Child sexual abuse is an unfortunate event for the victim and those around them. However, regardless of the condemnation from various communities and walks of life, such cruel acts are reported throughout New Port Richey, Florida, and beyond.
Learning that someone sexually abused your child can bring about feelings of anger and guilt, and rightly so.
To ensure that the perpetrators get what they deserve, hiring our New Port Richey child sexual abuse lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, can improve your chances of success.
- What Is Child Sexual Abuse?
- How Common Is Child Sexual Abuse?
- The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse
- Understanding Child Sexual Abuse Laws in Florida
- Child Protective Investigations
- Reporting Child Sexual Abuse
- Can a Child Give Consent?
- How to Tell if Your Child is a Victim
- Teaching Your Children to Identify Sexual Abuse
- Injuries Your Child May Suffer
- Do You Need a Lawyer for Your Child Sexual Abuse Claim?
- What You Can Expect During an Investigation
- Difference Between Civil and Criminal Sexual Abuse CasesÂ
- Proving Liability for Child Sexual Abuse
- Organizations Often Deny Allegations
- Potential Criminal Penalties for Child Sexual Abuse
- Potential Damages in a Civil Case
- Where to Find an Attorney for Your Child Abuse Claim
What Is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse refers to the act of an adult or adolescent pressuring, manipulating, or forcing a child into certain activities for sexual gratification. Child sexual abuse can be informed of indecent exposure, proliferating child pornography, forcible rape, and coercion.
How Common Is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child abuse is unfortunately prevalent globally, with millions of reported cases annually. However, experts widely acknowledge that many incidents go unreported.
Statistics vary, but studies indicate that around one in seven children worldwide experiences abuse or neglect. The true prevalence is likely higher, emphasizing the need for increased awareness, prevention efforts, and support for victims. Reporting and addressing child abuse remain critical to creating safer environments for children.
The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse
Victims of child sexual abuse usually suffer from harsh and painful traumatic experiences. They often experience life-altering and long-term physical and psychological damage. Children of sexual abuse can contract sexually transmitted diseases and undergo decades of therapy and treatment.
With such in mind, children who suffer sexual abuse also might suffer from conditions and symptoms such as:
- Eating disorders
- Relationship and intimacy issues
- Mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression
- Personality issues/dissociation
- Sexual difficulties
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Children who survive sexual abuse also exhibit symptoms later in life. These include:
- Gastrointestinal health
- Reproductive health issues
Understanding Child Sexual Abuse Laws in Florida
One child abuse case gets reported about every 10 minutes throughout the United States. Sexual, emotional, and physical child abuse is a serious problem affecting millions in New Port Richey and throughout Florida.
Florida law prohibits willful or threatening conduct resulting in a child's sexual, mental, or physical harm. Regulations state that a victim does not have to suffer any physical harm for it to qualify as child sexual abuse. Any action expected to result in an injury is considered child abuse. Child sexual abuse charges qualify as a felony.
If the offender's actions of sexual abuse led to permanent disability, disfigurement, and other bodily harm, there is a greater likelihood that they will be convicted of a second-degree felony. The charges might even be first-degree offenses, depending on the severity of the injuries.
Child Protective Investigations
The state of Florida has authorized six sheriff's offices to investigate child abuse, neglect, or abandonment, including the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. Reports to the Florida Abuse Hotline trigger some of these investigations. In a previous year, Pasco County investigated over 7,000 reports. Another trigger for a CPI is from mandatory reporters.
These are people who must legally report any child abuse, such as:
- Police officers
- Nurse and doctors
- Certified educators
- Daycare providers
Once Pasco County or other offices receive a report, whether from a parent or mandatory reporter, they will investigate the accusations. They will ensure the child is not experiencing abuse or neglect at home. Their goal is to ensure any child under 18 is safe.
If there is no suspected abuse, the case closes. However, if confirmed, authorities can remove the child, and the perpetrator can face criminal charges.
The Child Protection Team is another entity involved in the investigation. They handle psychological assessments of children and forensic interviews, including in cases of physical or sexual abuse.
Law enforcement, Child Protective Investigators, and the State Attorney's office are the only parties with access to these reports. However, a New Port Richey child sexual assault attorney may request reports if necessary for your civil claim.
Reporting Child Sexual Abuse
Whether you are a parent or a mandatory reporter, reporting as soon as possible is essential. Sometimes, you don't know the exact nature of the abuse, but you must still file a report to start an investigation.
Relevant authorities will review the report and take steps to uncover the abuse and ensure the safety of the child. If the abuse is not reported and continues, the child may suffer additional trauma and injuries.
Parents should remove their children from a situation immediately if they suspect abuse. Anyone who wants to report abuse can call 911 in cases where the child is in immediate danger. Other reporting options are the Prevent Child Abuse America hotline at 1-800-244-5373 or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.
Can a Child Give Consent?
No, they can't. In New Port Richey and across Florida, anyone under 18 years of age cannot give consent. However, there is an exception for teenagers between 16 and 17 dating those up to age 23.
Consent is permission someone gives for something to happen to them.
Consent has six elements, including:
- Knowing contact with regard to maturity, age, experience, and functioning
- The awareness of the consequences that come with contact
- A voluntary decision
- Understanding the standards that society has placed on the contact
- The ability of the contact to make a mentally competent decision
- The assumption that the participants are equal
How to Tell if Your Child is a Victim
The major problem with child sexual abuse cases is that most go unreported due to their shame, guilt, embarrassment, and stigma. The abuser might threaten their victims when confronted with speaking out against them.
