Sexual abuse is a very sensitive legal situation, especially when young children are involved. According to the American Psychological Association, sexual abuse is defined as, “…unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent.” In most cases of abuse, the victims and perpetrators know each other. Immediate reactions to sexual abuse include shock, fear or disbelief. The APA also informs us that long-term symptoms may include anxiety, fear or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sexual abuse can happen to anyone and the abusers are often people in critical mentoring positions, such as clergy members, school teachers or school staff members, coaches, or family members. Defendants in these cases can therefore include churches, schools, and daycare centers where the abuse occurred. These organizations are held responsible due to unsafe conditions, insufficient background checks, or hiring practices that led to the abuse.
Church sex abuse cases is a growing and well publicized issue. These cases can unfortunately cause the life changing psychological and emotional damages mentioned above. Sexual abuse can have a variety effects on a child, ranging from dramatic behavioral changes to poor performance in school. These effects can be a permanent and ongoing issue for the rest of a person’s life.
In fact, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, victims of sexual abuse are three times more likely to suffer from depression, four times more likely to contemplate suicide, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs. Furthermore, 15% of sex abuse victims are under the age of 12, 44% of victims are under the age of 18, and 93% of children sexually abused know their attacker.
These statistics are certainly disquieting, but there are a number of way you can aid a child who has experienced sexual abuse:
- Seek mental health assistance for the child. Professional counselors have extensive experience dealing with the victims of traumatic experiences, such as sexual abuse.
- Provide a safe environment for the child where they can talk to you or another trusted adult. Be careful to not suggest events that may not have happened, but encourage the child to talk about what they have experienced.
- Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. Children may be very confused about who to trust and how to process what they have experienced. It is important to reinforce that they are not to blame and are not being punished.
- Have a doctor examine the child for possible injuries. Choosing a medical provider who has experience identifying sexual and physical trauma in children is advisable.
- Several states have laws requiring that persons report child sexual abuse if they know or have a reason to suspect that a child has experienced abuse. In every U.S. state, medical personnel, mental health professionals, teachers, and law enforcement personnel are required by law to report suspected abuse.
In addition to these strategies to help victims of child sexual abuse, it is critical to contact an lawyer who can assist you with seeking damages for your child and family’s suffering. If Abels & Annes, P.C. gets involved in a sex abuse case, we employ psychologists to interview and evaluate the child. This helps us better determine the extent of the abuse, and gives us a better idea about the amount of potential damages.