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Talking With Your Teenager About Sexual Assault

In the age of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it is important to discuss what constitutes sexual assault with your teens. Teens are large consumers of popular culture, and thus their exposure to these issues will happen through a variety of media. It is best that you are part of the conversations they’re having around what behaviors fall into the category of sexual assault. This discussion is important for both your child’s personal protection and to guide them toward appropriate behavior.

There are a variety of research studies that have concluded that brain development in teenagers, specifically the decision-making centers of the brain, are underdeveloped. This can lead teens to make impulsive decisions that lead to actions that are detrimental to both themselves and those around them. An impulsive decision, such as sexual activity while under the influence, can cause life-long ramifications that negatively impact the lives of both your teen and his/her peers. Poor decision-making does make your teenager a “bad kid,” who among us didn’t make some questionable decisions even throughout our twenties? However, the more informed your child is about what actions could be considered sexual assault, the less likely he/she is to make decisions of that nature.

So, What Constitutes Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault in California, s legally defined as: laws that prohibit unwanted touching of another person’s intimate parts. The California Penal Code defines intimate parts as the victim’s “sexual organ, anus, groin, or buttocks of any person, and the breast of a female.” When sexual assault leads to non-consensual intercourse with the victim, it’s charged as rape.

Some examples of sexual assault in real life situations in which your teen can find him or herself:

  • If you are at a party where there is drinking or substance abuse, and you engage in sexual activity or intercourse, with a person who is too intoxicated to coherently give consent.
  • If you are at someone’s home, even if you are engaged in intimate activities, if you forcefully engage in sexual activity with another person who has expressly denied consent.
  • Forcefully engaging in sexual activity with someone who gave consent, then changed their mind and expressed their desire to no longer engage.

There are also instances of statutory rape in which your teenager could find him or herself a victim or a perpetrator. Examples of statutory rape in California:

  • A high school senior 18 years of age or older having sex with their partner who is 16 years old
  • A 24 year-old engaging in sexual activity with a person who is 17 years old

It is important to note that statutory rape is a wobbler. It is usually charged as a misdemeanor if the age difference is only three years but can be charged as a felony if the age difference is more than that.

Why is This Conversation so Important?

We cannot stress enough how important conversations around healthy sexual activities are important to have with your teenager, particularly from a legal perspective. We have all seen the episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Dateline, 20/20, and other crime shows that show both fictional and real-life examples of teenagers who have found themselves either facing sexual assault charges or realizing that they were victims of sexual assault. Many times, the trials can be confusing, divisive and potentially harmful to the futures of both teens involved.

When you actively participate in your child’s understanding of the law, their understanding of sex and their understanding of what behaviors are acceptable can make all the difference in deterring them from harmful behaviors.

If your teenager is facing sexual assault charges within the state of California, give us a call today to learn more about how your family should proceed to ensure the best possible outcome for your child. Poor decision-making does not have to ruin your child’s future, and again, it does not make your child a “bad person,” but it does mean that the facts of your child’s case need to be thoroughly reviewed and your family will need experienced representation in the instance of a trial. The Nieves Law Firm has extensive experience in this area, and we believe in protecting the future of our clients, no matter their age. Give our office a call today at (510) 262-2847.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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