No Consensual Sex in Child Sexual Abuse Cases

Senate Bill 14, which closed a legal loophole that previously allowed defendants in civil lawsuits accused of sexual abuse of a minor to argue that the sexual act was consensual. The passage of the bill was spurred by a 2011 case in which a 28-year-old teacher successfully argued that his 14-year-old student consented to sexual intercourse.

Filing a Civil Lawsuit

Individuals who have suffered sexual abuse can file a lawsuit against the offender in civil court. While criminal prosecutions can result in imprisonment in the event that the perpetrator is convicted, civil lawsuits are often the only way that a victim can collect monetary compensation.

Often, it is easier for plaintiffs in civil cases involving sexual abuse to show that the defendant is liable for the alleged act than it is to successfully prosecute a criminal case. This is in large part due to the fact that the standard of proof is lower in civil cases than in criminal contexts. In order to recover, a plaintiff need only show by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that it is more likely than not, that the defendant committed the illegal act.

Consent as a Defense

While it has been clear for decades in criminal law contexts that minors are legally unable to consent to sexual acts, rules regarding civil law claims did not clarify under what circumstances a consent defense could be raised at trial. Senate Bill 14 confirms that consent can never be raised as defense in a case involving the sexual abuse of a minor by an adult in a position of authority.

Position of Authority

In California, an adult in a position of authority includes anyone who, by reason of that position, is able to exercise undue influence over a minor. Undue influence means the type of excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will. Individuals in positions of authority include:

  • Parents, step-parents, and foster parents;
  • Relatives and partners of any parent or relative;
  • Caretakers, youth leaders, recreational directors, athletic managers, coaches, and teachers;
  • Counselors, therapists, religious leaders, and doctors; and
  • Employees or coworkers of one of the above individuals.
Minor’s Sexual Conduct as Evidence

The new bill also states that evidence of a minor’s sexual conduct with an adult can only be used as evidence in a court setting in very limited instances, including the following:

  • To attack the credibility of the plaintiff in compliance with existing law; or
  • To prove something other than consent by the plaintiff, if after a hearing outside of the presence of the jury, a judge rules that the defendant proved that the probative value of the evidence outweighs the prejudice to the plaintiff.

Sexual abuse has devastating consequences on the emotional and physical well-being of victims, especially when the victim is a minor and the perpetrator was a trusted adult. If you or your child has been the victim of sexual abuse, please contact the skilled legal team at Cerri, Boskovich & Allard for a free consultation at (408) 289-1417.

Client Reviews

“Working with CBA has been a truly remarkable experience. They exude genuineness, openness, and transparency, transforming a challenging situation into a positive one. Lauren, in particular, consistently displayed empathy, ensuring a comfortable and safe environment throughout.”

Jane Doe v. San Francisco Unified School District

Jane Doe

“Every step of the way, Lauren gave me hope when I felt hopeless, and she gave me help when I felt helpless. Lauren was the attorney who I knew was in my corner, and she will undoubtedly continue to be in the corner of survivors to hold their abuser and institution accountable.”

Jane Doe 2 v. East Side Union High School District

Jane Doe 2

“What happened to me needed to be addressed. I missed out on such an important part of my life, while my institution made no qualms. You don’t get to push kids under a rug. I’m glad I was given an opportunity to address my broken life.”

Jane Doe v. Saratoga–Los Gatos Union High School District

Jane Doe
“My family and I were so thankful for the law services and guidance received during a very emotional and challenging time; the care, sensitivity and professionalism with which our case was handled provided us with a sense of calm, clarity and confidence that we could not have navigated on our own or for each other.” Mary Doe
American Board of Trial Advocates
The Best Lawyers in America
Best Law Firms
The National Trial Lawyers
California Lawyer