There are few crimes more universally condemned than child sexual abuse. Survivors of Bradenton childhood sexual trauma often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), low self-esteem, chronic fatigue, and anxiety. It may take extensive therapy to link these conditions to the abuse, and victims of childhood sex crimes may struggle to discuss their trauma.
Some survivors even misguidedly blame themselves for the abuse. This often leads to a delay in seeking just compensation for injuries from child sexual offenders. Discuss your struggle with compassionate Bradenton Child Sexual Abuse Lawyers to learn your legal options.
Ten years ago, Florida legislators removed the statute of limitations applicable to child sexual battery claims. Survivors of juvenile sexual abuse in Bradenton may bring a civil claim for damages against an abuser, his or her employer, or a party who helped cover up the abuse.
Consult with a compassionate Bradenton sexual abuse attorney for a free and confidential case evaluation by calling the Dolman Law Group or connecting with us privately online.
Defining Child Sexual Abuse in Bradenton
Sexual abuse is a broad term used to describe any lewd or otherwise unlawful sexual act that causes or is likely to cause a victim mental, emotional, physical, or sexual injury.
This encompasses child sexual abuse claims, but Florida law also defines sexual abuse of a child as the commission of one of the following criminal acts against someone under the age of 18:
- Sexual battery/rape defined as penetrating the child's vaginal, anal, or oral openings with a sexual organ, another body part, and/or object, regardless of how slight the penetration
- Contact between one person's mouth and a child's sexual organs or anus
- Molestation defined as touching the child's intimate areas, including but not limited to sex organs, breasts, groin, inner thighs, buttocks, or another intimate part, whether above or below the clothing
- Intentional exposure of the offender's genitals in the presence of a child for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal
- Masturbation in the presence of a child for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal
- Soliciting a child for sex or pornography
- Forcing a child to do any of the above acts to the offender or another person
- Threatening or attempting to commit these acts against the child
It does not matter if the offender thought the child was over the age of 18 or that the child didn't physically resist the sexual contact. Most victims of childhood sexual abuse enter a state of shock and do not verbally or physically resist the abuser. Lack of objection is not a defense to sexual abuse claims in Bradenton, nor is failing to tell an adult out of fear.
Acts Considered Sexual Battery of Children in Florida
Florida uses the term sexual battery instead of rape, but sexual battery as defined by Fla. Stat. § 794.011 criminalizes the same sexual conduct. Sexually battery of a child is the most heinous sex crime in Bradenton and is punishable with life imprisonment. Victims of child rape and/or sexual battery may have civil claims for sexual battery damages that differ from traditional sexual abuse damages. Claimants may recover sexual battery damages from the estate of the deceased offender or an imprisoned sexual convict.
Sexual battery includes nonconsensual sex, anal sex, and oral sex. The act is legally nonconsensual if the victim is under the age of 16. It is specifically defined as the penetration of a victim's vaginal, anal, or oral cavity with a sexual organ, body part, or other object for non-medical purposes and without legal consent.
Additional damages may be available for victims of childhood sexual battery if one of the following aggravating circumstances was present:
- The victim was under the age of 12
- The victim was physically helpless to resist the offender
- The offender used force or violence that caused the victim to submit to the sexual battery
- The offender threatened to use force if the child did not submit, and that force was likely to cause serious injury
- The abuser coerced the victim to submit by threatening to hurt his or her family members, friends, or any other person
- The offender gave the child victim an intoxicating drug or substance before committing the sexual battery
- The offender was a member of the victim's family or a law enforcement officer
These aggravating factors are used to determine a convicted offender's punishment during Bradenton sexual battery prosecutions. However, a knowledgeable child sex crime compensation lawyer might use these facts in civil proceedings to establish a victim's right to additional exemplary (punitive) damages.
Common Medical Conditions Suffered by Victims of Child Sexual Abuse in Bradenton
Victims of child sexual abuse may suffer:
Mental & Emotional Trauma
Childhood sexual abuse often results in hidden injuries. An injury doesn't have to be visible to entitle victims of sex crimes to financial compensation in Florida. In fact, studies indicate that the most common injury suffered by victims of child sexual abuse is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD occurs in children as well as adults, and it's more common among female rape victims. It may be characterized by extreme anxiety, flashbacks to the traumatizing sexual event, depression, nightmares, suicidal thoughts, guilt, irritability, and personality changes.
Survivors of childhood sexual trauma also reported struggling with substance abuse disorders, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and acute anxiety disorder. Victims often experience nightmares leading to chronic fatigue and debilitating social fears. Medical treatment and counseling can help many victims of child sexual abuse identify the roots of and cope with these disorders, and offenders may be required to pay for a victim's treatment.
