Sexual Child Abuse
REPRESENTING VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), “child sexual abuse is not only a physical violation; it is a violation of trust and/or authority.” When a perpetrator intentionally harms a minor physically, psychologically, sexually, or by acts of neglect, the crime is known as child abuse. Child sexual abuse does not always involve physical contact.
Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, period. When a perpetrator engages with a child this way, they are committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim.
WHAT DO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSERS LOOK LIKE?
Most sexual abusers are people known by the child or the family. According to RAINN, as many as 93 percent of sexual abuse victims under the age of 18 know the abuser. Sexual abuse of a child is a physical violation and violation of trust. Sadly, abusers are often the people you trust the most, including:
- Family friends
- Childcare providers
- Music teachers
- Boy Scout leaders
- Youth group leaders
- Church officials
10 WARNING SIGNS OF CHILD SEX ABUSE
Child sexual abuse signs are often hard to spot. These signs include not only physical but also behavioral and emotional signs. Here are 10 warning signs of potential sexual child abuse:
- Depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Bleeding, bruising, or swelling in the genital area
- Frequent urinary or yeast infections
- Pain, itching, or burning in genital area
- Changes in hygiene (bathing too little, or too often)
- Changes in sleep habits, including nightmares or bedwetting
- Self-harming or expression of suicidal thoughts
- Trouble in school, including absences or drops in grades
- Shies away or feels threatened by physical contact
- Overly protective of siblings (assumes a caretaker role)
This is by no means an exhaustive list of sexual abuse signs.
WHAT DO I DO IF I SUSPECT A CHILD IS BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED?
Child sexual abuse is a crime that often goes undetected. You have the power to make an enormous, positive difference in a child’s life. Here are steps to take if you think a child is a victim of sexual abuse:
- Recognize the signs, both physical and behavioral (see the list above)
- Talk to the child
- Choose a safe space away from the person you may suspect of causing the abuse.
- Speak to the child in a casual, non-threatening tone to keep the child at ease.
- Talk to the child directly, using words that the child will understand.
- Avoid judgmental statements and questions and avoid blaming the child.
- Be reassuring to the child and let them know that you are concerned for them.
- Report it to authorities
- Before reporting, tell the child you are going to talk to someone else who can help.
- Make sure the child is in a safe place, and if you are concerned about the child’s safety, be sure to let the authorities know.
- If you are not concerned that the parents are the ones causing harm, consult with them prior to reporting to authorities.
WHO CAN BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR SEXUAL CHILD ABUSE?
Several persons and parties may be responsible for child molestation — whether they committed the abuse themselves or they knew or should have known and did nothing to stop it. Here is a list of potential defendants in a child sex abuse civil lawsuit:
- The abuser
- Apartment communities
- Property owners
- Daycare providers
- Youth clubs
SUING CHILD MOLESTERS FOR DAMAGES IN CIVIL COURT
As is the case with many crimes, those responsible for child sex abuse can be tried in both criminal and civil court. In criminal court, they may be sentenced to jail time, prison time, or probation. In civil court, they can be sued for damages caused by their actions. Damages for sexual abuse cases may include:
- Personal injury
- Lost income and other financial losses
- Past and future trauma and emotional distress
- Past and future medical, counseling, and psychiatric bills
- False imprisonment
- Assault and battery
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
REPORTING A SUSPICION OF SEXUAL CHILD ABUSE
Time is of the essence when reporting and prosecuting child sex abusers. The quicker you report abuse, the quicker it stops. In addition, depending on what state you live in, there are deadlines for filing a lawsuit in an abuse case – also known as statute of limitations. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t wait another day to come forward:
- You can stop the abuse now.
- You can achieve closure (an opportunity for recovery and healing).
- You have a responsibility to make the public/community aware of the perpetrator and keep this abuse from happening to someone else.
- Depending on where you live and your role in the child’s life, it may be required by law to report the suspicion of abuse.
- To hold perpetrators, and those who could have prevented the crime(s), accountable for their actions.
- You can secure compensation for damages, money spent on therapy, etc.
THOMAS J. HENRY’S COMMITMENT TO CHILD WELFARE
Thomas J. Henry is committed to causes and organizations which aim to improve the welfare of children, especially children who have suffered abuse or neglect. ChildSafe is a Children’s Advocacy Center — and the only one in Bexar County — that provides specialized services to children and teenagers who have been physically abused, neglected, or sexually abused.
In 2015, Azteca and Thomas J. Henry made a $350,000 donation to ChildSafe – the largest individual donation ChildSafe has ever received. This donation will allow for the design and establishment of a new web-based training meant to help teachers and school employees recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect.
CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED CHILD INJURY ATTORNEY
If you believe that your child has been the victim of sexual abuse, contact Thomas J. Henry. For over two decades, Thomas J. Henry has been an advocate for sexually abused children across the state of Texas. Our experienced child injury lawyers are available 24/7, nights and weekends to take your call. Contact us today for a free legal consultation.