regard to rape are as follows:
- The victim is unable to provide consent due to being mentally or physically disabled, is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, or is unconscious, asleep, or unaware of what is happening.
- Intercourse took place against the victim’s will through force, violence, coercion, or fear of the aforementioned.
- The abuser committed an act of fraud.
While California law specifically suggests that rape must involve a non-spouse, there is such a thing as spousal rape. The same circumstances to define a general rape apply in cases of marital rape.
While not all states recognize rape within a marriage, California does. The same is true for partners who are together but are not married. California does not, however, acknowledge date rape as a separate crime. Sexual assaults that would fall under date rape meet the essential requirement for rape and therefore doesn’t need a different legal definition.
Sexual intercourse with a minor is considered statutory rape in California. Statutory rape does not need to meet the general definition of rape. That means that even consensual sex involving a minor can be considered statutory rape. The main exception is if the minor is a legal marriage, and the sexual act does not meet the general definition of rape.
While most statutory rape cases involve a legal adult and a legal minor, anyone having sex with a minor can be charged with statutory rape. This includes two minors who consented to one another, a minor who has consented to a legal adult, or even a minor who has parental permission to engage with a partner sexually.
Where statutory rape can get confusing is with the age of consent. In California, the age of consent is 17. That means that two 17-year olds could consent to each other and not be guilty of statutory rape. If, however, someone 18 or older has sex with a 17-year old, the adult could face charges.
While not as well known as sexual assault or rape, sexual bullying is a significant issue facing people today. Typically, sexual bullying is bullying directed at a young person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, body parts, and so on.
Sexual bullying most often takes place online and involves the following:
- Sending or asking for obscene images or videos of body parts
- Leaving comments on social media accounts, e-mail, direct messages, texts, etc.
- Spreading rumors about someone’s sexual orientation or sexual experiences
- Making sexual jokes about another person
- Blackmailing or creating a quid pro quo in exchange for sexual activities
- Pretending to be someone else online for sexual favors, known as catfishing
- Snapping someone’s bra or touching their underwear
It is possible for adults to be victims of sexual bullying. Typically, once the victim is a legal adult, these kinds of behaviors are classified as sexual harassment. In either case, both sexual bullying and sexual harassment are protected under California’s sex crime laws.
Under California law, victims have up to ten years to file a claim. Victims of sex crimes are often offered compensation for their injuries in a civil court. They may also find relief in seeing the perpetrator of their assault behind bars in a criminal court.
Damages can include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages or loss of earning potential due to circumstances that were the result of the rape (e.g. if the victim had to stop working to deal with the aftermath of the rape)
- Reparations for pain and suffering, mental and emotional trauma
Help When You Need It Most
While the district attorney decides whether or not to press criminal charges, any individual has the right to pursue a civil claim. While you could go it alone, it is risky to enter the trial without the proper representation.
A knowledgeable sex crimes attorney can work with you to ensure that you get the best outcome for your case. The chances are that the opposing side will have representation, so handling the situation on your own puts you at risk. This truth is relevant whether you’re a victim of sexual assault or being accused of committing a crime.
Instead of risking your case, take the time to meet with someone who knows the laws, understands the process, and wants to help you protect your interests.