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Civil Suits for Sexual Battery

StudentsIn California, sexual assault is committed when someone forces unwanted sexual contact on another person, and is a crime. Depending on the facts of the case, it is punishable by up to four years of jail time and a fine of up to $10,000. While seeing your sexual assaulter get locked up may be satisfying, that satisfaction does not pay for your medical expenses, counselling bills, or pain and suffering. Fortunately, California law provides that a victim of sexual assault and battery can sue his or her attacker in a civil court.

What is Sexual Battery?

Sexual battery involves harmful sexual touching, without consent. It is similar to regular civil battery, but with the added element that the touching must be sexual in nature. There are three ways to commit sexual battery in California:

  • The perpetrator intended to cause a harmful or offensive contact with an intimate part of another person, and a sexually offensive contact resulted;
  • The perpetrator intended to cause a harmful or offensive contact with another, using his or her own intimate part, and a sexually offensive contact resulted; or
  • The perpetrator acted to cause the fear of a harmful or offensive sexual contact, and a sexually offensive contact resulted.

For the purposes of sexual battery suits, an “intimate part” includes a sexual organ, anus, groin, buttocks, or breast. “Offensive contact” means physical touching that offends a reasonable sense of personal dignity. To prevail in a civil battery suit, the touching must have actually caused harm or offense to the victim. It is not sufficient that the contact was of the sort that would cause harm to an average person.

Civil sexual battery suits do not require a criminal conviction. In fact, it is easier to recover in a civil lawsuit than to convict someone of a crime, because the burden of proof, or level of persuasion required, is lower in a civil than in a criminal case.


An important consideration in sexual battery cases is the element of consent. If the victim consented to the touching, he or she cannot recover. Consent is thus a commonly used defense. However, people may limit their consent without jeopardizing their civil battery claims. If a victim consents to some touching, but limits the scope of the consent, and the batterer goes beyond the scope of the consent, the victim may recover.


Victims of sexual battery can both recover damages and obtain equitable relief. Damages may include compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and counselling expenses. Equitable relief usually means an injunction, or civil protective order, designed to protect the victim. Often, injunctions forbid the perpetrator from coming within a certain distance of the victim, though sometimes they are much more restrictive.

Sexual assault can have far-reaching consequences and cause both psychological and financial hardship for victims. If you have been the victim of a sexual battery, please contact the dedicated San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free initial consultation at (408) 289-1417.

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