Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Last updated Dec 11, 2023

A child sex abuse lawyer can help survivors of child sexual abuse seek justice by filing a lawsuit against their abusers and relevant third parties.

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Key Takeaways

  • Child sexual abuse is a serious crime that leaves survivors with long-term physical, mental, and emotional consequences.
  • Survivors of child sexual abuse have the right to seek compensation for their damages by filing a child sex abuse lawsuit.
  • An experienced child sexual abuse lawyer can help survivors hold their abusers accountable for the pain and suffering caused.

Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Child sexual abuse is a pervasive problem in our society, leaving survivors with devastating consequences. Child sexual abuse can cause long-term emotional, psychological, and physical effects, making it difficult for individuals to rebuild their lives and move forward.

A qualified child sexual abuse lawyer can be a helpful resource in helping survivors seek justice. With the support and guidance of a specialized attorney, individuals can take legal action against their abusers and third-party enablers. At Edwards Henderson, our child sex abuse lawyers are dedicated to holding abusers accountable for the damage caused. Our attorneys offer free and confidential legal consultations to sexual abuse survivors.

What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse, simply put, is sexual activity between a minor and an adult. This includes any type of sexual contact between a child and an adult, including physical contact (fondling, penetration) and non-physical contact (exposure to pornography, voyeurism, or exhibitionism). It can also involve coercing, exploiting, as well as manipulating a child into engaging in a sexual act. It is even more disturbing to note that child sexual abuse is often perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts, such as a teacher, coach or religious leader. Child predators often engage in grooming tactics to gain a child’s trust and build a sexually abusive relationship with a minor.

Child sexual abuse can have devastating long-term consequences for the survivors. In the aftermath of the abuse, children often suffer from complicated emotions such as anger, guilt, shame, self-blame, disgust, fear, rebellion, and have difficulty trusting people and forming healthy attachments. In the long term, child sex abuse survivors may abuse alcohol and drugsand suffer from eating disorders in order to find ways to cope. Since sexual abuse results in a severe form of distress to the body and mind of the survivors, it can cause mild to severe forms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and various mental health issues. If you or someone you know is dealing with child sex abuse, you may consider speaking to a child sex abuse lawyer who can help you pursue financial compensation that can help in obtaining the right resources to deal with the trauma.

Child Sexual Abuse Case Types We Have Experience With

Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime that affects hundreds of thousands of children each year. Our sexual abuse attorneys have helped several child sex abuse survivors obtain justice and compensation from their perpetrators, including the survivors of the notorious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell. We are nationally recognized for our success in holding abusers accountable, and can provide representation in sexual abuse cases against:

  • Clergy: Clergy sexual abuse cases involve a situation in which a religious leader in a position of power and reverence takes advantage of a child’s vulnerability and trust.
  • Boy Scouts of America: In recent years, several cases have come to light concerning alleged abuse in the Boy Scouts of America organization and many former boy scouts have brought claims against the organization.
  • Daycares and preschools: Unfortunately, there have been cases in which teachers, staff, or other employees at daycares and preschools have been accused of sexually abusing the children in their care.
  • Hospitals: Patients in hospitals or medical facilities who are immobilized, under the effects of medication, or simply receiving a routine procedure can be sexually abused, most commonly by a healthcare worker.
  • Summer camps: Summer camps may be responsible for failing to protect young campers from sexual abuse by not performing background checks on the staff or not supervising them properly to prevent such incidents.
  • Youth sports leagues: When a coach or athletic staff member sexually abuses a child, the organization that employed the perpetrator can be held responsible under the Safe Sport Act.

A child sex abuse lawyer can also help those who were abused seek justice in cases involving:

  • Sex trafficking: Sex trafficking involves the exploitation of minors for forced sexual services. It may be prevalent in sex shops, truck stops, fake massage services, escort services, and strip clubs.
  • Foster care: Children in foster care can be especially vulnerable to sexual abuse due to a lack of oversight and other systematic issues in the foster care system.

