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In many cases of sexual assault and child sexual abuse, the perpetrator of the crime was enabled by others. If your family has recently been affected by sexual violence, you may have many concerns:

  • What are our legal options?
  • How can third-party enablers be held accountable?
  • Should we consider speaking with a victims' rights lawyer?

Our California sexual assault victims' lawyers are proud to help families affected by sexual crimes fight for justice.

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Many victims of sexual violence in California may be afraid to speak out for a number of reasons. However, seeing your attacker brought to justice can help begin the healing process and protect future victims from suffering sexual violence at the hands of the same offender.

Reporting the crime to the authorities can be intimidating, but the police are there to help. If you’re curious about California sexual assault laws, we’ve provided some brief summaries below.

Legal Options For Survivors Of Sexual Assault In California

If you or a loved one has recently become the victim of sexual violence, you may be wondering how to respond. Any type of forced or unwanted sexual contact meets the definition of sexual violence.

While you may be feeling lost and traumatized following your difficult experience, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. According to the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), there are approximately 8.6 million survivors of sexual violence living in the Golden State alone.

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Nationwide, nearly 1 in 2 women (over 53 million total) have experienced sexual violence other than rape, and 1 in 5 have been raped. 1 in 5 men (about 25 million) has experienced sexual violence other than rape.

If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse or sexual assault, there are services available in California to help. Need immediate assistance? For 24-hour counseling, legal advocacy and to connect with services in your area, please reach out to one of the rape crisis centers below:

The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault is an excellent resource for educational resources on sexual assault. To find a full list of rape crisis centers in California, visit the Coalition's website today.

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Our California victims’ rights lawyers help survivors of sexual assault and child sexual abuse get the support they need. Any victim can tell you that these traumatic experiences change your life forever.

It may feel like you’ll never be the same again, but with the right support, you can move on past what happened to you. To learn more about how the civil court system can help you hold offenders accountable and receive compensation for therapy, medical bills, and other damages related to your trauma, contact us today for a free consultation.

Child Sexual Abuse Laws

California has four laws which specifically deal with sexual crimes committed against children. These laws are active from Sacramento and San Francisco to Los Angeles and San Diego. Some of the sexual assault and rape laws in the section below this one apply to cases involving victims of all ages.

You may be wondering about the statute of limitations for crimes of child sexual abuse. In California, victims have up to 8 years from their 18th birthday to file lawsuits for these crimes.

Aggravated Sexual Assault Of A Child

This charge is applied in cases where an adult subjects a child under 14 to sexual abuse in the form of rape, sexual penetration, sodomy, or oral copulation. This can also be a statutory charge, which means an adult can be charged even if the victim consented to the act if the victim was younger than the age of consent (18 years old in  California). Aggravated sexual assault of a child is a felony in California and punishable by 15 years to life in prison.

Oral Copulation

California has a specific law for punishing adults who engage in oral sex with a person under 18 years old. Oral copulation is a felony punishable by anywhere from 1 to 10 years in prison, depending on the circumstances of the crime. Punishments are more severe if the victim is under 14 years old or if force, violence, or threats were used during the commission of the crime. Oral copulation can also be charged as a statutory offense in cases where the victim consented to the act.

Sexual Acts With A Child 10 Or Younger

If an adult engages in any type of sexual activity with a child age 10 or younger in California, that adult will be charged with a felony punishable by a sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment in a state prison.

Unlawful Sexual Intercourse With A Minor

In California, adults who have committed statutory rape may be charged with unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. These charges can be brought as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the ages of both parties. If the victim is under age 18 and less than 3 years younger than the offender, then the offender will be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail. If the victim is more than 3 years younger or if the offender is 21 or older and the minor is under 16, then the offender may be charged with a felony punishable by 2-4 years in state prison.

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Sexual Assault & Rape Laws

In California, there are six laws used to prosecute sexual offenders who commit crimes of sexual violence against adults. Some of these laws may also apply to cases involving child victims.

Assault With Intent To Commit Specified Sex Offenses

Anyone who assaults another person with the intent to commit an act of sexual violence may be found guilty of assault with intent to commit specified sex offenses. This crime is a form of attempted rape. If an offender uses force in an attempt to force sexual contact against the will of another person, he or she may be convicted of this crime.

Forcible Acts Of Sexual Penetrationportrait of distressed woman

A person can be found guilty of forcible acts of sexual penetration if they commit an act of sexual penetration against the victims’ will through the use of force, violence, threats, or other methods of fear and intimidation. The punishment for this crime varies depending on the circumstances of the incident. If the victim is an adult, the offender can be punished by 3, 6, or 8 years in prison. If the victim is a minor over age 14, the sentence will be 6, 8, or 10 years in prison. If the victim is under age 14, the punishment will be 8, 10, or 12 years in prison.

Penetration By Foreign Object

If a person uses a foreign object to penetrate someone else who has not given consent or is unable to give consent, that person may be charged with a felony. The punishment varies depending on the ages of both parties and other circumstances of the incident. This crime can be applied as a statutory charge if the victim gave consent but is under 18 years old. If the victim is under 16 and the offender is 21 years old or older, the punishment will either be 3, 6, or 8 years in prison. If both parties are under 18, the maximum sentence is one year.


In California, rape is defined as sexual intercourse which occurs either against a victim’s will or without consent. This could include the use of physical force, violence, and threats, or circumstances which prevent one party from consenting, such as intoxication or a victim with mental disabilities that prevent them from understanding the act. All rape charges are brought as felonies, but the punishments vary depending on the specifics of the crime. In cases where the victim is an adult, the offender will face a state prison sentence of either 3, 6, or 8 years. If the victim is a minor over 14 years old, the sentence is either 7, 9, or 11 years in state prison. If the victim is a child under age 14, the offender will face either 9, 11, or 13 years in state prison.

Spousal Rape

In California, incidents of spousal rape are handled under a different law than other rape cases. However, the punishment for this crime is similar to other rape cases. Spousal rape is a felony punishable by either 3, 6, or 8 years in state prison. In some cases, the judge may give a lenient sentence of probation. In these cases, the offender is often ordered to make payments to a battered women’s shelter and reimburse the victim for costs of counseling and other expenses related to the incident.


Acts of sodomy (anal copulation) which are committed against someone’s will or against a minor are classified as felonies in California and punishable by either 3, 6, or 8 years in prison.

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