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Child Sex Abuse Lawyer

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Child sex abuse steals children’s innocence, childhoods, and futures. A widespread problem, RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, and Incest Network) indicates about one in nine girls and one in 20 boys under the age of 18 have experienced sexual abuse or assault in their lifetimes. Girls 16 to 19 are four times more likely to experience rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

Child sex abuse does not happen by accident: Sexual predators work hard to manipulate a situation to gain the trust of children and their parents. They then exploit this trust to abuse their targets.

Childhood sex abuse cases are typically repeated events by a perpetrator rather than a one-off experience. This trauma can negatively shape children’s emotional development and trigger lasting physical and mental effects. Survivors later in life may deal with lingering anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Abuse that affects an individual’s mental, emotional, physical, and financial health steals the past and borrows from the future. A child sex abuse lawyer can help survivors take action against their abuser through various legal options, such as a civil lawsuit. By doing so, survivors may be able to recover their financial losses and start a brighter chapter.

What Is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sex abuse includes any physical or non-physical touch that is forced. Sexual trauma may include body contact, such as inappropriate kissing, touching, or other sexual acts. Indecent exposure (sometimes called “flashing), sexual coercion, or exposure to pornography are other examples of sexual abuse.

Predators are generally someone a child knows and trusts — rarely strangers. About 91 percent of perpetrators in child sex abuse cases are “trusted” individuals. These people could be relatives, adult family friends, or people like teachers or coaches.

Adults who experienced abuse in childhood may find it difficult to regulate their emotions as they age, struggling with anxiety, depression, anger, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Alcohol and drug addiction can also become an unhealthy coping mechanism to dull pain.

While there are resources for survivors to help with treatment options and legal recourse, there is more work to be done to help prevent child sex abuse.

What Are the Symptoms of Sexual Abuse?

After abuse is disclosed, parents or other adults may feel regretful or disappointed that they missed signs and maybe could have stopped the abuse. However, in many cases, the signs of sexual abuse are often subtle. They can be physical, mental, or both. Sexual abuse may leave no physical traces. At the same time, abuse-induced injuries can heal quickly, and sexual assault forensic exam kits could take weeks or months to process.

Sexually abused children may struggle with anxiety, poor self-esteem, and depression. Other changes could surface, like trouble sleeping, mood changes, unusual and aggressive behavior, unexplained bed wetting, or physical pain. Symptoms and signs of abuse can manifest in mental and physical ways.

Adults with an abusive past are more likely to have trauma-related conditions, like borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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The CDC reports that about 91 percent of perpetrators in child sex abuse cases are “trusted” individuals who can include relatives, adult family friends, or people like teachers or coaches.

Types of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is an umbrella for crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. Forced participation in lewd or degrading acts has many forms, including:


Rape is non-consensual sexual intercourse with another person. It typically involves force and threats. Rape also includes failing to cease sexual acts when consent is withdrawn.

Rape can include any kind of penetration with a body part or object. The difference between sexual assault and rape is sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact, while rape involves some type of penetration.


Molestation is another forced sexual behavior involving minors. While not an exhaustive list, some examples might include an abuser touching a child’s private parts, exposing their genitalia, or starting other sexual acts.

Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure refers to the act of willfully exposing a person’s private parts to a child in a public place or a place where there is a reasonable expectation of being seen, like an open window or in a private setting.

Child Sexual Abuse Images

Child sexual abuse images (sometimes referred to as child pornography) are any visual depiction that includes underage minors and sexually explicit content. Laws prohibit the possession or sending of such images of minors.

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Civil court cases allow survivors to seek compensation for their pain, suffering, and financial losses (like lost wages and therapy bills) by suing their abuser and abuse enablers.

Using the Justice System to Hold Child Abusers Accountable

Survivors who report sexual abuse can hold predators accountable with the help of legal counsel. Civil justice is one approach that allows survivors to seek compensation for their pain, suffering, and financial losses, like lost wages and therapy bills.

