Indianapolis Sexual Abuse Attorneys
Determining just how many children have been sexually abused is difficult because as often as not, the incidences are not reported. Further, child sexual abuse is not uniformly defined, making it that much more difficult to get solid statistics. That being said, in studies done by the Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, David Finkelhor, it was determined that as many as one in five girls and one in twenty boys are victims of child sexual abuse. Further, when talking to now-adults, about twenty percent of adult females, and five to ten percent of adult males recall at least one childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident.
Although sexual abuse can happen to children of any age, those between the ages of seven and thirteen are the most vulnerable. The “fallout” of childhood sexual abuse is immense; those who are victims of prolonged sexual abuse as a child typically have low self-esteem and low self-worth, and can suffer depression, anxiety, even suicidal thoughts. These children—and later, as adults—may be mistrustful of others, withdrawn, and have a distorted view of sex.
The Legalities of Childhood Sexual Abuse
There are two very different types of legal response to childhood sexual abuse. The person responsible for the sexual abuse could be criminally prosecuted, or the victim—as well as his or her parents or guardians—could use the civil court system to hold the abuser liable for the injury, harm and suffering which resulted from the sexual abuse. In a criminal case, should the alleged abuser be found guilty, the penalties for that verdict could include jail or prison time, fines, probation and/or mandatory counseling. In a civil lawsuit, if the alleged sexual abuser is found liable, he or she will be responsible for damages to the victim—usually in the form of money.
Sometimes, the victim of child sexual abuse never tells anyone until he or she is grown—or not at all. Those who sexually abuse children may frighten them into not telling anyone by telling them something bad will happen to their parents, their siblings, or a favorite pet if they tell. Other times, the child does tell, but the abuser either has his or her charges dropped, or is found not guilty, usually due to lack of solid evidence. The results of a criminal trial will have significant bearing on a civil trial—the accused sexual abuser is more likely to be held civilly liable if he or she has already been found criminally liable.
The burden of proof is significantly less in a civil trial than in a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, the burden of proof is on the state, to show that the person is guilty of sexual abuse beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil trial, it must only be shown that the person is guilty of sexual abuse by showing it is more likely than not that the sexual abuse occurred.
Statute of Limitations in Childhood Sexual Abuse Cases
Every civil lawsuit is bound by statutes of limitations—that is, a specific period of time during which the lawsuit must be brought. Each state has their own statutes of limitations, and there are different statutes of limitations, depending on the type of case. The state of Indiana imposes a longer statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases than many other states. When a child is a victim of sexual abuse, he or she must file a civil case within seven years of the eighteenth birthday, within seven years from the time the abuse could reasonably have been discovered, or four years from the end of a dependency on the sexual abuser.
Others Can Be Held Civilly Liable in a Childhood Sexual Abuse Case
Not only can the actual person responsible for the sexual abuse be held criminally and/or civilly liable, there are others who may also be found civilly liable, particularly if they ignored their duty to report suspected abuse. This could include parents, a school district and its employees, an employer, the provider of daycare services, a religious organization or church or an institutional facility and/or its employees.
Different Types of Childhood Sexual Abuse
There are many different places where a child can be exposed to sexual abusers, and many people who may put children at risk. Institutional child abuse occurs when an agent of an organization sexually abuses a child under the care of that organization. The abusers could be an employee, a volunteer, or any other person affiliated with the institution who was given the freedom to mentally, physically, emotionally or sexually abuse a child.
Institutional sexual abuse can occur at a church, a school, a camp, a boarding school, an after-school program, or a company. Institutions are responsible for caring and protecting those within their care, which includes keeping children safe from any type of abuse, including sexual abuse. An institution can be held liable if they permitted the abuse to occur or continue, if they failed to adequately screen volunteers, workers or agents, or if the institution failed to adequately monitor or supervise volunteers, workers or agents.
Sexual abuse of children also occurs in churches, and although the Catholic church has made the biggest headlines regarding child sexual abuse, it is a common problem among many different religions, in many different churches. Victims of childhood sexual abuse, particularly when that abuse occurred in a church, have been silenced by shame for decades. Intimidation tactics are often used by the church, and deceptive religious teaching may also come into play—tactics which cultivate an abusive environment, allowing sexual abusers of children to walk free—and abuse again.
Getting Help for Childhood Sexual Abuse from Cohen & Malad, LLP
If you or your child has been the victim of sexual abuse, we understand the emotional toll you have weathered. Because childhood sexual abuse does have specific windows of time for pursuing claims, it is important that you contact an experienced sexual abuse lawyer at Cohen & Malad, LLP, as quickly as possible. You will receive a totally confidential, no-obligation consultation from a Cohen & Malad, LLP attorney who will go above and beyond to ensure your rights are protected. Contact Cohen & Malad, LLP today to discuss your case.