Child Sexual Abuse: What Are My Legal Options?

Child Sexual Abuse: What Are My Legal Options?2018-09-10T11:47:44+00:00
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Child sex abuse has been shockingly prevalent in the US for decades. With your help, we can put a stop to it. You are here because:

  • A loved one or you, are or have been sexually assaulted or abused
  • You want to know what your legal options are
  • You want those who enabled the abuse to occur to be held accountable

Our experienced trial attorneys are here to help. We know this area of the law - and we understand what you're going through.

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Was your child victimized by a dangerous sexual predator? We understand the deep hurt, shock and horror that you must be feeling right now. Our attorneys are here to support you. Your family may have powerful legal options, both to pursue a case against the offender and to hold other responsible parties accountable. We know it can feel overwhelming and infuriating to consider confronting your child's abuser. If you choose to do so, if you choose to fight for justice, we are here for you.

How Does Child Sex Abuse Happen?

Sexual molestation, assault, and rape of children are widely considered among the vilest crimes, and you’d think that our federal and state governments would do everything in their power to reduce the incidence of such a horrific threat to children. Yet all over the news, we see case after case of sex abuse of minors. Where is sexual child abuse most likely to occur, and what makes it difficult to prevent and stop?

Predators Seek Positions Of Power

It’s obvious that predatory pedophiles on the lookout for victims would seek to spend time and work in places where they can interact with children. But positions that child molesters have been commonly known to take advantage of in order to target and victimize children and teens are those that offer power and authority over children and over communities. Using this authority and maintaining a facade of decorum, predators can, for example:

  • Gain automatic trust from children and their families
  • Evoke feelings of awe and admiration from victims
  • Arrange one-on-one time with children without arousing suspicion
  • Intimidate victims into silence
  • Rely on support from the community if allegations arise

Sadly, when abused children try to tell others about what happened to them, their confessions are often not believed, especially when the perpetrator is a prominent figure in a community, such as a beloved teacher or a religious leader.

Places Where Child Sex Abuse Is Common

According to sex abuse statistics, as well as from the rise of recent lawsuits, there are many public arenas where child molestation and other sexual misconduct involving minors is likely to arise.

Religious Communities

One of the most highly-publicized scandals involving sex abuse in religious organizations is the long-standing issue of abusive priests in the Catholic church.

Yet children of all faiths are at risk for sexual abuse, particularly those in religious communities that tend to be secretive or relatively isolated from the rest of society, because such communities may attempt to handle abuse complaints internally and avoid reporting them to authorities or sharing them with the public.

Schools

Though schools should be a safe place for children to focus on educational pursuits, studies show that child sex abuse is shockingly common, with as many as 10% of all children experiencing some form of sexual abuse during their time in school. And it’s not just public K-12 schools that suffer from this “epidemic” of sex abuse.  Children and teens can be at considerable risk for facing sexual violence and molestation while attending:

You can also read more about sex abuse risks inherent to each different type of school on our Sexual Abuse In Schools page.

After-School Clubs And Activities

Many parents enroll their children in a number of after-school programs, where kids can have fun, make friends, learn and develop new skills, and engage in a variety of healthy physical activities. But such programs also may harbor predators looking to take advantage of children when their parents aren’t around.

For example, a number of recent lawsuits have been filed by former Boy Scouts who say they were repeatedly abused by Scout leaders and other adult volunteers.

Sporting programs, such as Little League baseball, which play an important role in the lives of many kids, especially student athletes with aspirations for a career in professional sports, have also been hit by sex abuse lawsuits. Many of these claims describe coach abuse, where coaches who spend inordinate amounts of time practicing alone with students are found to have sexually abused one or more children.

On The Internet

Even when children seem to be safe at home, they may be targeted by predators online. Many children and teens now spend a significant time each day on the internet, whether on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, and maintain some sort of online presence through social media or other means.

Tragically, children who are simply looking for companionship online find themselves being manipulated into engaging in sexual text or video chat, or exploited / blackmailed by child pornographers into sending graphic images or videos. Some kids are even lured into meeting up with dangerous predators. While uncommon, recent cases have emerged in which children and teens were forced into sex trafficking by contacts they met online.