Child sex abuse is largely common in places where adults can have easier access to underage persons. It can happen to any minor, regardless of age, gender, and sexual orientation. As parents and guardians, you need to remain vigilant and keep an eye out for any sign of possible child sexual abuse.

Child Sex Abuse Laws

Child abuse laws exist on the federal, state, and local levels. The most comprehensive federal body of legislation on the fair, ethical, and legal treatment of children is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) which was originally enacted in 1974 and has been amended several times since. CAPTA sets forth guidelines for states to follow as well as federal funding to help implement laws to prevent child abuse and neglect.

While federal laws may provide standards and guidelines to help prevent and fight child abuse, most child abuse issues are governed by state laws and regulations. Although the specific child abuse statutes vary from state to state, all states have enacted legal provisions for the protection of children. These laws address a range of issues, such as mandatory reporting, effectively responding to child abuse and neglect, and the relevant statutes of limitations for criminal and civil prosecution.

How Do I File a Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

Filing a civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse can seem like a daunting prospect, but it may be necessary to prevent further abuse of your child or of any other person. If you or someone you love has been sexually abused, you may want to consider taking the following steps when filing a child sexual abuse lawsuit:

  1. File a police report: If you believe your child has been a target of sexual abuse, the first step is to report the abuse to the police. You may also want to get immediate medical attention for your child to ensure their mental and physical well-being. A police report can also be used as evidence in a civil child sex abuse lawsuit.
  2. Gather evidence: Before filing a lawsuit, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible. This could include compiling all medical records related to the abuse, documenting expenses incurred as a result of the abuse, and collating records of communication with the abuser (text messages, social media messages, etc.). If there was a third-party organization involved in perpetuating or covering up the abuse, like a school, camp, religious organization, hospital, psychiatric treatment facility, or troubled teen facility, you should keep records of any reports you made to management about the alleged abuser.
  3. Contact an experienced child sexual abuse attorney: An experienced attorney who specializes in child sexual abuse cases can provide guidance on how to proceed with filing a civil lawsuit. They can also help identify potential defendants in the case and ensure you file your lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations period.
  4. File a civil lawsuit: After you have consulted a child sex abuse attorney and compiled all relevant evidence and information, your attorney can file a lawsuit against all responsible parties on your behalf. Your lawyer will then work to resolve the case through settlement negotiations or mediation. If a settlement agreement cannot be reached, then the case will proceed to trial.
  5. Seek damages: If the court rules in your favor, you may be eligible to receive damages for the pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses associated with the abuse. Additionally, punitive damages may be awarded in certain cases in order to punish the abuser and discourage future misconduct.

Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse

Nearly every state in the U.S. has relaxed the statute of limitations for filing child sexual abuse lawsuits. Many states have recently changed their statute of limitations to allow survivors of child sex abuse more time to seek justice. For example, in California, an individual who was sexually abused as a child has until the age of forty to file a civil claim or until five years after they discover or reasonably should have discovered that they were sexually abused.

The ‘discovery rule’ acknowledges that many survivors of child sex abuse may not discover the harm caused by the abuse until well into adulthood. This delayed discovery may be due to emotional and psychological trauma, lack of understanding about what constituted sexual abuse at the time of its occurrence, or memory loss or repression of traumatic memories as a coping mechanism.

Penalties for Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime that carries serious consequences as the physical and emotional damage can be profound and long term. This is why prosecutors vigorously pursue these cases with the goal of protecting children from predators.

Laws governing child abuse vary from state to state, but most jurisdictions mandate long prison sentences and fines for those convicted. Depending on the jurisdiction, sex offenders may face incarceration for several years or even a lifetime in prison. Other common penalties include hefty fines, court-ordered psychological counseling, and probation. In most cases, those convicted of child sexual abuse are also required to register as a sex offender. In some states, this registration requirement is mandatory and may last a lifetime.

