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Child Sexual Abuse

Child abuse is not just sexual in nature. Children may be subjected to more than one form of abuse at the same time that may include family violence, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse – although sexual abuse is often present with other forms of abuse. The effects of abuse do not always manifest themselves immediately or completely, often remaining hidden in a child’s psyche until unexplained symptoms manifest themselves, perhaps years later.

California proposed bill SB 131 was designed to allow victims more time to file a lawsuit. The governor, citing fairness to public and private institutions, vetoed the bill. The veto letter suggested that if the bill passed it would only pave the way for institutions and private organizations to be sued, leaving public institutions free from any risk.

Overruling the veto would have required a two-thirds vote of both houses. Voting numbers did not provide a mandate to override the veto, with 44 “Yes” votes, 15 “No” votes and 19 “Other” in the assembly. In the senate there were 21 “Yes” votes, 10 “No” votes and 8 “other.” Currently, the statute of limitations in California for sexual assault/abuse ranges, in most instances, up to ten years after turning  18.

Types of Child Abuse

  • Family Violence: usually perpetrated by the male in the family unit against women and children
  • Physical Abuse: may involve hitting, slapping, using an object to inflict pain, kicking, biting, scalding, threatened with a weapon
  • Emotional Abuse: the most common type of child abuse, often present with physical and sexual abuse and may happen at home or in other locations, such as school. Emotional abuse is often gender neutral.
  • Neglect: often referred to as failing to provide the necessities of life
  • Sexual Abuse: any act, contact or non-contact, where an adult lures, coerces, or engages a minor child in a sexual act, and/or shows them inappropriate sexual material and/or exposes the child to inappropriate sexual behavior. The majority of children sexually abused are female, with disabled children being up to seven times more likely to be abused.

Signs that may be present in sexually abused children:

There may be a range of behaviors exhibited by an abused child, including, but not limited to:

  • Sexual behaviour, language, or knowledge too advanced for their age
  • Detachment
  • Withdrawn, unhappy and suicidal behaviour
  • Bedwetting
  • Sleep problems
  • Nightmares
  • Mood swings
  • Aggressive
  • Violent behaviour
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme fear
  • Self-harm and suicidal thinking/behavior
  • Pains with no clear medical reason
  • Eating problems e.g. anorexia/bulimia

In California it is Mandatory to Report Child Abuse and Neglect

Individuals who work in certain occupations are mandated to report suspected child abuse under Cal. Penal Code §§ 11165, 11165.7.,11166. Occupations that “must” report include, but are not limited to: teaching aides, school administrators in the private and public sector, teachers, youth center workers/management, day camp management/workers, child welfare workers and any organization who supervises or aids children.

Mandated reportable child sexual abuse and physical injury includes sexual assault. Sexual assault includes, per Cal. Penal Code § 11165.1(a)(4):

  • Intentional touching of genitals or intimate body parts or clothing covering them
  • Intimate body parts include the buttocks, breasts, groin, inner thighs
  • Touching is for the intention and purpose of attaining sexual arousal or sexual gratification


If a mandated reporter reasonably suspects or knows about child sexual (or other forms of abuse), they “must” report their observations by phone as soon as possible and follow the call up with a written report within 36 hours by the most expedient means, per Cal. Penal Code § 11166.
Should a mandatory reporter not file a report, they may face professional, civil and/or criminal liability, and they may not claim they did not have sufficient knowledge about the reporting procedures. Not reporting is a misdemeanor and results in a large fine, six months in jail or both, per Cal. Penal Code § 11166(c) and 11165.7(e).  It may also support a civil claim for money damages against the school, agency or employer of those failing to report brought by the parents of the child being abused.  
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