By: Gregory L. Laker, Attorney

Tragically, we have seen an alarming increase in the sexual abuse of Indiana children recently. We shook our head in amazement when we read about the depraved sexual escapades of Jared Fogle, the formerly likeable Subway pitchman recently sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. More recently, an investigation into allegations of child pornography and child exploitation led to the abrupt resignation of Park Tudor basketball coach, Kyle Cox. It seems like every week we are reading about new allegations that involve one of our children’s teachers, coaches or mentors.

Identifying sexual abuse in children

Many incidents of sexual abuse go unreported for months or even years. The recent movie Spotlight highlighted the decades-long cover up of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests in Massachusetts. Much of the delay in reporting  the abuse was caused by the fact the children were too afraid or embarrassed to come forward and report these incidents of molestation by priests and clergy.

Until it is reported, it is extremely difficult to tell whether your child has been sexually abused. Parents can look for signs like unexplained personality changes, including anger, acting out, anxiety, depression, nightmares, nervousness, and unexplained bouts of crying.  Children may also revert to adolescent behavior like bed wetting or sucking his or her thumb. Some sexual abuse survivors demonstrate overly aggressive sexual behavior. Some may begin acting overtly sexual or seductive, while others may become very withdrawn. If childhood sexual abuse is not recognized and treated, long –term symptoms such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues can persist well into adulthood.

Resources for victims of sexual abuse

It’s imperative that victims of sexual abuse receive proper mental health diagnosis and treatment.  Many children report symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of sexual abuse. The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD. Its website contains facts about child sexual abuse and PTSD including information that 6 out of 10 times the abuser is a non-family member who knows the child they are sexually abusing. This means that the abuser may be a friend of the family, babysitter, neighbor, teacher, or coach. The fact that the child knows their abuser can make them slow to report the abuse to their parents or loved ones.

There are a number of mental health resources available in Indiana for victims of sexual abuse. Resource Treatment Facility in Indianapolis provides a variety of services to children in need. Licensed therapists across the state can be located with a quick search of the Psychology Today website.  Many of the therapists found in the directory treat a range of mental health issues and practice in neighborhoods throughout Indiana.

Legal help is also available to victims of sexual abuse and their families. Cohen & Malad, LLP personal injury attorneys have helped many families with children who were victims of sexual abuse. To learn more about your legal rights and options, contact us.