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Ultimate Guide: Understanding the Legal System in Child Sexual Abuse Cases

Child sexual abuse cases are horrible and devastating to the victims and their families. However, finding the right legal help after abuse can help pay for emotional and physical damages related to any abuse. With the right attorneys, you can hold the people responsible accountable for their actions and win some semblance of normalcy after a horrific crime.

The prevalence of child sexual abuse is an unfortunate part of life. It happens everywhere, and victims deal with what are typically lifelong effects of the abuse. Abusers are often people close to the victim or tied to them in some way. However, there are no rules when it comes to who the abusers are and the children they target.

Thankfully, the legal system in the United States treats child sexual abuse seriously, and victims have legal recourse available to them. In the aftermath of any real or attempted abuse, you should speak to an expert attorney who has experience representing child sexual abuse cases.

Learning about your legal options and how you can win justice after abuse are keys to defending victims and covering what can expensive costs of medical bills, therapy, and other relevant treatments.

Here is a guide that walks you through what to know and what you can do to stop the abuse, hold abusers responsible, and win compensation for crimes committed.

What Is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse is when any person engages in sexual activity with a child to meet their needs. The motive is selfish and based on the power imbalance between the abuser and their victim, the child.

Offenders are often adults, but they can also be teenagers or other children of the same age. Abuse occurs when the engagement is forced on or unwanted by the victim. Typically, child victims have extreme difficulty processing what’s happened. They aren’t yet equipped to manage the emotions with abuse or the associated activity.

Child sexual abuse can happen once or over several years. In many instances, the abuser shames the victim or threatens them, making them stay silent or deny what happened even when questioned by their parents.

According to estimates, around a third of young girls will experience some form of child sexual abuse. For boys, the figure is around one in six.

Experts believe that the majority of child sexual abuse incidents go unreported, making it hard to understand the scope of the issue.

Learning the Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

It’s important to understand that every child will react differently to abuse. While experts can offer signs for parents, teachers, and other guardians to look for, spotting child sexual abuse isn’t easy.

Here are some of the effects of abuse:

  1. Physical Effects of Abuse – Physical marks or difficulty moving are easy signs to spot. It’s hard, though, to determine from afar whether the abuse was sexual in nature. Either way, intervention is required where any type of abuse is present. Some things to look for include:
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Injuries
  • Unexpected bleeding
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Physically uncomfortable around certain individuals
  • Changes in appetite
  • Self-harming
  1. Emotional Effects of Sexual Abuse – Children, even those who intend or try to keep the abuse secret, are typically unable to hide the emotional effects of abuse. They act differently, and any serious change in behavior is a concern. Look for:
  • Significant mood swings
  • Depression
  • Lack of trust
  • Feelings of fear
  • Anger
  • Shame/Excessive guilt

In addition, child victims of sexual abuse can exhibit strange behavior, and the abuse can affect their sexual development as they grow older.

Understanding the Legal System Regarding Sexual Abuse

One of the biggest problems with pursuing child sexual abuse cases is that parents and other support circles aren’t equipped to handle the intricacies of the legal system. Navigating through the legal system can feel very daunting, especially to someone with no legal experience. Learning what it takes and how to pursue a case against the abuser and any other responsible parties is a lot to manage when you’re dealing with the aftermath of the abuse.

It’s normal for parents, teachers, grandparents, siblings, and others around the victim to feel frustrated with how slowly things move or why certain things don’t seem to make sense. In their eyes, it’s reasonable for the accused abuser to stop seeing the victim immediately, go to prison, and face other similar penalties.

However, courts are bound by the law, and they are required to stay neutral until there is enough evidence to move, or the case is decided. Until then, they must protect both the alleged victim of abuse and the rights of the accused.

Understandably, even hearing words like “alleged” is enough to trigger serious feelings of anger in those around the victim. Courts, though, need to follow procedures to guarantee justice is best served.

Different Types of Legal Cases Against Child Abusers

Things become even more complex once you understand the different types of cases involved in any child sexual abuse case. Here is a basic overview of what you can expect when abuse is reported. This is a general guideline, and each case will vary to some degree.

  1. Reporting – In most cases, the family or the victim themself will report the case to the police, who will then feed the information across different departments.
  2. Police Response – The police will likely visit the scene but won’t usually make any arrests unless there are obvious signs of physical abuse.
  3. CPS – Police will likely contact Child Protective Services in the area to notify them of the allegation. Child Protective Services then will conduct an investigation into any claims.
  4. CINA – Based on the investigation, CPS can issue what is called a Child in Need of Assistance, or CINA, case.
  5. Protective Orders – In some situations, the victim is removed from what is believed to be a dangerous environment, or the suspected abuser is prevented from seeing or interacting with the victim.
  6. Family Law – The victim and their guardians can pursue a family law case against the alleged abuser to decide on custody and other issues
  7. Criminal Case – In cases where there is enough evidence, the local authorities will pursue a criminal case.
  8. Tort Cases – Victims can sue for money and other damages.

