Sexual Abuse Lawyer
In the US, one American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).
Sexual assault and abuse are rampant in many communities. Unfortunately, many victims suffer in silence, afraid to speak up against their abusers.
Regardless of what you wore, how drunk you were, or who you were with, sexual abuse or assault is not your fault and is never acceptable. If you are a victim of sexual abuse, it is your legal right to seek justice from your abuser. Contact our sexual abuse lawyers at the Injury Lawyer Team, sponsored by Rosenfeld Law Offices, to explore your legal options.
What is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual encounter with another person and can include:
- Sexual contact
- Verbal sexual harassment
- Explicit photos or videos
- Sexual or inappropriate requests
- Forced viewing of pornography
- Clergy abuse
In other words, sexual abuse is when someone makes you do sexual things despite your unwillingness to participate.
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual abuse may not always involve direct physical contact. Sexual assault, on the other hand, is any non-consensual sexual contact or behavior. It can include:
- Unwanted groping, fondling, or sexual battery
- Unwanted sexual intercourse
- Coercion to perform sexual acts
- Sexual activity with a person who is unable to consent
- Sexual activity with a person too young to consent
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse is any sexual act that occurs between an adult and a child. Childhood sexual abuse or assault may include:
- Forced viewing of pornography
- Coercion to perform sexual acts
- Unwanted sexual contact (e.g., intercourse, fondling)
- Indecent exposure
Child sex abuse can occur in any environment where an adult is responsible for caring for a child, such as summer camps, youth sports teams, daycare centers, and schools. Perpetrators may include family members, teachers, coaches, and clergy members.
Age of Consent
In most US states (34), the age of consent is 16 years. In the remaining states, the age of consent is either 17 or 18. Any sexual contact between a legal adult and someone below the age of consent may be considered statutory rape, even if the child provided consent.
Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Common warning signs of sexual abuse in children include:
- Unexplained injuries around the genital area
- Bloody or torn underclothes
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Urinary or yeast infections
- Pain or itching in the genital area
- Signs of depression, anxiety, or PTSD
- Changes in hygiene
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty sleeping, nightmares
- Drops in school performance
- Shrinking away from physical contact
How Often Does Sexual Abuse Occur?
Sexual abuse and assault affect millions of Americans’ lives. According to RAINN, over 460,000 victims aged 12 or older fall victim to sexual violence yearly.
Younger people are at the highest risk of sexual assault and abuse. Of all child sexual abuse cases involving victims under 18 years old, 2 out of 3 survivors are between 12 and 17. The majority (82%) of childhood sexual abuse victims are girls.
Among all sexual abuse cases, women and girls are the most frequent victims. One out of every six women has been a victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Eighty-two percent of child abuse victims and 90% of adult rape victims are female.
However, men and boys can also be victims of sexual abuse. About 3% of American men have experienced attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
The following are other groups most prone to sexual violence:
- Transgender students
- Native Americans
- Military members
- Members of a religious organization
Effects of Sexual Assault and Abuse
A person that has been sexually abused may suffer many detrimental and lasting effects throughout their lifetime, including:
Mental Health Problems
Victims of sex abuse often suffer mental health problems after the incident, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some people contemplate or attempt suicide after being sexually abused.
The following are statistics on mental health problems related to sexual abuse cases:
- 94% of women raped experience PTSD during the two weeks following the incident
- 30% of women raped continue to experience PTSD 9 months after the incident
- 33% of women raped contemplate suicide, while 13% attempt
- About 70% of people raped or sexually abused experience moderate to severe distress, a percentage more prominent than any other violent crime
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
A victim of sexual abuse may contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) from their attacker. An abuser can pass an STD through vaginal, anal, or oral contact. Gonnorhea and chlamydia are most frequently diagnosed after a sexual crime. Other possible STDs include genital herpes, syphilis, and HIV, although the chances of acquiring these diseases through sexual abuse are low.
Poor Relationships With Others
A sexual abuse victim may have difficulty building relationships with others due to distrustfulness, shame, fear, paranoia, and other negative emotions. Furthermore, survivors may develop coping behaviors that make it difficult for them to maintain relationships with others, such as withdrawing from social circles or isolating themselves from loved ones.
Survivors of sexual abuse may develop unhealthy habits to seek relief from their trauma, including drinking or doing drugs. For some people, turning to drugs or alcohol becomes a full-blown addiction that comes with its own problems.
Furthermore, children who experience sexual abuse during childhood are more vulnerable to substance abuse. According to RAINN, survivors of childhood sexual abuse are four times more likely to abuse drugs.
Poor School or Work Performance
Due to the emotional distress following sexual abuse, some survivors fail to keep up with their duties at work or school. As a result, their performance may suffer, leading to other problems, such as stress, low self-esteem, financial harm, and depression.
