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.
Organizations that enable child sex abuse must be held accountable for their negligence.
"Thank you." Brian and his team handled our case professionally and with speed.
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.
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.
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:
- Private / boarding schools
- Schools for religious instruction
- Colleges and universities
- Preschools and daycare facilities
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
- 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
By Brian Kent
June 12, 2019 - Southern Baptist Convention Passes Two Reforms On Sexual Abuse Issue
The Southern Baptist Convention has explicitly addressed sexual abuse for the first time. Over the last decade, dozens of women have come forward to accuse SBC pastors of sexual misconduct, but until now, the denomination has chosen to ignore the problem, resisting efforts at reform, including the creation of a central database to register abusive preachers. But at the organization's annual meeting this week, SBC president Dan Greear urged pastors from around the country to put the sexual abuse problem at the forefront of their minds. The meeting saw votes on two measures designed to tackle the issue of sexual abuse, which advocates have called an epidemic. The first vote saw pastors ratify a measure to create a centralized committee that would investigate churches that are accused of concealing sexual abuse allegations or botching investigations. The second vote amended the SBC Constitution to allow churches who mishandle sexual abuse allegations to be removed from the denomination.
May 15, 2019 - Montana, Tennessee Lengthen Sexual Abuse Statutes Of Limitations
More major changes are afoot across the United States for sexual abuse survivors who hope to pursue legal action. On May 7, 2019, Montant Governor Steve Bullock signed a bill that brings a seismic overhaul to the state's sexual abuse laws. Under the new law, the criminal statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases has been lifted completely, allowing charges to be filed against sexual abusers at any time, regardless of the victim's age or the date of the sexual abuse. The law also extends the statute of limitations in civil cases, lengthening the current law. Sexual abuse survivors in Montana will now have until their 27th birthday to pursue a civil lawsuit, compared to 21 under the state's previous law. As in other states, Montana's new law also opens a 1-year window for survivors to pursue civil lawsuits against direct perpetrators and negligent third-party defendants, even in cases previously barred by the statute of limitations. Another change imposes criminal penalties on mandatory child abuse reporters who fail to uphold their duties. Now, mandatory reporters who fail to report abuse can be charged with a felony. Montana's sexual abuse bill takes effect immediately.
Elsewhere, in Tennessee, a new sexual abuse bill is headed to the desk of Governor Bill Lee, who is expected to sign it. If passed, the law would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations in several cases:
- when the victim is under 13 years of age at the time of the offense
- when the victim is between 13 and 17 at the time of the offense and the abuse is reported within 5 years of the victim's 18th birthday
In cases where the victim does not report the abuse before their 23rd birthday, the statute of limitations will be expanded to 25 years after the victim's 18th birthday.
February 5, 2019 - Archdiocese Of San Antonio Releases List Of 55 Priests Accused Of Sexual Abuse
A new report published by the Archdiocese of San Antonio chronicles the sexual misconduct of 55 Catholic priests and one deacon. Like many other Catholic dioceses around the country, San Antonio's Archdiocese is attempting to respond to the growing sexual abuse crisis within the Church by increasing transparency. But the San Antonio list goes far beyond similar lists released by other diocese, providing detailed summaries of each abuse case and highlighting instances of misconduct on the part of Catholic leaders.
The list of accused priests goes back to the 1940s, with the most recent allegations having come in relation to conduct alleged between 2000 and 2019. The Archdiocese says in the report that no allegations of sexual misconduct occurring between 2010 and 2019 have been reported, though it's clear that the Archdiocese has received an influx of new reports linked to historical misconduct in the past few years.