Compared to criminal cases, civil cases have a lower burden of proof and fewer hurdles. Authorities might also decide to pursue criminal charges based on child sexual abuse federal laws, including:

  • Aggravated sexual abuse (18 U.S.C. §2241)
  • Sexual abuse (18 U.S.C. §2242)
  • Sexual abuse of a minor or ward (18 U.S.C. §2243)
  • Abusive sexual contact (18 U.S.C. §2244)

The result of criminal charges is usually jail time, a financial penalty, or both based on the severity and frequency of the abuse, among other factors. Criminal cases are more challenging to prove than civil cases. In criminal trials, prosecutors must convince the court beyond a reasonable doubt that the abuser is guilty.

Whether you confronted an abuser in a criminal court or not, you can still take them to civil court to fight for the financial compensation you deserve. This would not be considered double jeopardy. Even if an abuser wasn’t sent to jail in a criminal trial, a jury could still find them guilty in a civil one. A child sex abuse lawyer can offer more information on your particular case.

Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations and Lookback Windows

The civil statute of limitations dictates when survivors can legally pursue civil charges. Laws vary by state, however these are often longer than criminal filing windows. Recently, lawmakers in many states have opened the door for survivors to bring their abusers to justice with “lookback windows.”

These new rules waive the original statute of limitations in childhood sex abuse cases. Now, more survivors can report their abusers when they are ready to share their stories. It should be noted that these lookback windows apply only to civil cases — not criminal ones — and vary by state.

With a civil lawsuit, abusers and third-party organizations that allowed the abuse (like religious or educational institutions) can also be held financially responsible. In cases where an abuser has died, survivors can sue the deceased’s estate.

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Child Abuse Cases

Risk factors of childhood sex abuse can vary but it’s vital for all guardians and mandated reporters to know that anyone can be a target. Perpetrators are typically known to the survivor and their family and often carry significant weight in the community. As such, the cases below have become all too common.

Here are some of the cases you might be familiar with:

Clergy Sex Abuse Cases

In these cases, a person with religious authority, like clergy members, might take advantage of young people with inappropriate language or threats, and physical touches like kisses, hugs, and intercourse. Clergy sex abuse typically involves using emotional and spiritual manipulation to violate boundaries and manipulate others.

While such criminals have been protected by their institutions in the past, recent lookback windows and advocacy services have helped contribute to ground-breaking cases:

Catholic Diocese

Years of allegations surrounding child abuse in the Catholic Church finally got the public and authorities’ attention. State-ordered investigations documented that tens of thousands of children from the 1940s to the 1990s endured relentless sexual abuse at the hands of trusted religious officials, like priests, nuns, teachers, and laypeople.

150 priests, part of the oldest Roman Catholic diocese in the country, allegedly sexually abused more than 600 children over its 80-year history and covered it up for decades.

There has been a surge in clergy sex abuse lawsuits since numerous state statute of limitations were revised, allowing adult survivors of clergy sex abuse more time to come forward and pursue civil lawsuits. A priest child sex abuse lawyer can discuss the laws and how they can help survivors pursue justice.

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Boy Scouts

82,000 former Boy Scouts have come forward in recent years over the abuse they faced during their time in the organization. Known as the largest sex abuse scandal and settlement in U.S. history, the Boy Scouts of America reached an $850 million settlement over decades-old allegations. The organization will start paying survivors in 2024.

Universities and Schools

School campuses have seen worrying instances of sexual abuse and assault. There is a prevalence of rape, incapacitated rape, unwanted sexual contact, and sexual coercion. Historically, universities and schools often underreport or avoid reporting sex crimes. Recent studies found that 89 percent of colleges and universities reported zero incidents of rape.

Summer Camp

There are hundreds of abuse claims involving summer camps from around the world that trace back to the 1960s. Sexual predators, usually young, inexperienced, or poorly vetted counselors, often have easy access to children in day or away camps who are isolated from their parents. Abuse and neglect have been reported at Christian and Catholic camps, Boy Scout and Girl Scout camps, and publicly funded camps.