Long-Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse often has long-term, devastating effects on the physical and mental health of those who experience it:

  • Emotional distress: Child sexual abuse survivors often feel intense insecurity, shame, fear, aversion, anger, guilt, passivity, numbness, and depression, all of which may put a toll on their emotional well-being.
  • Social issues: The trauma from sexual abuse in childhood can lead to difficulty in forming trusting relationships or having healthy boundaries with people. Those who experience abuse may have difficulty developing intimate relationships, and some may avoid casual social interactions as well. This can further lead to isolation, difficulty in finding employment or housing, and a general feeling of not fitting into society.
  • Physical health problems: Long-term physical health problems from abuse can include eating disorders, sleep disturbances and insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, drug or alcohol abuse, and chronic pain. Survivors may also suffer from sexually transmitted diseases due to contact with the abuser.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD is a mental health condition that develops after experiencing a traumatic event. Child sex abuse survivors can suffer from a number of PTSD symptoms, including heightened sensitivity to their environment, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, flashbacks, irrational fear of certain places, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and memory loss.
  • Eating disorders: Eating disorders are another common long-term effect of child sexual abuse that often arises from the feeling of loss of bodily autonomy during sexual abuse and the need to assert control as a coping mechanism. Many eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are the likely cause of intense trauma such as sexual abuse.

Child Sexual Abuse Statistics

  • Child Protective Services substantiates or finds evidence for a child sexual abuse claim once every nine minutes (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).
  • About one in four girls and one in 13 boys in the U.S. have experienced child sexual abuse (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • 93 percent of child sex abuse perpetrators are known to the survivor (RAINN).
  • 60 to 70 percent of child sex abuse survivors never tell anyone about the abuse (End Child Abuse and Neglect (EndCAN).
  • 82 percent of children under 18 who are sexually abused are female (RAINN).
  • The total lifetime economic burden of child sexual abuse in the United States in 2015 was estimated to be at least $9.3 billion (CDC).
  • 20 percent of sexual abuse survivors were abused before the age of eight (Darkness to Light).
  • Survivors of child sex abuse are four times more likely to have PTSD and abuse drugs, and three times more likely to have a major depressive episode as an adult (RAINN).
  • 70 percent of child sex offenders have between one and nine victims, while 20 percent have 10 to 40 victims (Darkness to Light).
  • Children are most vulnerable to being abused between the ages of seven and 13 (National Center for Victims of Crime).

Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer: FAQs

1. If the person who harmed my child was not criminally charged, can I still pursue a civil lawsuit?

Yes, you can still pursue a civil lawsuit against the person who harmed your child, even if they were not criminally charged. The burden of proof in a civil lawsuit is lower than in a criminal case. A successful verdict in a civil case may be obtained under the ‘preponderance of evidence’ or the ‘more likely than not’ standard, which makes it easier to pursue financial compensation from the defendant.

2. What damages can be recovered through a child sex abuse lawsuit?

Survivors of child sexual abuse can pursue monetary compensation for damages in a civil lawsuit, including pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and loss of earning capacity, emotional distress, and in some cases, punitive damages. A qualified child sexual abuse lawyer can help identify all potential damages that you may recover.

3. Will my child have to testify in a child sex abuse case?

The decision of whether or not a minor needs to take the stand will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. In some instances, there may be substantial evidence to support the sexual abuse claim, while in other cases, your child’s testimony may be integral in pursuing a favorable verdict.

4. How long do sexual abuse cases take to settle?

The length of time it takes to settle a sexual abuse case depends on a variety of factors, including the complexity of the case, whether or not the case goes to trial, the court system backlog, and the relevant legal strategies employed. In general, most sex abuse lawsuits take between several months to a few years to settle. Your lawyers may also be able to negotiate a settlement before the case goes to trial.

Speak with a Compassionate Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer

If you or someone you know has been the target of child sexual abuse, it is important to reach out for help. Our team of experienced sexual abuse attorneys understands the sensitive and complex nature of child sexual abuse cases and can provide you with trusted legal advice.

At Edwards Henderson, our lawyers have extensive experience in handling a variety of child sex abuse cases. We will work tirelessly to ensure that justice is served and your voice is heard. Contact us today for a free legal consultation to find out how we can assist you.

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