Sexual Abuse of Children & Legal Rights to Compensation
One form of child abuse occurs when an adult performs sexual acts with a child or induces the child to engage in acts that provide sexual gratification to an adult. Alarmingly, some reports have suggested that one in five Americans has suffered from child sexual abuse. Not all sexual abuse involves physical contact between an adult and a child. It may include indecent exposure to a child, displaying pornography to a child, and voyeurism, such as watching a child perform explicit or suggestive acts on their own or with another child. Very severe cases may involve child prostitution and other forms of organized sex crimes.
A child may face a greater risk of sexual abuse when they lack a stable adult in their life, whether this is a parent or a guardian. Unfortunately, some children suffer from abuse by their own parents or other family members. Red flags may arise when a parent seems possessive of a child, gets jealous when the child spends time with peers of the parent’s sex, or struggles to maintain a healthy sexual relationship with another adult. Child sexual abuse is a serious crime and should be reported promptly.
Child Reports of Sexual Abuse
Many children may not be able to clearly describe sexual abuse by an adult. They may not fully understand what happened or why. This should not stop an adult to whom the child reports the abuse from taking them seriously.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in a Child
Some signs of sexual abuse are visible and straightforward, such as bleeding, bruising, or swelling around the genital area. Bloody undergarments or symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases also suggest sexual abuse, especially when a child is not otherwise sexually active. A child who seems uncomfortable walking or sitting down may warrant investigation.
Other signs are less obvious, such as a decline in self-image and self-esteem. A child may suffer from sleep disorders, continue to wet the bed beyond the normal age, or display knowledge of sexual activities that would be unusual for a child at their age. Children experiencing sexual abuse may struggle to maintain healthy relationships with other children, avoid going to school, and develop idiosyncratic behaviors like excessive hand-washing. Some children may resort to drugs or alcohol as an escape from the sexual abuse, or they may try to run away from home or even attempt self-harm.
Seeking Compensation for Sexual Abuse of a Child
When someone other than a parent perpetrates child sexual abuse, parents can assert their legal rights. Even if the perpetrator is not convicted of a crime, parents may be able to pursue a civil lawsuit for damages. Getting a criminal conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, while the standard of proof in a civil lawsuit is much more lenient. However, if the perpetrator is convicted, this can make the process of proving liability in a civil lawsuit more straightforward.
Depending on the situation, parents may be able to bring the employer of the perpetrator into the lawsuit as well. This can help maximize the compensation that they are awarded, since the individual may not have enough assets of their own. Many of these claims involve showing that a business failed to use reasonable care in hiring, supervising, or retaining its employees. If a daycare hired an employee with a record of child abuse, for example, this may lead to liability if that employee perpetrates abuse against a child at the daycare. An employer also may be liable for failing to follow up on reports of child abuse by an employee.
Talk to a Lawyer
Parents considering a lawsuit can arrange for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer who handles these cases. This can help them find out whether they have a strong claim and how much the case may be worth.
Damages available in these cases will account for the full scope of the economic and non-economic harm suffered by a child. This may include hospital stays, doctor’s visits, psychiatrist and therapist treatments, medications, and any other health care costs incurred to treat the consequences of the abuse. Moreover, sexual abuse is traumatic for a child, causing significant physical pain in some cases and emotional distress in most. Parents also can recover damages for these intangible forms of harm. In cases involving egregious misconduct, such as when an entity sought to cover up known incidents of sexual abuse, punitive damages may be available in addition to compensatory damages.