Residential Care and Medical Facilities

Medical and residential care facilities are meant to be a safe haven for vulnerable people, such as children. Sadly, predators may obtain employment in these facilities in order to abuse those under their charge.

The troubled teen industry has been a subject of much-needed scrutiny recently, largely due to a shocking lack of oversight and multiple cases of staff not reporting abuse to the proper authorities. Cases of sex abuse in the troubled teen industry are high in both the United States and Canada. Some facilities, like one in Utah, had four times the number of sexual assault reports than the national average with the problem continuing to persist.


Hollywood has long been the subject of rumors and accusations regarding child exploitation, grooming, and trafficking, further supported by years of stories from child actors, actresses, and models. Some children have allegedly been asked to participate in or perform sexual acts in exchange for fame and success.

In the past, children and their parents were frequently silenced by threats or intimidation if they dared speak out. Today, the #MeToo movement and media coverage have brought notorious Hollywood child sex abuse cases to light. Offenders like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and many others had to account for their actions. Still, the need for improved safety is ongoing.

How To Get Legal Assistance for Child Sex Abuse

A child sexual abuse survivor might consider taking legal action through a civil lawsuit. The financial compensation from a civil lawsuit can help survivors recover from physical or personal injuries and mental or emotional harm, lost wages, and other losses.

A child sex abuse lawsuit is a delicate matter and is best handled by someone with extensive experience in the subject matter. An experienced child sex abuse attorney can help you consider the options available. They can help you file a lawsuit, help gather supporting evidence, and pursue a favorable settlement or go to trial. Look for legal representation with a history of successful case results and a trauma-informed approach to give your case optimal chances of success.

Healing From Childhood Sexual Trauma

Healing sexual trauma is a step-by-step process that can feel like climbing a mountain. After the initial shock wears off, some try to forget and repress the memories, withdraw, and resume life as if nothing happened. Trauma can resurface at any time as it knows no boundaries or timelines; healing can take weeks, months, or years.

When looking into how to heal from sexual trauma, survivors come across several therapeutic methods through licensed mental health professionals and psychiatrists. Unfortunately, treatment options can be expensive, often starting at about $200 per session without insurance. Costs can add up quickly, but civil damages can help survivors financially support their mental health needs.

Sexual Trauma Therapy: Different Types of Treatments

Therapists and psychologists encourage healing using various types of evidence-based treatment options, like the following:

  • Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) helps children, youth, and parents address distorted beliefs and gain coping skills for dealing with stressful situations.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (D.B.T.) is a type of psychotherapy that treats personality disorders and interpersonal conflicts. It helps treat mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and changing behavioral patterns, like self-harm or substance abuse.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another form of psychotherapy that alleviates distress associated with traumatic memories like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Solution-Focused Therapy is a goal-centered and collaborative approach initiated by directly observing the patient’s responses to a series of precisely constructed questions.
  • Art Therapy incorporates creative methods of expression through visual art.
  • Internal Family Systems (I.F.S.) is an integrative approach to individual psychotherapy. It combines the thinking that the mind is made up of discrete sub-personalities, each with its viewpoint and qualities.

A sexual abuse attorney may be able to connect people with resources in their community to find suitable treatment options.

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Sexual Assault Hotlines

Living with sex abuse can feel isolating. The sexual hotline number for abuse comes from many different organizations and can offer dedicated, compassionate, and confidential help to survivors as they heal and recover.

A Child Sex Abuse Lawyer Is Here To Help

Dealing with trauma, possible victim shaming, and the aftershocks of sexual abuse can impact almost every area of a survivor’s life. The road to recovery can be long but you don’t have to travel it alone. At, we’re here to share the different resources available, from abuse hotlines to getting the healthcare you need and more. helps child sex abuse survivors find a light at the end of the tunnel. We strive to be a compassionate and dedicated advocate for people to lean on during hard times.

Recovering from sex abuse is not linear, and our goal is to help survivors understand their legal options, share knowledge, and connect them to the resources needed on the road to recovery.