Signs Of Sexual Abuse In Children

The most effective way to help prevent your children from suffering sexual abuse is to be as involved as possible in their everyday lives and ensure that they feel comfortable and safe confiding in you.

Among the leading reasons sex abuse survivors give for keeping abuse a secret are fears that even loved ones and friends will dismiss their experiences as made-up or exaggerated, consider the confession “unimportant,” or blame / judge them for what happened. This is why it’s absolutely crucial to let your children know that you’ll always believe what they say and take what they tell you to heart, and that you will do all you can to support them.

Disclosure Is Rare

Keep in mind that it’s not common for victims to fully recount their painful experiences in a single conversation; it may take a considerable amount of time for them to be able to share their entire story.

Experts note that it’s common for children to drop hints that something has happened to them, to test their loved ones’ reactions and level of receptivity. Then, if they’re encouraged by the reactions to their hints, they may gradually share more of what happened. Also, children are often initially more comfortable confiding in an older sibling or friend than in their parents or other older family members.

Changes In Behavior & Physical Indicators

However, even if you’ve long had a close, trusting relationship with your children, they may still feel too frightened, ashamed, or uncomfortable to tell you directly if they’re experiencing abuse. After all, it’s a common tactic for predators to threaten, manipulate, guilt-trip, or brainwash their victims so that they’ll be less likely to expose the abuse by telling loved ones. Pay close attention if you notice your child exhibiting unusual behavior or unexplained physical symptoms, such as:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Keeping secrets
  • Sudden changes in eating habits
  • Nightmares or other sleep issues
  • Ripped or bloody undergarments
  • Pain during urination or bowel movements
  • Preoccupation or unusual knowledge of sexual matters
  • Reverting to behaviors characteristic of a younger child (i.e. sucking their thumbs, babbling)

Another telltale sign of possible child sex abuse is when your child is suddenly receiving a lot of money or luxury items from unexplained sources, as predators are known to “groom” children for abuse by plying them with lavish amounts of affection, gifts, and favors in order to win their friendship and esteem before abusing them. You can see a more in-depth list of sexual abuse warning signs in tip sheets from prominent advocacy organization Stop It Now!

Abuse Survivors Turn To The Civil System

Criminal and civil cases can be raised over the same incident(s) of abuse, molestation, or rape, though each type of case is conducted quite differently, as detailed in this guide by FindLaw. One key difference is that criminal justice in the current U.S. legal system generally offers far less support to victims than civil litigation. Let’s take a closer look

Cases Led By Criminal Prosecutors

Instead of being filed by the victims of abuse, criminal sex abuse cases are brought against alleged perpetrators by the federal or state government, led by a district attorney, State’s attorney, or other type of public lawyer.

Unlike in civil cases, victims have very little control over the case’s direction, and criminal prosecutors tend to focus on proving the perpetrator’s guilt while overlooking the considerable trauma that the abuse survivors suffered. They often lack sensitivity in the way they work with sex abuse victims, submitting them to invasive questioning and pushing them to testify in court, processes that force victims to repeatedly relive their trauma.

Compensation Scarce Or Nonexistent

Another crucial matter that criminal prosecutors typically don’t consider is the matter of much-needed monetary compensation for victims to help them heal and recover from the abuse they endured. Abuse survivors should be compensated for considerable expenses they face as a result of suffering through tremendous hardship, which may include lost wages, medical bills, and the cost of ongoing therapy sessions.

Yet the pressing matter of relief for victims is rarely brought up during criminal trials, if at all. It’s all-too-common for victims to have to specifically ask for damages, in the form of court-ordered restitution. But restitution isn't always granted, much less in appropriate amounts.

When criminal courts do decide to award compensation to crime victims, they tend to dole it out sparingly, asking for every expense to be itemized. It’s hard to put a price on the significant pain suffering, emotional trauma, and other forms of harm endured by victims and their families as a result of sexual abuse.

