How to Fight Sexual Molestation or Abuse
The #MeToo movement has thrust the problem of sexual abuse into public consciousness in an unprecedented way. Long treated as a subject of shame, embarrassment, and fear of the implied weakness of victimization, society is finally waking up to the unfortunate prevalence of these abuses—and the enduring damage that victims confront for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, a considerable information gap persists in defining and identifying sexual molestation or abuse, and many victims remain unaware of how to proceed.
How to Identify Sexual Molestation or Abuse?
The terms ‘molestation’ and ‘abuse’ are widely used in popular discourse, but there is much ambiguity as to what activities fall under these rubrics.
In general, they include any type of unwanted sexual activity. Some examples include:
- Someone touches you without your consent, including kissing, hugging, rubbing, etc.
- Someone forces or coerces you to touch them against your wishes
- Someone restraints you for the purposes of either touching you or forcing you to touch them
- Someone shows their breasts or genitals to you without your consent
The above examples do not exhaust the possible manifestations of sexual abuse. Any transgression of your body, or refusal to respect your boundaries, constitutes abuse. This includes transgressions by family members, intimate partners, or those in positions of power—nobody has a right to access your body without your consent, or to force you to do anything that you are uncomfortable with.
Additionally, sexual contact of any sort between an adult and a minor child constitutes illegal abuse, regardless of whether the child consents.
What Is the Law’s Stance on Sexual Abuse?
While the above descriptions of molestation and abuse encompass popular understandings of an array of socially or morally unacceptable behaviors, the law maintains a stricter definition of sexual assault or battery that can be legally prosecuted.
Under California Penal Code section 243.4, sexual battery encompasses unwanted touching of someone else’s ‘intimate parts,’ defined as the victim’s “sexual organs, anus, groin, or buttocks of any person, and breasts of a female,” and can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the facts of the case. California Penal Code section 314 prohibits indecent exposure, a misdemeanor offense.
The age of consent in California is 18 years old. Any sexual contact with a minor under 18 is punishable under California law; either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the age difference between the victim and perpetrator.
California civil law also permits victims to file civil lawsuits against their abusers for compensation for damages, including emotional and psychological injuries resulting from their abuse.
What to Do if you have been Sexually Abused
- Go someplace safe, as soon as possible. Many sexual abusers exhibit a pattern of escalation, and minor transgressions may later escalate to sexual violence. If you have no family or friends who can provide safe shelter for you, seek out a local domestic abuse advocacy center.
- Tell someone. If you are a minor child, immediately notify a parent, guardian, or trusted adult, if your boundaries have been disrespected. Notify the police, if you think you may have been the victim of a crime. Get in touch with medical or psychiatric professionals, if you have been harmed; either physically or psychologically.
- No matter what, remember that this was not your fault. Too many victims of sexual abuse tragically blame themselves for their perpetrator’s actions. They believe that they invited the actions through their behaviors and decisions, or do not understand that even the most trusted and intimate of loved ones are capable of sexual abuse. You are never responsible for someone else’s actions.
Contact a Sexual Abuse Lawyer
If you suspect that you or a loved one have been the victim of sexual abuse or sexual molestation, consider consulting a sexual abuse attorney. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be eligible to file a criminal or civil case against your abuser. The experienced award-winning attorneys of The Dominguez Firm have helped victims all over the Greater Los Angeles Area to bring their abusers to justice. Call us today for a free consultation about your case at (800) 818-1818.