Here's a complete list of the priests named in the report:
- John Fiala
- Jerzy Sieczynski
- Jose Aviles
- Theo Clerx
- John Davila
- Carlos Lozano
- James Orr
- Javier Ortiz Dietz
- Anthony Ozzimo
- Jose Luis Contreras
- Federico Fernandez Baeza
- Richard Garcia
- Ramon Gomez
- Benigno David Gonzalez Zumaya
- James Khoury
- Mario Martinez
- Edward Pavlicek
- Alfredo Prado
- Louis White
- Albert Wilwerding
- Thomas Behnke
- David Connell
- Francisco Gomez
- Michael Harrold
- Antonio Gonzalez Hernandez
- Lawrence Hernandez
- Michael Kenny
- Bruce MacArthur
- Alfred Harry Martin
- John McMahon
- Patrick McNulty
- Thomas Aquinas McSwiggan
- Eusebio Pantoja Segura
- Jose Luis Sandoval
- William Sprigler
- Joseph Angeli
- John Flynn
- Edward John Jansky
- Jose Alfonso Madrid
- Galeb Mokarzel
- Michael J. O'Sullivan
- Austin N. Park
- Jesus Jeremias Rojas
- Marion T. Swize
- Marshall Gherman
- Gabriel Hentrich
- Hubert Joseph Janak
- John Francis Keane
- William Lievens
- Emmet Malone
- Jose Leoca dio Cayetan de los Dolores Romero
- Albert Storme
- Paul Van Houtteghem
- Frances Sales Strobel
- Virgilio Elizondo
- Donald Ruppert
To find more details from the report, click here.
January 10, 2019 - Chicago Charter School Coach Faces Child Sexual Abuse Charges
A former basketball coach at Chicago charter school Legal Prep Charter Academy has been charged for sexually assaulting two students. Officials for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office say Jamel Helaire-Jones, 32, had inappropriate sexual relationships with two students while he was coaching at the charter school on the city's West Side. Prosecutors have confirmed that the alleged victims were between 13 and 17 years old.
Helaire-Jones has been charged with two felony counts of criminal sexual assault. In a press release, Legal Prep Charter Academy said it took all proper steps to remove the coach from his position after learning of the abuse allegations. This is at least Helaire-Jones' third time facing criminal charges; he was previously convicted for robbery in 2005 and charged with sexual assault in 2006.
He is being held without bail in a county jail. Helaire-Jones' next court appearance is scheduled for January 28, 2019.
December 6, 2018 - Embattled USA Gymnastics Files For Bankruptcy To Handle Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Amid the ongoing Larry Nascar scandal, USA Gymnastics has chosen to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Pending the filing, all current claims against USA Gymnastics, including over 100 sexual abuse lawsuits, will be stayed. While dozens of lawsuits related to Larry Nassar's sexual abuse are currently pending in courts across the country, it is expected that these claims will now be handled through the bankruptcy court.
USA Gymnastics estimates that settling the cases could cost anywhere between $75 million and $100 million, a sum the organization says should be covered through liability insurance policies. USA Gymnastics has participated in at least three mediations, but a resolution to the litigation has yet to emerge.
The bankruptcy filing is also likely to stall the Section 8 complaint against USA Gymnastics, in which the US Olympic Committee seeks to strip the organization of its status as a national governing body. Losing national governing body status would almost surely sound the death knell for USA Gymnastics, as any gymnasts wishing to participate in competition would move to whichever organization became its successor.
The bankruptcy could buy USA Gymnastics more time to get its house in order, and prove to the US Olympic Committee that it can still be viable concern in the world of international athletic competition. To learn more about the story, click here.
November 5, 2018 - Oklahoma City Archdiocese Suspends Priest In Wake Of Sexual Abuse Allegation
An Oklahoma priest has been removed from the ministry pending an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse. Father James Mickus, who has served at least 15 assignments in Oklahoma, is accused of sexually abusing a minor. Mickus is currently a pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Chandler and Saint Louis Catholic Church in Stroud, but Archdiocese officials say the abuse allegations stems from a past assignment. Mickus in 2002 sued an accuser for defamation, denying allegations of sexual abuse at the time. He was briefly removed from ministry that year, but reinstated soon after.
Amidst a growing sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church, officials for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City have announced their plans to review and publish all credible sexual abuse allegations against Archdiocese priests. The Archdiocese has hired an outside law firm, McAfee and Taft, to complete the review.
October 11, 2018 - Texas Catholic Dioceses Announce Plan To Publish Names Of Abuse-Accused Priests
Texas' Catholic bishops have agreed to release the names of clergy members who have received credible sexual assault allegations. The State's 15 Catholic dioceses have begun scouring Church records for sex abuse complaints, with some dioceses committing to go back to the 1950s. "An accurate accounting of the past is necessary for us to move forward with integrity," says Brownsville Diocese Bishop Daniel E. Flores. The decision comes after a meeting of Catholic bishops in Texas, and was announced on Wednesday, October 10. Each diocese is expected to publish its list by January 31, 2019. To find more on the story, click here.
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.