Compensation Through A Private Claim

On the other hand, civil attorneys tend to be experienced in treating clients with compassion and consideration. Knowing that victims will often require years of expensive therapy to help them cope with their trauma and start the path to healing, civil lawyers do their best to fight for the large amount of compensation that would best help clients afford the support they need.



Latest News On Child Sex Abuse Litigation

Brian Kent, Esq. - Sexual Assault Lawyer
In our child abuse news section, updated on a monthly basis, you'll find the latest developments on abuse cases and relevant scientific research.

September 10, 2018 - New York Attorney General Subpoenas Dioceses In Sex Abuse Investigation

New York's attorney's general office has announced a new investigation of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, sending subpoenas to seven dioceses, as well as the archdiocese of New York. Barbara Underwood, New York attorney general, says she was inspired by a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report, which identified more than 300 Catholic priests who had received credible allegations of sexual abuse against them. "The Pennsylvania grand jury report," Underwood said in a statement, "shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover ups in the dioceses." New Jersey, Missouri, Nebraska and New Mexico have all announced similar investigations. To learn more on the case, follow this link.

August 2, 2018 - Pennsylvania Catholic Diocese Publishes Internal Investigation Of Childhood Sex Abuse

A Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania has published the results of its own research into priests, deacons and lay members who have been accused or convicted of child sexual abuse. The Harrisburg diocese has found allegations of sexual misconduct against at least 71 parishioners and clergy members, going back all the way to the 1940s. A similar list, released by the Erie diocese in March, found evidence of 50 priests and employees who had been accused of abuse within that parish. For more on the story, click here.

July 12, 2018 - Sexual Assault Activist Arrested For Enticing Minor, Child Pornography

22-year-old Columbia student Joel Davis has been arrested for enticing a minor into sexual activity and child pornography. Davis built a promising career as an advocate for sexual violence survivors, founding his own organization, Youth to End Sexual Violence, in 2014. Davis' alleged misconduct was identified after he responded to forum messages planted by an FBI agent. Davis propositioned the undercover agent for a moment "alone" with the agent's fictional daughter. To learn more about the case, click here.

June 15, 2018 - Ohio Doctors Quadruple Child Abuse Identification Rate

Doctors and nurses at some of Ohio's top hospitals are working to identify potential child abuse victims quicker. A new initiative between the Ohio Hospital Association and the State's Attorney General's Office, the Timely Recognition of Abusive Injuries Collaborative, has already seen marked results. Over the course of the program, Ohio medical professionals have quadrupled the rate at which they identify children who are being abused. The project focuses on recognizing sentinel injuries (minor injuries that often precede major abuse-related trauma) and reporting them promptly to law enforcement officials. To learn more about the collaborative, follow this link.

May 22, 2018 - Senior Australian Priest Found Guilty Of Hiding Child Sex Abuse Reports

An Australian Archbishop has been convicted of concealing child sexual abuse in his home country. Philip Wilson, accused of ignoring multiple reports against convicted pedophile priest James Fletcher, is the most-senior Catholic official to ever be found guilty throughout the Church's decades-long abuse scandal. To learn more about the case, click here.

April 3, 2018 - Kansas Moves Toward Increased Transparency In Child Abuse, Neglect Cases

The Kansas House of Representatives has passed a new bill to force more transparency into the State's child protective services agency, the Department for Children and Families. If SB336 makes it past the Kansas Senate, Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel's proposal would require information on child abuse and neglect deaths to be made public. Kansas is currently struggling to deal with a crisis in public confidence in the wake of five high-profile child abuse cases. For more on the legislation, follow this link.

March 2, 2018 - Maine Eliminates $2.2M Program For Child Abuse Prevention

Maine's government has announced plans to eliminate Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, a network of non-profits, funded by federal grant money, who work directly in at-risk communities to prevent child abuse and neglect. To find more on the story, click here.

February 14, 2018 - Jacksonville Police Officer Sentenced To Life In Jail On Child Pornography Charges

A former Florida police officer has received life in jail on child pornography charges. Officials from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office say Michael Eugene Williams hired a woman in Texas to molest her 3-year-old daughter and send him pictures of the abuse. Williams pleaded guilty to the charges in June 2017. To learn more about the conviction, follow this link.

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