Physical Injuries & Illnesses
Directly after the trauma, victims of sexual battery may suffer from pain, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, bruising, and trauma to sexual organs. This may result in future fertility issues and disorders related to sexual dysfunction. Untreated STDs may result in cancer or other serious medical conditions.
Physical trauma often exacerbates mental and emotional trauma, and persistent mental anguish often results in additional physical symptoms. This may create a brutal cycle for victims of childhood sexual abuse in Bradenton. However, they may seek substantial compensation for both the seen and unseen injuries that resulted from sexual trauma.
Potential Damages & Recovery Options for Survivors of Childhood Sex Crimes
No sum of money can undo the trauma experienced by victims of child sexual abuse. However, victims or parents of sexually abused minors may recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages. They may include:
- Costs pertaining to the past, present, and future medical costs, such as hospital bills, physical therapy, psychiatric care, transportation, medicines, etc.
- Compensation for lost wages, diminished earning capacity, and other types of lost income
- Ongoing psychotherapy and counseling expenses
- Damages for pain and suffering and mental anguish.
In most sexual battery litigation, punitive damages are also available to punish the sexual offender for this particularly egregious conduct. This compensation is meant to punish the offender.
Parties Who You Can Hold Responsible for the Child Sexual Abuse
Offenders seldom have the personal resources to adequately compensate victims for their injuries. This is especially true if the offender victimized multiple children.
However, child sexual battery and abuse claims may be filed against:
- The offender, or his or her estate
- Any accomplices who aided the offender in committing or covering up the sexual offense
- The offender's employer, if he or she was in the scope of his or her duties at the time of the offense
- The owner of the property where the child was sexually assaulted
- A party that owed a legal duty to protect the child to prevent and report the abuse, but failed in that duty
Organizations can be held liable for child sexual assault if:
- They failed to take necessary steps to prevent the occurrence of such incidences.
- They failed to provide awareness about sexual misconduct as part of the awareness training to their workforce.
- They chose to look the other way when notified about the abuse.
You Could Bring Criminal Charges on Top of Filing a Civil Case
Due to the delicate nature of sexual trauma, not every survivor wishes to file litigation. This is understandable, and experienced Bradenton child sexual abuse lawyers can discuss litigation alternatives.
Childhood victims of widespread sex crimes, such as sexual abuse of children by priests or scout leaders, might claim compensation through dedicated victims' compensation funds. Sexual predators and pedophiles prosecuted for their crimes likely had their assets placed in trust to compensate their victims.
Victims of child sex crimes for which criminal charges are pending may also speak with Bradenton prosecutors about making a claim for restitution, which is compensation paid to the victim or the victim's parents for direct expenses resulting from the trauma. Furthermore, if you were abused on someone else's property, such as at school, church, or a friend's house, you may file a claim with the property insurer and property owner.
Building a Strong Child Sex Abuse Case in Bradenton
When you are ready to pursue compensation and justice, the team at Dolman Law Group will begin with a free and confidential case review where we will listen to your case, evaluate its facts and circumstances, and assess its legal viability.
Our attorneys can educate you on your legal rights and options. Should you choose to proceed with your case, our attorneys will advocate for you throughout the legal process.
Parties Who Could Have Been the Culprit of the Abuse
We will be able to investigate your case and identify the correct perpetrators. Sadly, abuse often occurs in the hands of individuals and establishments meant to provide care to the children. These parties include:
- Teachers or coaches
- Youth group leaders
- Priests or pastors
- Psychologists or counselors
- Youth centers and organizations
- Church and other religious institutions
- Foster care and daycare providers
Evidence Will Help Us Through Negotiations
Victims of child abuse do not have to suffer in silence. Our attorneys will collect evidence against all those liable for the abuse. This information may include medical records, witness testimonies, police reports, social media or text messages, photos and/or video footage, and DNA evidence. Then, we will be able to prove the acts of abuse in the hands of the perpetrator, whether it be an institution or an individual.
Our child sexual abuse attorneys will negotiate with the liable parties, their defense attorneys, and/or insurers on your behalf to seek a fair settlement. We will do everything necessary to hold the abuser(s) accountable. If a fair out-of-court settlement is not possible, we will represent you in court.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations Applicable to Civil Abuse and Sexual Battery Claims
Adults who suffered from sexual abuse as children may wonder if they can still bring a civil claim for damages in Florida. The answer often depends on when the abuse occurred and whether the victim was sexually battered.
