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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

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    Ten Tips to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse…

    …and why publicizing sex abuse cases is good for society

    John Leighton’s latest article in the South Florida Legal Guide offers tips to help prevent child sex abuse, which has become an epidemic in Florida and throughout the country.

    Statistically as many as 25% of all children may be victims of sexual abuse or assault.  With those kinds of numbers, parents, educators and corporate America need to be aware of how we can put an end to this terrible problem.   As a trial lawyer who has represented many children victimized by predators, Mr. Leighton has drawn on his experience of 33 years of this litigation to provide some suggestions on how to help keep our children safer. By holding businesses and child care entities responsible, we can better prevent these terrible crimes.  Silence only benefits the perpetrators, which is why secrecy and confidentiality are the enemies of our children.  It’s time to bring this further out in the open, have candid discussions, look for warning signs, implement reasonable policies and set safety standards.  The failure to do that will allow the repeated abuse of our children.

    Through vigilance, observation, active parenting, implementation of policies, and civil litigation against the perpetrators and those who allow it to occur, we can stop the continued sexual abuse of our children.


    10 Tips to Prevent Child Sex Abuse…and why sex abuse cases are good for society

    By John Leighton

    As many as 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by age 18.  This has become an epidemic few want to discuss.  The long-term implications are clear, and the recent awakening to the extent and depth of sexual abuse and harassment in this country has filled the media, as well as shaken the bedrock of our major institutions: media, entertainment, corporations and government.

    Children are the most vulnerable victims of sexual abuse. As demonstrated by the now-familiar clergy abuse scandals, the continuing assaults by pedophiles and others who use power or control over children continues to create repeated generations of victims. Sometimes it is a member of the clergy, a trusted teacher or employer. Often it is simply a friend of the family or relative.

    Many of these children carry this abuse with them throughout their lives, making it the most under-reported of all crimes.  When they do report it, they are conflicted with feelings of shame, self-blame and fear of retribution or harassment. Most studies reveal that the average time of reporting is many years after the event, especially for young victims.

    To make matters worse, the criminal justice system is slow, favors the criminal defendant, and sets an almost unreachable bar for conviction (beyond a reasonable doubt). Victims are usually not represented, and have very little or no control over the process.  The strongest weapon a victim of sexual abuse may have is a civil case.

    There are some things experts say parents can do to help prevent their child from becoming a victim:

    1. Strangers are not the worst of your worries. Strangers are not the biggest threat. By far (70-90% of the time) most children are abused by someone they know or trust. Because of this, be careful about who has access to your child especially when others are not around. Tell your child that danger can come from someone they trust.
    2. Explain to children what touching is okay and what is not, even at a young age.
    3. Just say NO. Tell children that they can tell someone not to touch them and refuse to touch someone else.
    4. Teach children about secrets – there are different types. If you say “never keep a secret” that’s not reasonable. Explain are some that are OK, like surprise parties, which are okay because they are not kept secret for long, and there are bad secrets, those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, which are bad.
    5. Believe your child. Establish a relationship of faith and trust with your kids. You don’t want your child to be afraid to tell you something. When you’re talking about inappropriate touching, or someone who wants to do something that you suspect is inappropriate, let your child know that you will always believe them and will never be angry with them.
    6. Look For red flags. Sexual predators often “groom” both children and their parents to gain their trust.  But even the really clever ones will usually have some red flag that is just a little bit unusual. One example is the adult whose home is filled with toys and video games, or has few or no adult friends or activities. These can be big red flags. Check the individual out, including the sex offender registry:
    7. Always know where your child is and who they are with. Know your children’s friends and their parents.
    8. No single adults: Always ensure there is more than one adult chaperone for any trip or event. Volunteer to go with them.
    9. Be suspicious if your child is singled out as “special” by an adult. Pedophiles groom children by making them feel special and singling them out.  Real professionals rarely single out a child.
    10. Trust your instincts as a parent. If you feel uncomfortable about leaving a child with someone, hold off.

     Take action if you suspect anything: contact authorities, schools, police and any other institution involved. If your child has been abused, consider bringing a civil case as well.

    Although its important to involve law enforcement, a criminal case is only part of the solution.  It almost never creates an institutional deterrent to preventing child sexual abuse.  Civil sexual abuse cases can do that.  They also empower victims and, especially in this time of #MeToo, allow the civil courts to hold accountable both the individual abusers and the institutions who support them.

    Because of various statutes of limitations, it is essential to always act promptly.  That means encouraging children and teens to come forward and say what happened. It also means preserving potential evidence, whether by cell phone, social media, witnesses or other physical evidence.

    In bringing sex abuse and assault litigation, we encourage a more responsible institutional and corporate culture. By creating a financial incentive to prevent sexual abuse and assault, civil cases can make a greater difference than almost any other device. We cannot count on the criminal justice system to stop this conduct.

    A few years ago, a 90-year-old pedophile was convicted of raping and sodomizing a 4-year-old girl and her sister.  As one expert on child sex abuse is fond of saying, “pedophiles never, ever retire.”  Until we stop the vicious cycle of child sexual abuse, civil cases may be the last, best hope for retiring some of these animals.


    John Leighton, Esq. is a board certified personal injury trial lawyer and managing partner of Leighton Law, P.A. with offices in Miami and Orlando. He represents seriously injured victims of negligence, sexual abuse, medical malpractice, violent crime and defective products.  888-395-0001. Email:





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