Florida Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer

March 15, 2024 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Property damage lawyer in florida
Florida Sexual Abuse Attorney, Matthew Dolman

Learning that a child we love has been sexually abused leads to horrible feelings of guilt and anger. No one deserves abuse, but this egregious violation is even worse when the victim is an innocent child. Child sexual abuse has long-term consequences well into adulthood for most survivors, requiring years of counseling to overcome the aftermath of the physical and emotional trauma caused by the abuser.

If you suspect someone is sexually abusing a child, stop the abuse. If the child is in immediate danger, call 911. Any other time, you can report suspected abuse online or call the Florida Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline at (727) 451-6900.

If you are an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse or your child was sexually abused, Florida law entitles you to seek compensation for damages and losses related to the abuse. This compensation is in addition to any criminal penalties an abuser might face in criminal court as a result of their actions.

A compassionate Florida child sexual abuse lawyer at Dolman Law Group could help you receive the financial recovery and justice you deserve. Contact our office for a confidential and free consultation to explore your legal options further.

How to Choose the Right Florida Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer

After suffering from child sexual abuse, you and your family deserve to work with an empathetic, experienced, and aggressive child molestation lawyer who will guide you through the legal process. It is important to find qualified Florida child sexual abuse lawyers near you who can navigate the complex legal maze with skill and efficiency. 

Holding abusers and negligent institutions accountable can be a giant step on the road to justice and recovery for many survivors. Yet, this process is not easy. That is why you need a law firm that understands your case's complexities and can guide you through the journey.

The compassionate and experienced Florida child sexual abuse attorneys at Dolman Law Group are available for a confidential, free consultation to discuss the details of your case and determine your eligibility for filing a lawsuit. 

We serve clients throughout Florida with convenient offices located along both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. With offices in North Miami, Clearwater, Boca Raton, New Port Richey, and across the state, we are here when you need us most.

Read on for more information about child sexual abuse in Florida, including how Florida defines abuse, the long-term emotional impact of child abuse, parties who might be liable for child sexual abuse, and how an experienced child sexual abuse attorney in Florida can help you with your recovery.

Defining Child Sexual Abuse in Florida

Although you probably have a good idea of what activities constitute child sexual abuse, when you take legal action against an abuser, you are bound by Florida's legal definition of child sexual abuse. Under Florida Statutes § 39.01, child sexual abuse falls under the broad umbrella of child abuse, which includes:

"…any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual abuse, injury, or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child's physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired."

This broad definition of abuse, including sexual abuse, gives law enforcement and courts the discretion to charge and prosecute abusers for almost any kind of sexual activity with a child, including penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts. 

Notice the language of the statute includes “willful acts.” This means that even if a child has agreed to sexual relations with an adult, the relationship and activities still constitute sexual abuse because a child cannot legally consent to sexual acts under the law.

Under Florida Statutes § 794.011, aside from a couple of exceptions, a person must be age 18 to give consent for sexual contact. Consent doesn't come into play in cases of children under age 12. Yet, child sexual abuse cases involving teenagers might include a discussion of consent. 

Simply speaking, minors under the age of 18 cannot legally provide consent. The law does have exceptions for 16- and 17-year-olds dating those up to age 23. Under Florida Statutes § 39.01(38)(b), consent is made up of six elements, which include:

  • Understanding the proposed contact based on age, maturity, developmental level, functioning, and experience
  • Knowledge about what standards society has placed on the contact
  • An awareness of possible consequences and alternatives
  • An assumption that agreeing or disagreeing with the contact is allowed between the participants
  • A voluntary decision
  • Mental competence to make a decision

A child sexual abuse case involving a teenager will be analyzed differently than abuse involving a younger child. Speak with a Florida child sexual abuse attorney to determine how these laws might impact your case, especially if the teen was not threatened or assaulted.

Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Florida

Some child sexual abuse consists of only one event. However, many cases are ongoing for weeks, months, or years during childhood. Fear of retaliation or pressure from the abuser can prevent many victims from reporting abuse to an adult while it's happening. 

In fact, researchers estimate at least 10 percent of victims never report abuse during childhood and believe that up to one-third of all childhood sexual abuse cases go unreported. 

Studies also show that children who do talk about their abuse only tell a friend near their own age. According to the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV), only 8 percent of victims report sexual abuse to a professional during childhood.

