Incidents of child sexual abuse are often incompressible, yet this terrible crime still happens much too frequently. Child sexual abuse is a tragedy that can have long-lasting and adverse mental and emotional effects on victims. It can take years before a survivor of child sex abuse feels comfortable coming forward with what happened. Survivors of child sexual abuse may have difficulty making and maintaining personal relationships or exhibit signs of destructive behavior. If someone sexually abused you or your child, a dedicated child sexual abuse lawyer can explain your legal options. Look for compassionate sexual abuse attorneys with extensive experience pursuing justice for survivors of child sexual abuse and who have handled similar child sexual assault cases.
What Is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse is a sex crime that involves any sexual activity with a minor. Whether or not the minor consents to the interaction or understands the sexual nature of the activity is irrelevant as, by law, a minor is incapable of giving consent. Sexual contact between an older person and a minor is against the law under any circumstances. Examples of child sexual abuses include:
- Child molestation
- Touching or fondling a child’s genitals or a female’s breasts
- Exploiting a child for pornography
- Owning, producing, or distributing child pornography
- Masturbating in front of a child
- Sex trafficking
- Prostitution of a child
- Sexual assault
- Oral copulation with a child
- Exposing sex organs to a child
- Exposing a minor to sexually explicit images either in person or online
- Sexual harassment
Child sexual predators choose to target innocent victims that they often know or minors who they’ve identified as coming from broken homes or children who don’t usually have an adult to turn to who will bring justice against the perpetrator. Common culprits of child sexual abuse are often someone the child trust or a person in a position of power. Perpetrators of sexual assault of a minor can include:
- Family member abuse
- Babysitter abuse
- Clergy abuse
- Sex abuse by coaches in sports
- Camp counselor abuse
- Sexual assault by a trusted doctor
- Boy Scout sexual abuse
- Foster care abuse
- Abuse by another child’s parents
- Sex abuse by other youth workers
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse can be both criminally and civilly liable for their actions. Sexual abuse lawyers make the public safer by going after these sexual offenders with aggressive legal action. Contact a child sexual abuse lawyer to learn more about your rights.
Long-term Impact of Child Sexual Abuse
Victims of child sexual abuse not only experience horrible physical abuse but the anger of being violated triggers psychological and emotional trauma that can potentially last a lifetime. For parents, teachers, and other individuals in positions of authority, understanding what signs to look for in a child or teen who may be the victim of sexual abuse is crucial to early intervention. Some common indicators of child sexual abuse may include a child who:
- Develops performance or behavioral issues
- Exhibits signs of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other mental health disorders
- Reverts to regressive behaviors such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking
- Quickly withdraws from certain adults
- Avoids physical touch or contact
- Lashes out or seems petty, bitter, or rebellious
- Have constant sleep problems
- Runs away from home
- Behaves in a seductive or inappropriate manner
- Refuses to change clothes in front of others
- Shows discomfort while sitting or walking
- Withdraws from physical activities
- Tests positive for a sexually transmitted disease
Sexual abuse survivors often experience shame and suppress their emotions or deal with pain in a self-destructive manner. When victims of sexual abuse are young, they may not always be believed or understand that what they’re going through is wrong or abusive. Having a lack of support from friends and family can cause a young survivor of sexual assault to act out turn to drugs and alcohol to suppress painful memories and feelings. Survivors of child sexual abuse are more likely to be re-victimized by another abuser and have difficulty developing and maintaining healthy relationships as adults.
Physical Contact Is Not Needed in Child Sexual Abuse Cases
Minors may face trauma from sexual abuse that doesn’t involve any unwanted touching or physical contact. An adult can commit a wide range of activities against a child that can be considered sexual abuse. Other ways an adult can abuse a minor sexually without physical touching includes:
- Forcing a minor to watch explicit programs or pornography
- Forcing a child to witness a sexual act
- Exposing genitals to a minor
- Exposing a child to sexually explicit photos
- Sending sexually explicit messages to a child
- Using sexual language/innuendo while speaking with a minor
Recovering from the emotional trauma of sexual abuse will often take much longer than healing from any physical injuries. Survivors of sexual abuse may fear the public nature of a lawsuit and shy away from holding the perpetrator criminally and civilly liable for their actions. You can file a lawsuit against your perpetrator anonymously and should speak with a qualified child sexual abuse lawyer who can guide you through the process.
Filing a Claim Against a Child Sexual Abuser
Learning your rights as a survivor of child sexual abuse is an essential first step in filing a child sexual abuse claim. Researching child sexual abuse laws and learning about related civil laws can help determine if your experience falls under the definition of sexual abuse or assault against a minor. Contacting a skilled child sexual abuse lawyer is a great way to fully understand your rights and what steps you should take before filing a civil suit against your perpetrator. An attorney will take you through the claims process by determining the perpetrator’s identity, writing a demand letter on your behalf, presenting your claim in court, and fighting for the justice you deserve. It is important to remember that criminal prosecution is different from a civil suit. The district attorney’s premier concern is prosecuting the sexual offender. Unlike a criminal suit, a civil suit protects the victim’s claims by equally addressing the emotional impact on the victim and the culpability of the perpetrator to determine an appropriate award for compensation. A good lawyer knows what steps will fight on behalf of the survivor’s civil claims for compensatory damages against a sexual assault or abuse perpetrator. They will also preserve important evidence, locate essential witnesses, and help you obtain the justice and closure you want.