As you can see, a lot is involved in finally getting the law between the abuser and the abused. Unfortunately, it can take years, in some cases, to win justice.

Having an expert lawyer with extensive experience in different types of child sexual abuse cases and a track record of winning is vital to your case.

The Financial Costs of Child Sexual Abuse

We know that the effects and harm of child sexual abuse are severe. For example, victims of sexual abuse will sometimes ignore or struggle academically, which affects their future significantly. In addition, they may need to relocate to get away from the abuser, putting increased financial strain on the family. Add to that any immediate medical needs and therapy, and it’s a lot to handle.

In some instances, pursuing money and other damages from the abuser and other responsible parties better ensures they’re punished to the full extent of the law. It also assists the victims in helping them adjust after abuse and pay for recovery treatment. Here are some of the potential costs associated with child sexual abuse:

  • Medical Bills
  • Separate Maintenance Costs (Hotels, Separate Apartment, etc.)
  • Therapy
  • Relocation Costs
  • Disability
  • Lost Income (Family Member Care)

These costs can be attributed to the actions of the accused or other parties involved who may have facilitated the abuse or who failed to act appropriately.

Potential Liable Parties

Who can be held responsible when abuse happens? It’s a challenging question, though in some cases, businesses, schools, sports facilities, family members, friends, and other entities bear some responsibility.

A victim of child sexual abuse can sue to seek damages from other responsible parties to win money due to the harm inflicted by the abuse. Here is some basic information you should know about suing after sexual abuse.

Timelines – Typically, different areas will have legal deadlines governing when a victim can sue for damages. Ideally, victims and their families will have legal help early on to determine when to file a case and how to meet deadlines.

Assigning Fault – How can you determine when an entity, like a school, is responsible for child sexual abuse. In many cases, it boils down to whether the entity was negligent in its duty of care toward the victim. You will need to prove that:

  1. The entity had a duty of care toward the victim.
  2. The entity breached that duty of care.
  3. The victim was abused due to that negligence
  4. The abuse led to material impacts (injury, trauma, financial loss, etc.)

Evidence – Of course, as in any case, victims will need to prove their claims either in settlement negotiations or in court. Bringing any party into a child sexual abuse case to seek damages means you’ll need evidence to prove your claim.

Child Sexual Abuse Cases Require Specialized Legal Expertise

Lawyers representing child sexual abuse victims usually need a good mix of sensitive and deft legal understanding. They must be skilled lawyers capable of navigating the family complexities and dealing with child victims. In many cases, lawyers deal with various mental and emotional turmoil.

Finding the right lawyer is not always easy, but it’s vital to the outcome of your case. So if you or someone you know is looking for legal help in a child sexual abuse case, here are some things to look for.

  • Track Record – Find a lawyer with years, and even better, decades, of success representing sexual abuse victims. It’s a highly-specialized field and one that requires intense attention to detail and excellent communication skills. Above all, the right lawyer needs to know how to win your case and seek damages significant enough to pay for the effects of abuse.
  • Negotiating Settlements – Talk to any potential lawyers about their history of negotiating settlements for victims. Any lawyer you hire should have multiple significant settlement victories on behalf of their clients. Settlements avoid the need to walk to the courthouse and many uncomfortable encounters.
  • Resources – Discuss resources with your lawyer. They should have therapists, medical professionals, authorities, and other resources available. They can guide you on who to talk to and when best to fit the needs of the victim and their case. Good lawyers also know what sort of support system needs to be in place to best suit the needs of young victims.
  • Court Experience – If the liable parties refuse to settle appropriately, your lawyer should have plenty of court experience should the case go that route. Ask them about past trial cases and what the outcomes were.

Above all, victims and their families need to have confidence in their legal teams. Find a lawyer who will aggressively fight for damages and hold abusers and other responsible parties accountable.

How Much Can Victims Expect to Win?

Awards decided in child sexual abuse cases vary greatly. Most of the time, damages will hinge on the severity of the abuse, the duration, and other factors. Additionally, the extent to which an entity or company breached its duty of care will also influence compensation amounts.

Frequently, damages go into the millions of dollars to cover the impact of the life-altering abuse. For example, in 2017, the lawyers at Leighton Law in Florida won a $49.3 million verdict for a victim of sexual abuse. The victim was a young student sexually abused and raped by her high school teacher. The teacher began by texting the student, which led to grooming, culminating in rape on school property.

During the case, Leighton Law attorneys discovered that the teacher had inappropriate communications with another student years earlier, and the school failed to take any disciplinary actions. The circumstances of the case showed a breached duty of care on the part of the school system.

This case, and many others like it, show how seriously the authorities treat child sexual abuse, especially when clear red flags were ignored and abuse took place when it should have been prevented.

Conclusion – Child Sexual Abuse Victims Deserve the Best Legal Support

We hope this guide helps you better understand how the law treats child sexual abuse and how you or someone you love can seek justice. At Leighton Law, we offer free consultations to discuss the details of your case and plan what’s next. If you need help pursuing damages via tort claim for a child, contact us to schedule a free consultation today.

 

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