Adult survivors commonly want to take legal action and confront their abuser as part of the recovery and healing process when they are older. Florida once had a statute of limitations, or legal time limit, for victims to hold their abusers accountable. 

In 2010, Florida's governor signed a bill eliminating the statute of limitations for child abuse if it occurred before age 16. As a result, if you are an adult survivor of child sexual abuse, you have the legal right to seek justice in civil court, even if your abuse happened decades ago.

What are the Long-Term Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse in Florida?

Seeking compensation for damages in a civil child sexual abuse case is different from a traffic accident or other negligent event. Abuse is considered intentional harm, and different legal standards may apply. 

Although child sexual abuse can include physical injury, the mental trauma and emotional injury it implants in a child can last for years. The American Counseling Association (ACA) reports the following long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse:

  • Depression: This mental health condition remains the number one long-term symptom associated with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Children often internalize the abuse and think negative thoughts about themselves for years. Markers of depression can vary among people, but common symptoms associated with childhood sexual abuse include feeling down, thoughts of suicide, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, and trouble eating or overeating.
  • Guilt, shame, and self-blame: Childhood sexual abuse survivors typically blame themselves for the abuse they suffered. This is especially true when the abuser was an adult who was highly regarded and trusted by the child. The victim struggles to see their abuser in a negative way, making it difficult for them to hold their abuser accountable. Guilt and shame also lead to self-destructive and suicidal behaviors.
  • Body issues and eating disorders: After suffering from childhood sexual abuse, some children feel ugly or dirty and feel uncomfortable with their bodies and appearance. These body issues sometimes lead to struggles with anorexia, bulimia, obesity, and other eating disorders.
  • Stress and anxiety: Studies show that children who survive sexual abuse have similar post-traumatic stress symptoms as war veterans. Survivors might suffer from chronic anxiety and tension, panic attacks, and severe phobias related to the abuse they suffered.
  • Dissociation: In cases where a victim suffered ongoing sexual abuse, they might have dissociated themselves from the abuse as a coping mechanism to not emotionally feel the experience. This dissociation can carry into adulthood when survivors feel threatened or unsafe. Other markers of dissociation include feelings of confusion and/or disorientation, flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional numbness. Dissociation also leads to denial and repression of sexual abuse, which is why some survivors don't remember the abuse or come to terms with it much later in life.
  • Struggles with interpersonal relationships: Establishing interpersonal relationships can be difficult for survivors of childhood sexual abuse because they have challenges with trust and intimacy. Survivors might also worry about being different than others and struggle to set healthy boundaries in their friendships and relationships. Involvement in abusive relationships, as well as passivity, also can emerge as a result of childhood sexual abuse. Abuse survivors are often harmed by someone who they trusted and loved. When the trust is broken, some children believe all people who love them will harm them.
  • Sexual difficulties: Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse sometimes experience difficulties with sex and sexuality, typically as a result of some of the other long-term impacts like depression and dissociation. According to the ACA, the top ten sexual symptoms survivors might experience include:
    • Lack of interest, avoidance, or fear of sex
    • Viewing sex as an obligation
    • Feeling anger or guilt when touched sexually
    • The inability to achieve arousal or sensation
    • Emotional distance during sex
    • Having disturbing thoughts and images
    • Partaking in compulsive sexual behavior
    • Difficulty in starting or maintaining intimate relationships
    • Vaginal pain or difficulty climaxing for women
    • Erectile dysfunction and climax difficulties for men

The emotional trauma that comes with childhood sexual abuse does not disappear overnight, if ever. Eliminating and managing symptoms that accompany sexual abuse requires an ample amount of counseling. Although these long-term effects might only impact a victim's personal life, they do have a way of seeping into a person's professional life. 

Depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms can prevent someone from being able to work and cause chronic struggles to accomplish life goals. If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, you are not alone. You shouldn't have to shoulder the financial burden that comes with therapy and lost wages due to your symptoms and challenges. A qualified Florida child sexual abuse attorney can help.

How An Experienced Florida Child Sex Abuse Lawyer Can Help Abuse Survivors

Whether you are a parent of a childhood sexual abuse victim or an adult survivor, coping with the trauma of sexual abuse or helping your child cope with trauma can be overwhelming or seem unbearable in some cases. The knowledgeable and empathetic child sexual abuse lawyers at Dolman Law Group are here to help you and your family through this incredibly challenging time. 

