What Is Visual Sexual Abuse?

Someone can abuse or harass another person in many different ways. The legal definition of sexual abuse is not only restricted to physical touching. It can also refer to verbal, visual or psychological sexual abuse. Visual sexual abuse is something that a victim could experience in school, at work or right at home. If you experienced visual sexual abuse in California, discuss your legal rights and options with a sexual abuse attorney in Los Angeles. You may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the offender and/or an institution.

Definition of Visual Sexual Abuse

Visual sexual abuse can refer to any unwanted or nonconsensual sexual advance or harassment of a visual nature. Forcing someone to witness or look at something of a sexual nature without that person’s consent – including a minor child – constitutes visual sexual abuse. This includes surprising someone with sexual exposure without giving that person the opportunity to consent or decline. Visual sexual abuse can refer to any of the following:

  • Exposure of sexual organs
  • Exhibitionism/flashing
  • Bathing or changing in front of someone
  • Performing sex acts in front of someone
  • Images 
  • Videos 
  • Gestures 
  • Facial expressions 
  • Signs or posters 
  • Emails 
  • Text messages or airdrops
  • Website link 
  • A book or magazine 
  • Social sites

Sexual abuse does not need to involve physical touching to be harmful to a survivor. Experiencing visual sexual abuse can be mentally, emotionally and psychologically traumatic, resulting in mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. It can diminish a survivor’s quality of life and cause psychological problems far into the future. If visual sexual abuse occurs in the workplace, it could also impact the victim’s ability to earn a living wage and feel safe and comfortable at work.

Did You Experience Visual Sexual Abuse? Here’s What To Do

When exposed to visual sexual abuse, an individual or child can suffer in more ways than one. This is an offense that should always be taken seriously. Children who are exposed to nudity or inappropriate visual content are more at risk of developing mental health and substance use disorders as adults. It is important to protect yourself and your rights as a survivor of visual sexual abuse in California. Take the following steps, if possible, to take a stand against abuse, protect yourself and seek justice: 

  1. Get to a safe place. If you feel like your safety is at risk, get to a safe place immediately, such as a hospital, police station, or the home of a trusted friend or family member.
  2. Report the incident. Tell someone in a position of authority about the visual sexual abuse, such as the police or your employer (if the incident occurred at work).
  3. Consider a restraining order. If you know the offender and wish to keep him or her away from you, you can file for a protective order in California.
  4. Get professional help. Learn healthy ways to cope with the trauma from visual sexual abuse by speaking to a professional, such as a therapist, psychologist or 24-hour helpline.
  5. Document what happened. Write down as much as you can remember about the incident(s) as possible, including the names of everyone involved, the date and location, what was said or done, and to whom you reported the abuse.
  6. Consult with a sexual abuse lawyer. An attorney can help you get through the legal process, giving you trustworthy legal advice and answering your questions along the way.

The attorneys at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi can help you understand and protect your legal rights as a survivor of visual sexual abuse or any other type of sexual abuse in California. Contact us today to request a free, entirely confidential consultation. We will listen to your story and let you know how we can help you move forward in the pursuit of justice.