Sexual Abuse by People of Authority in Los Angeles

Sexual Abuse by People of AuthoritySexual Abuse by People of Authority

Our society trusts police officers, clergy members, physicians, and other professionals to help us when we’re sick, hurt, or in need. And unfortunately, some authority figures use their positions and influence as an excuse to commit sexual abuse.

An abusive authority figure will do everything possible to make you feel isolated and powerless. But you’re not alone and may have more options than you think. A California civil rights lawyer from the Law Offices of Justin E. Sterling can stand up and demand justice for you. We understand survivors face long and difficult roads to recovery. We’re here to pursue the justice and accountability you deserve.

Contact us today to speak with a compassionate attorney in a confidential and free consultation.

What is Sexual Abuse by an Authority Figure?

Sexual abuse happens when a public official, law enforcement officer, or another person in a position of authority exploits the power of their position to engage in sexually abusive behavior.

You should be able to rely on police officers, doctors, and other authority figures to do their best to serve their communities. But the sad truth is that some have abusive tendencies that lead them to prey on others, and it’s impossible to tell who’s who. Countless victims are sexually assaulted by authority figures every year. Sadly, many of those crimes go unreported.

Examples of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is an act in which an abuser intentionally violates a victim without their consent for control or sexual gratification. It can occur in a variety of ways and may involve one or more types of sexually abusive acts, such as:

  • Inappropriate or unwanted sexual touching, such as groping, patting, or fondling
  • Sexual intercourse that happens against the person’s will or without consent
  • Forcible penetration of the genitals or anus with body parts or objects
  • Any sexual contact with a minor, whether or not they provide consent
  • Sexual contact with an elderly or incapacitated adult who cannot provide consent
  • Any sexual contact that occurs through force, threats, coercion, or deception

Common Positions of Authority Held by Perpetrators

The most common offenders in cases involving sexual assault by an authority figure include:

  • Doctors
  • Therapists
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Elected officials
  • Clergy members
  • Teachers
  • Professors
  • Employers
  • Supervisors
  • Coaches

How Persons of Authority Abuse Their Power

An abusive authority figure first gains control over a victim by exploiting the inherent power imbalance between them. When a significant gap exists between an authority figure’s social, professional, or legal power and that of a victim, authority figures have a perceived sense of dominance over them.

People with authority who commit sexual abuse exploit their positions to gain unexpected power over their victims. The dynamic often begins with subtle misconduct that escalates over time.

Many abusive authorities attempt to use their professions as a cover for their sexually inappropriate behaviors. For instance, there are hundreds of reports of physicians in California who have allegedly violated their patients, sometimes under cover of unnecessary physical exams or touching.

California Laws Regarding Sex Abuse by Figures of Authority

Although sexual assault can take many forms, these specific actions and behaviors are prohibited for authority figures and professionals under California law:

  • Sexual touching of disabled, incapacitated, or institutionalized persons – It is unlawful for a person to touch the intimate parts of someone who is medically institutionalized, seriously disabled, or mentally incapacitated if the touching is against the other person’s will and for sexual gratification.
  • Sexual touching of unconscious victims – It is against the law for a person to engage in sexual touching of an unconscious victim after fraudulently saying the touching was necessary for professional purposes.
  • Sexual touching an unlawfully restrained person – Sexually touching a victim who has been wrongfully restrained, or touching a disabled or incapacitated victim who has been institutionalized for medical treatment, constitutes sexual assault in California.
  • Sexual touching of an employee by an employer – Employers cannot intimately touch an employee if it is against the worker’s will and for sexual gratification.
  • Sexual contact under threat of incarceration, arrest, or deportation – It is unlawful for an authority figure to engage in sexual intercourse, sodomy, or oral copulation if the sexual contact happens without consent and under the threat of legal actions such as arrest, imprisonment, or deportation. This includes cases involving perpetrators who are not public officials, but the victim has a “reasonable belief” that they are (such as an individual impersonating a police officer).

What to Do If an Authority Figure is Sexually Abusive

If you know or suspect an authority figure is taking advantage of their position to engage in sexual misconduct, you can:

  • Talk to them directly – This isn’t always an option or even a good idea, especially in cases of severe abuse. However, if you think it could help, try speaking to the person of authority directly to make it clear that their behavior is inappropriate and unwelcome.
  • Report the behavior – If the offender won’t or isn’t likely to listen, the next step may be to report them to the relevant authority. For instance, you could report an abusive doctor to the state medical board or an abusive boss to a human resources department.
  • Take notes and gather evidence – Sexual abusers are most effective in secret, so do your best to document everything. Keep notes about the sexual abuse you experienced or witnessed, make copies of written reports of the unwanted behavior, and save messages or physical evidence that could support your case.
  • Contact a civil rights lawyer – An attorney can evaluate the specifics of your case and provide compassionate legal guidance. You may have grounds to pursue criminal and civil charges against the offender, so it’s best to speak with a knowledgeable lawyer about your options as soon as possible.

Get Confidential Help from a California Civil Rights Attorney

Our law firm provides sensitive, attentive legal advice to sexual assault survivors in Los Angeles and the surrounding communities. We know speaking out against an authority figure feels overwhelming and scary. You can count on us to provide respectful, compassionate service that takes your needs and wishes into account. Contact the Law Offices of Justin E. Sterling to learn how you can take action. Your first case review is free.