We cannot undo the past, but we can help you seek justice, advocate for your legal rights, and possibly secure a settlement or court award to help cover the costs of therapy and other expenses, so you can work through your emotional trauma. Some of the ways we can help you or your child include:

Investigating the Child Sexual Abuse

Our dedicated abuse professionals will investigate the abuse circumstances to build a strong case against the abuser while taking every measure to protect your identity and keep your case confidential. Investigative activities can entail different things depending on the circumstances of your case, but they might include:

  • Gathering any police reports or medical records that provide documentation of the abuse
  • Locating and interviewing witnesses who suspected or reported the abuse
  • Consulting with medical experts such as child psychologists and doctors who can speak to the extent of the abuse

Negotiating With the Defense

Unlike the criminal case against your abuser, your civil lawsuit will only result in a verdict for you or the defendant. If the court rules in your favor, you might collect damages related to the sexual abuse of you or your child. Yet, not all cases go to court. Some victims choose to negotiate a settlement without having to litigate their case. 

This can be true when young children are involved, and parties involved decide the child should not testify in a courtroom. Attorneys are skilled negotiators who can help you hold your abuser financially accountable for their actions. Your attorney can negotiate with the defense and pursue the best possible settlement for your case.

Advocating for You in the Courtroom

In some child sexual abuse cases, reaching a settlement is not an option, and your case must be decided by a judge or jury. If your Florida child sexual abuse case goes to court, your attorney will build a strong case against the defense to fight for you and increase the chances of a verdict in your favor. 

For some survivors, litigation is important because it allows them to face their abusers and tell their stories. You can discuss what is best for your situation with one of our skilled child sexual abuse attorneys.

Breaking Down the Claims Process for a Child Sexual Abuse Case

When your child is a victim of sexual abuse, you may wonder how you can go about getting justice for them. The Florida police will likely step in and handle any criminal charges the abuser may face. 

If the state's prosecuting attorney elects to file criminal charges against the abuser and anyone else who may be responsible for the abuse your child suffered, the prosecutor will need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction. 

This is much different than the civil claim you could file against them. Here, your attorney will be responsible for proving liability based on a preponderance of the evidence. This means the evidence must show that the defendant in your case is more than likely responsible for the sexual abuse your child suffered. 

A civil case involves seeking compensation for what your child has been through. In some cases, depending on the specific details of your case, you may need to file a claim with an insurance company to recover certain amounts and types of damages. 

However, in the mass majority of child sexual abuse cases, the only way to hold the liable party accountable is by filing a lawsuit in civil court.

Possible Damages Allowed in Florida Child Sexual Abuse Cases

When your child is a victim of sexual abuse, they have the right to be compensated for all of the ways their life is affected by their injuries and the abuse. Some of the more common losses involved in child sexual abuse lawsuits include:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Loss of companionship and love
  • Lost earning potential
  • Loss of income
  • Medical expenses and mental health counseling fees
  • Relocation expenses
  • Skin scarring and disfigurement

Our skilled attorneys will also consider the ways your child's life may be affected in the future as a result of the abuse they endured when calculating the value of your claim. Although no amount of compensation will change what your child has been through, it could go a long way in easing the financial burden down the line.

How to Handle the Insurance Company When Seeking Personal Injury Damages

If you need to deal with the insurance company for your child's sexual abuse claim, know what to expect. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. They will lose money by paying your claim. While the insurance adjuster will likely be polite and respectful, remember that they are not on your side.

While they may feel for what your family has been through, ultimately, the insurance adjuster hopes to reduce or deny your claim altogether. However, you can take steps to protect your child's injury settlement by having your attorney handle the negotiations for you.

When You Need a Florida Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer Who Cares, Contact Dolman Law Group

If you or your child has suffered childhood sexual abuse, you deserve to see justice served and receive compensation for the physical injuries and long-term emotional damage caused by your abuser.

Contact Dolman Law Group by phone or online for a private, confidential consultation to determine the best path forward for you. We handle child sexual abuse cases on a contingency fee basis, only collecting attorney fees from any settlement or court-awarded damages you receive. 

Let us worry about the details of your case while you focus on healing and moving forward with your life. We have offices across both Florida coasts, so you can easily reach us anytime through our online contact form or call (727) 451-6900 to get started.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

Learn More