Childhood victims of sexual battery are permitted to make a civil claim for damages at any time if they were under the age of 16 when the offense occurred. As of 2010, there is no statute of limitations that would bar a civil claim for damages under this theory of liability. This change, however, did not revive previously expired sexual battery claims.
Victims of childhood sex crimes that fall short of sexual battery, including statutory rape, molestation, and indecent exposure, may still bring a claim for damages under Florida's statute of limitations for intentional torts based on abuse.
If multiple timeframes apply, the longer of the following periods takes primacy:
- No later than seven years from the day a child victim turns 18 years of age
- No later than four years after the sexually abused victim leaves the control and dependency of the offender
- No later than four years after the victim first discovers that a particular medical and/or emotional condition was caused by childhood sexual abuse
Victims of early childhood sex crimes commonly suffer from memory loss or repression. This is a means of coping with the trauma, and it may take years before a survivor of abuse can recall the details of the crime and link the abuse to conditions such as depression and anxiety. Even if the abuse occurred decades before this discovery, Bradenton residents that were sexually abused as children may still file a claim for damages against a liable party.
Protections Afforded to Child Sexual Abuse Claimants in Bradenton
If the victim of sexual abuse is still a minor (under the age of 18) when a civil claim is filed, the minor's name does not have to appear in the pleadings. Further, victims of sex crimes also have their identities protected from public disclosure. It is actually a punishable offense for Florida officials to disclose the name, address, or photograph of a victim of sexual abuse without his or her consent.
Judges and statutes may also impose additional protections during child sex crime proceedings. These include permitting a minor victim to testify via closed-circuit camera in criminal proceedings, and sealing certain pleadings, papers, and photographs so they are not publicly accessible.
Most victims of child sexual abuse do not have to appear in court during civil proceedings or even face the offender. While this isn't always true, the majority of civil sexual abuse proceedings involve sealed written submissions and settle before a trial is necessary. Bradenton judges often make special accommodations for victim depositions, and attorneys on both sides are typically responsive to victim's privacy concerns. Speaking with an experienced sexual battery and child sexual abuse claims lawyer may mitigate many privacy concerns shared by potential plaintiffs.
Bradenton Child Sexual Abuse FAQ
Some common questions we get from our child sexual abuse clients are:
What Is the Age of Sexual Consent in Bradenton?
You must be 18 years of age to consent to sexual activity in Florida, which includes sexual intercourse or otherwise permitted sexual contact. There are limited exceptions whereby minors between the ages of 16 and 18 can voluntarily consent to sexual conduct with a person close in age. However, any coerced or otherwise non-consensual sexual contact with someone under the age of 18 likely qualifies as child sexual abuse in Bradenton.
How Does Florida Define Child Sexual Abuse?
In Bradenton, an act, such as a physical or sexual act, is considered to be abuse if it causes or is likely to cause emotional, sexual, mental, or physical injury to a victim.
Sexual abuse is a subset of abuse, and the Florida Code defines sexual abuse of a child as committing (or threatening to commit) of one of the following sexual offenses against someone under the age of 18:
- Sexual battery – In Florida, this includes rape and is defined as any penetration of a child's vaginal, anal, or oral openings with a sexual organ, body party, or object. Traditional sex is not required to punish an offender for sexual battery as long as there is even minor penetration of a child's sexual area.
- Oral sex – This is defined by contact between one party's mouth with another party's sexual area (kissing is excluded from this definition if no penetration occurred)
- Indecent exposure – This act occurs when a child is intentionally exposed to the offender's genitals for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal, which in Florida is generally presumed to be the reason for exposure.
- Molestation – This is any touching of the child's intimate areas, whether above or below clothing, including his or her sexual organs, lower belly, breasts, groin area, inner thighs, buttocks, or another intimate part.
- Public masturbation – Masturbation or simulation of sexual behavior, whether or not the genitals are exposed, is a sexual offense when it occurs in the presence of a child for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal.
- Solicitation – It is considered sexual abuse to solicit, pressure, or otherwise proposition children to engage in sexual behaviors, prostitute themselves, or perform for pornographic purposes.
Forcing a child to commit any of the above acts or threatening a child with one of the above sexual crimes generally qualifies as child sexual abuse. Even if the sexually abusive behavior does not fall neatly into one of these categories, any act of a sexual nature likely to cause harm to a child most likely qualifies as sexual abuse of a minor in Bradenton.
Was the Child Sexual Abuse Illegal Even if I Didn't Resist the Abuse?