What Damages Are Available in a Child Sexual Abuse Case?
When abuse survivors decide to pursue legal action against their perpetrator, obtaining money for emotional or physical damages they’ve sustained is often the least of their priorities. Identifying and pursuing perpetrators of child sexual abuse or the institutions responsible for enabling this behavior can provoke critical change in a community and help prevent other children from becoming victims of the same actions. By holding your perpetrator accountable, not only will you receive well-deserved justice, but another benefit of winning your claim might be gaining closure. Common types of damages available in a child sexual abuse claim include:
- Damages for emotional and psychological harm
- Compensable damages for impairment of the capacity to carry on with life
- Nominal damages for the fear or apprehension of sex abuse
- Financial damages later in life such as missing days of work for mental health days
- Punitive damages for extreme negligence or malicious intent to harm a minor
The unique circumstances of your case will determine the specific damages you may recover in your claim, as well as the total value of your case. A child sexual abuse attorney can calculate your case’s worth and obtain it for you.
Long Term Effects on Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
The effects of childhood sexual abuse can be incredibly traumatic and leave adult survivors with emotional scars that last a lifetime. When survivors of child sexual abuse, assault, or molestation reach adulthood, they may continue to experience nightmares struggle with stress, anxiety, eating disorders, or depressive thoughts. Many of these survivors often don’t realize their emotional struggles, self-destructive behavior, suicidal thoughts, or inability to keep a job relate to the abuse they’ve faced. Seeking counseling is a great first step toward healing that can provide you with an alternative perspective concerning how the sexual abuse has affected every aspect of your life, from your sense of self-worth to the relationships you maintain with others. While the process of confronting your perpetrator may sound frightening, summoning the strength to hold your abuser accountable can be therapeutic and serve as a significant milestone moment in your life. Everyone’s reaction to experiencing sexual abuse is different, which is why it is essential to reach out to the right professional for help if your life is suffering because of the abuse. An experienced child sex abuse attorney understands the long-term effect childhood sexual abuse has on victims. They work diligently to review your situation and determine how the tremendous amount of harm may have affected your life and relationships.
Child Sexual Abuse FAQ
What to do if you suspect that a child was the victim of sexual abuse or assault?
Report to the proper authorities such as the police department, a county welfare department, a county probation department, or your county’s child protective services if you suspect that a child is the victim of sexual assault or abuse. For adults who work with children, such reporting is mandatory. When you report a potential case of child sexual abuse, the report itself, along with your identity, will remain confidential.
Why should I have a child sexual abuse lawyer evaluate my case?
Cases of childhood sexual abuse and assault are complex, especially when brought against large institutions such as religious organizations. An experienced child sexual abuse lawyer knows what steps to take in your case to not only file your claim but help you receive fair compensation for damages. Instead of tackling the daunting task of filing a claim on your own, consider leveling the playing field by hiring an attorney who can handle settlement negotiations on your behalf.
How does grooming apply to cases of child sexual assault?
To choose victims and “groom” them for abuse, perpetrators will often purposefully choose careers or occupations where they can work with or around children. Some of these occupations may include a youth counselor, daycare worker, sports coach, teacher, or religious leader that works closely with young children. Employers must conduct thorough background checks so they never hire individuals with a history of child sex abuse to work around or interact with children.
How do I prove that child sexual abuse/ assault is happening/happened?
In most cases of child sexual abuse, survivors won’t report the abuse for years or even decades after the event happened. While this may significantly limit the amount of physical evidence available in your case, physical evidence is not always necessary for bringing a claim against a perpetrator of a sex crime. In some cases, the victim’s statement alone can successfully resolve allegations of child sexual abuse.
How to identify grooming behavior?
Grooming is a system of behavior intended to gain the trust of a targeted minor, their parents, relatives, teachers, or caretakers. Some warning signs of grooming may include:
- A predator identifies and targets a child victim
- The predator gains the child’s trust and plays a significant role in their life
- The predator isolates the child and creates secrecy around the relationship
- The predator initiates sexual contact and uses it to control the relationship.
Call a Child Sexual Abuse Attorney for a Case Evaluation
Holding perpetrators and anyone who knew of the sexual abuse and failed to prevent it accountable for their horrendous acts is essential and can prevent other children from becoming victims. A sexual abuse lawyer knows what it takes for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to come forward and confront their perpetrator. They provide safe, supportive places where survivors can turn to for guidance, get answers to questions, and receive the support they need to move forward.