What to Do Following Sexual Abuse or Assault
Becoming a victim of a sexual crime can be jarring, but try to remember these steps:
- Go to the Police. Report the crime to the police as soon as possible. To help the police gather evidence, don’t shower or bathe, change your clothes, wash your hands, take any drugs or alcohol, or disturb the area of occurrence. Refraining from these things may be difficult, but doing so can help you collect strong physical evidence against your abuser.
- Decide if You Want a SART Exam. A Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) exam is conducted to document a victim’s injuries and collect forensic evidence for investigation. The police will ask if you want to consent to a SART exam if you report the crime within seven days.
- Go to the Hospital: Seek medical attention as soon as possible to get tested for STDs, including HIV. Your doctor can also refer you to sexual abuse counseling to help you cope with the trauma.
- Call a Lawyer. Whether you report the crime to the police or not, a personal injury lawyer can help you determine the next best course of action.
- Seek Help. Don’t be afraid to ask for support from loved ones. After such a traumatic event, love, care, and compassion from the people you trust can help you get through this trying time. You can also contact a sexual abuse support group or counselor for help.
Is Sexual Abuse a Civil or Criminal Case?
When you become a victim of an unwanted sexual act, you may wonder how to take legal action against the perpetrator. There are two options:
Sexual abuse becomes a criminal case when a crime occurs and has been reported to the authorities. The suspect will be formally charged if the investigation by law enforcement leads to an arrest.
For the suspect to be convicted, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. The criminal court will then enforce punishment for the defendant if they are found guilty. Punishments for sexual abuse may include jail time, fines, and probation.
Sexual abuse cases filed in criminal court do not grant plaintiffs compensation for the crime.
A sexual abuse civil suit is filed on the survivor’s behalf, seeking compensation for the harm done. Civil litigation determines whether the abuse was more likely to have occurred than not. If the judge or jury decides that the abuse occurred, the civil court then decides whether the damages sought by the plaintiff are fair.
A civil lawsuit does not attempt to determine the defendant’s innocence or guilt. Instead, it aims to decide whether the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s damages.
For your civil suit to succeed, the perpetrator does not need to be convicted or charged with a crime. Your lawyer will discuss the legal process of sexual abuse cases during your free consultation.
In some sexual abuse cases, other parties may be held liable apart from the perpetrator, such as:
- An employer that failed to perform a full background check on the defendant before hiring them
- A person or institution that knew of the abuse but chose not to report it
- A person or institution that covered up evidence of the abuse
- A person or institution that tried to intimidate the victim into silence
Compensation For Sexual Abuse
Although filing a civil suit will not take away the trauma of sexual abuse, it can provide relief by compensating you for:
- Medical Bills: Compensation for medical expenses, such as hospitalization, STD treatment, medication, and therapy.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical and non-physical injuries, including emotional distress and physical pain.
- Lost Wages: Compensation for wages, income, and benefits lost while recovering from your trauma or injuries.
- Loss of Quality of Life: Compensation for quality of life lost following the sexual abuse.
The Role of Your Lawyer
More often than not, filing a sexual abuse case requires the expertise of a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer can help you:
- Investigate how and why the abuse occurred
- Establish the liability of the perpetrator and other people or entities that may be potentially liable (e.g., someone who witnessed the crime and covered it up)
- Gather evidence to support your claim
- Determine the potential value of your case based on your economic and non-economic losses
- Negotiate a settlement with the defendant or their insurance company
- File a personal injury lawsuit and represent you during litigation
- Discuss other legal options available to you
Our sexual abuse lawyers are aware of the sensitivity of a case like yours. Hence, you can rest assured that your personal injury attorney will exercise the utmost respect and compassion while handling your case.
Your personal injury attorney will gather physical evidence to support your claim, such as:
- Photos of visible injuries
- Medical records
- Psychological evaluations
- Rape kits
- Cellphone or computer records
- Torn clothing
- Police reports
- Surveillance footage
However, many sexual harassment and abuse cases are difficult to prove without physical evidence. For instance, a victim of verbal sexual harassment may not have anything to verify that the incident occurred except for their testimony.
If you do not have physical evidence, your personal injury attorney will help you prove that the abuse happened by:
- Practicing interview techniques to ensure your story is consistent
- Gathering circumstantial evidence, such as sudden behavioral changes
- Looking for repeated patterns of behavior from the abuser and contacting other people who may have suffered abuse from that person
- Identifying and interviewing possible witnesses
- Establishing elements of force, threat, or fear from the perpetrator
Hire an Experienced Sexual Abuse Attorney to Resolve Your Case
Any form of sexual abuse can lead to significant physical and emotional harm. A victim of sexual abuse may suffer mental health problems, STDs, financial difficulties, and other detrimental and often long-term effects.
Our personal injury lawyers know the physical and emotional impact that sexual abuse can have on survivors. We can serve as your compassionate legal counsel and representation in your battle for justice, helping you recover compensation from responsible parties.
Contact our law offices today for a free case evaluation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.
Our sexual abuse lawyers handle all accepted cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t have to pay for our legal services unless we win your case.