Yes. Child sexual abuse is always a crime in Bradenton. Consent or lack of resistance is never a defense to sex crimes against children. Most victims of child sexual abuse suffer from shock, confusion, or otherwise could not physically resist the sexual contact. Many children are manipulated into believing the abuse is medically necessary, normal, or otherwise required for religious purposes. This is one of the reasons sexual offenders prey on children.
What Injuries Are Common in Child Sexual Abuse Cases?
Children may suffer from pain, bleeding, STDs, bruising, pregnancy, and/or trauma to the sexual organs immediately after being sexually battered in Bradenton. However, these are not the most common injuries associated with child sexual abuse. Many serial pedophiles are careful to not inflict physical injuries to avoid suspicion and to discredit their victims.
Mental and emotional injuries are the most common traumas suffered by sexually abused children.
One or more of the following conditions often manifest after a child is sexually assaulted, and claimants may demand compensation for these injuries in court:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic fatigue
- Social anxiety
- Eating disorders
- Somatic disorders
- Personality disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Substance abuse
PTSD and its underlying conditions are often diagnosed in victims of child sexual abuse. Many survivors cannot link their conditions directly to past sexual trauma without comprehensive psychotherapy. Florida permits adult survivors of childhood sexual trauma to seek damages from an abuser when an emotional condition is first medically linked to the sexual assault or molestation.
Can I Recover Damages if I'm Struggling with Mental Illness Due to Child Sexual Trauma in Bradenton?
Yes. This is one of the primary claims that victims of child sexual abuse make against offenders and liable parties in Bradenton. You may be permitted to recover for direct damages, such as medication and therapy bills, and indirect damages that are more difficult to calculate, such as problems finishing college, keeping a job, or otherwise living a fulfilled life. Childhood victims of sexual trauma might also recover for their mental anguish and emotional suffering linked to the abuse.
Can I Recover Compensation from a Family Member Who Sexually Abused Me as a Child?
Yes. Child sexual abuse by a close family member is considered a serious crime in Florida, not only because it's illegal but also because legal guardians have a duty to protect their children. Survivors of familial sexual trauma commonly report having told a parent about the abuse but not being taken seriously.
Victims may also have a claim for neglect and general abuse if a parent's refusal to act contributed to their sexual abuse and injuries. Minors, those under the age of 18, who wish to make a claim against a legal guardian should generally speak with law enforcement and/or social service officials, and eventually a local attorney about their legal options for filing a civil case for damages.
Am I Entitled to Damages in Bradenton If Someone Who Should Have Protected Me from Child Sexual Abuse Didn't?
Sometimes victims of child sexual abuse feel more betrayed by those who didn't take action to stop the abuse than by the depraved individuals who sexually abused them. Florida has stringent mandatory reporter laws when it comes to child sexual abuse claims in Bradenton. In fact, Fla. Stat. § 39.201 mandates that any person who knows about or even suspects that a child has been sexually abused must report such abuse to the Department of Children and Families.
Victims of child sexual abuse in Bradenton may claim damages from an adult who had a legal duty to protect the child, failed to do so, and that failure led to the child suffering additional abuse. These are the elements of a general negligence claim, but they may also apply to the failure to report child sexual abuse in Florida. If the party who failed to report the abuse was a parent, legal guardian, teacher, or someone legally responsible for the child's custody and care, they may face claims for a tort based on abuse in Bradenton court.
Who Is Potentially Liable to Compensate a Sexually Abused Child in Bradenton?
In most child sexual abuse cases, the pedophile abused more than one child. Multiple victims of abuse may be entitled to millions in damages that the offender cannot pay. Child sexual offenders are also commonly imprisoned or otherwise bankrupt. However, Florida law acknowledges that children deserve to be protected from sexual abuse. Multiple parties may be liable to pay for injuries stemming from sexual trauma.
- The abuser(s)
- An abuser's accomplice, which includes someone who helped the abuser cover-up the crime, escape justice, or otherwise aided the abuser in committing the sexual offense
- The owner of the property where the abuse occurred
- The abuser's employer, such as holding a Catholic diocese liable for child sexual abuse by a priest
- A supervising organization, such as the Boy Scouts or USA Gymnastics
Victims of child sexual abuse may also file a claim for damages from a liable property insurer. A local sexual abuse civil claims lawyer may help victims determine the parties potentially liable for their injuries.
How Can I Recover Compensation for Bradenton Child Sexual Trauma?
Litigation isn't the only way to recover just damages from those liable for sexual abuse against children. While filing a civil lawsuit for sexual battery or abuse is one avenue for relief, this may be a time-consuming and emotionally difficult process. Many victims of sex crimes in childhood can obtain needed financial compensation through a dedicated victims' fund.
The Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, and USA Gymnastics have compensation funds for victims of child sexual abuse. With appropriate funds, a survivor of such abuse may file a claim and participate in private mediation. However, most organizations require victims to waive any future claims against them before accepting a financial settlement. Consult us before you apply or accept a settlement through these avenues, because they may not come close to paying for all of the damages you sustained.
If there is no dedicated fund, victims may file a claim with the property insurer that covered the premises where the sexual abuse occurred. The same is true of liability insurance an employer had to cover injuries inflicted by employees in the scope of their employment. Survivors of child sex crimes may also speak with local prosecutors about demanding restitution as part of an offender's criminal sentence. Sometimes an attorney can even make a private demand for settlement with an offender or accomplice if the victim does not wish to pursue litigation or make a public claim.
How Long do I Have to File a Sexual Abuse Case in Bradenton If I Was Victimized as a Child?
Florida abolished the civil statute of limitations for sexual battery offenses against children under the age of 16. A child victim of sexual battery, which often includes any direct touching or penetration of a sexual area, can bring a civil action to recover damages at any time.
If the statute of limitations for a childhood sexual battery claim expired before Florida changed the law in 2010, or the abuse doesn't otherwise qualify as sexual battery, victims may have a civil claim for an intentional tort based on abuse.
Child sexual abuse cases must generally be brought within the following timeframe:
- No later than seven years after a sexually abused child turns 18 years of age
- No later than four years after the victim leaves the offender's control and/or dependency, if the victim continued to live with an abuser or was otherwise being controlled or coerced
- No later than four years of discovering that an injury, including an emotional condition, was linked to the childhood sexual abuse
Child victims who were sexually abused by more than one person may claim damages from each for a condition that may be linked to any of the crimes. Other factors may pause the statute of limitations for these claims, such as if the victim is disabled or the offender intentionally covered up evidence, misled police, fled justice, or threatened the victim.
Know that many child victims choose to wait until early adulthood to pursue legal action against their perpetrator. Common reasons for delayed disclosures include:
- Psychological disorders
- The power dynamic between perpetrator or offending institution and the victim
- The perpetrator's relationship with the victim
- The memory of the abuse is repressed
- Feelings of shame and anxiety
In Florida, anyone who suffered abuse as a child can pursue a civil suit against those responsible regardless of when the abuse occurred.
Never assume the statute of limitations has passed. Call us instead and let us evaluate your claim to see if you have a case that we can help you pursue.
What Kinds of Damages Can I Recover If I Was Sexually Abused as a Child?
The general rule for damages in Bradenton civil proceedings is that plaintiffs can recover all compensation necessary to make him or her whole if the damage is linked to sexual abuse. This includes compensation for calculable out-of-pocket expenses, including medications, therapy, lost wages, and substance abuse treatment.
Childhood victims of sexual abuse may also recover compensation for injuries that can't be quantified. These often include compensation for the mental anguish associated with the trauma, suffering caused by PTSD, an inability to sustain social relationships, and emotional pain caused by fertility difficulties and related conditions. These are sometimes referred to as pain and suffering damages.
Because sexual abuse is a specific intent crime, it is also an intentional tort in Florida. Victims of child sexual abuse may claim punitive damages in Bradenton for intentionally inflicted injuries of a particularly egregious nature, i.e., sexual abuse. A judge or jury typically awards punitive damages based on the heinous nature of the conduct and any aggravating factors, such as the victim's youth or physical injuries. They are not meant to compensate the victim but rather punish the offender for his or her conduct.
What Resources Are Available in Bradenton for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse?
In addition to the support that we can offer, survivors of child sexual abuse in Bradenton may take advantage of the following non-profit resources:
- Centerstone – Bradenton's comprehensive resource center for child needs, mental health, substance abuse, and counseling services
- Florida Council Against Sexual Violence – Government sponsored support for victims of childhood sexual abuse
- RAINN – The national sexual abuse hotline, (800) 656-4673
Resources, help, and confidential support are available to Bradenton survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Free and Confidential Claims Analysis for Bradenton Victims of Child Sexual Abuse at the Dolman Law Group
If you or a loved one suffered sexual assault as a child, we want to help you seek justice and compensation from those responsible for your physical, emotional, and mental trauma.
Our compassionate and experienced child sexual abuse claims attorneys at Dolman Law Group support clients through every step of the legal process. Whether you want to file litigation against the offender or claim damages for a dedicated compensation fund, contact our personal injury attorneys today for a free and confidential case evaluation.
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group for a confidential, private consultation.
6703 14th Street West Suite 207
Bradenton, FL 34207
Phone: (941) 613-5747