However, as a parent, you can check for the following signs of child abuse:
- Sudden behavioral changes, including fearfulness, mood swings, and excessive crying
- Issues with academics
- Pain, rawness, and bleeding in private parts
- Changes in toilet-training habits
- Rebellious and aggressive behaviors never seen before
- Showing unusual interest in sex issues
Teaching Your Children to Identify Sexual Abuse
Parents want to do everything they can to protect their children from harm, but sometimes, it is impossible.
You may want to help your child identify what is right and wrong conduct by other adults. This can ensure the child knows when to tell their parents something is wrong, and parents can take the appropriate steps to prevent further harm.
As a parent or caregiver, consider the following:
- Make sure your home feels safe for your child. You may want to have an area that is a no-judgment zone where you can talk about anything.
- Talk to your child in an age-appropriate way about what is unsafe or inappropriate. This will look different at every age.
- Make sure you do not leave your child alone, and if you get separated, there is a plan to find each other or to get help. You can role-play situations at home or with another adult in a safe area.
Injuries Your Child May Suffer
Our child sexual abuse attorney in New Port Richey frequently encounters abused children experiencing injuries like:
- Soft tissue damage
- Broken bones
- Pelvic injury
- Head and neck injuries
- Facial injuries
- Cuts and lacerations
- Unwanted pregnancy
- Severe bruising
- Genital injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Sexually transmitted diseases or infections
- Back injuries
- Wrongful death
Aside from the physical injuries victims suffer, there are also severe emotional injuries. Well after the physical injuries heal, the emotional toll can remain.
Recovery should include compensation for treatment and effects of both physical and emotional injuries. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers will ensure we seek coverage of all your injuries and losses.
Do You Need a Lawyer for Your Child Sexual Abuse Claim?
Given the complexities of child sexual abuse, hiring a lawyer is necessary to achieve your best bet toward recouping any damages experienced. A law professional will develop a winning strategy, gather evidence, and represent your case in negotiations.
Develop a Winning Strategy
The stakes of a child sexual abuse case are high for all parties involved. If found guilty, the defendant might have to register as a child abuser for the rest of their life. The defendant may mount a vigorous defense with this in mind.
Similarly, hiring an attorney allows you to put your best foot forward and go head-to-head with your perpetrators. The professional will identify the liable party and then develop a strategy you can rely on. Choosing to do this on your own might not bring the desired results.
Helping in Gathering Critical Evidence
Like most cases, your ability to provide incriminating evidence will determine whether the defendant walks or pays for their offenses. An attorney can conduct thorough investigations, gather available police reports, consult medical experts, and speak with crucial eyewitnesses. This is something you might struggle to complete on your own.
Representing You in Negotiations
Due to the nature of child sexual abuse claims, the liable party might opt for an out-of-court settlement. However, this shouldn't be confused with the defendant's willingness to back down and give in to your demands. Strong representation is still necessary to ensure you receive monetary compensation.
If your attorney does not reach an agreement during the negotiations phase, your representative can file a child abuse lawsuit through the judicial system, which will send your case through the courts for additional review.
What You Can Expect During an Investigation
Child sexual assault cases can be lengthy. These are life-altering situations for the child, and you want to navigate the legal process effectively. An initial investigation might take months before authorities press charges, but the court system can prolong the process further.
Once authorities receive a report, they initiate a preliminary investigation, interview witnesses, and collect evidence from the crime scene. Your attorney can also conduct an investigation utilizing professionals who know how to identify abuse.
Difference Between Civil and Criminal Sexual Abuse Cases
When a child suffers sexual abuse, there might be civil and criminal court processes, each addressing different elements of your case.
Civil cases recover monetary damages for the victim, while criminal cases punish the perpetrator for their actions.
The state brings criminal charges, and the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the act. Punishments may include incarceration or probation, depending on the circumstances.
Civil cases fall under the umbrella of personal injury law. A civil case aims to recover monetary damages from the accused for financial support and an additional sense of justice.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers is a personal injury firm that employs New Port Richey child sexual attorneys who can handle the process for your family.
The two cases take place separately, but criminal case results can sometimes serve as evidence for your civil case. This applies in specific circumstances, and you should work with your child sexual abuse lawyer in New Port Richey to determine how criminal and civil cases can impact each other.
Proving Liability for Child Sexual Abuse
There are several ways you can prove liability for sexual assault under different legal theories, depending on the circumstances surrounding the abuse.
Some options may include:
- Intentional tort theory
- Premises liability
- Vicarious liability
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
Our child sexual assault attorney in New Port Richey will determine the proper theory to apply to your case.
Often, individual perpetrators are liable for your child’s injuries, but other parties might contribute to the circumstances, such as:
- Schools and teachers
- Daycare centers
- Property owners
- Churches and religious organizations
- Landlords and property management companies
- Nonprofits and community organizations
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers has experience handling these cases, and we can determine who should be responsible. The perpetrators should not get away with abuse. Moreover, anyone who knew about or helped facilitate the abuse should also be liable for the resulting harm to your child.
Organizations Often Deny Allegations
Many organizations will deny that child sexual abuse is happening.
They will deny these allegations vehemently for several reasons, including:
- Donor reactions
- Brand reputations
- Preserving the community
- Maintaining power
These reasons are superficial and should not supersede your child's well-being. There is no excuse for putting reputation over safety.
Some organizations that are often in scandals and deny any wrongdoing include:
- Boy Scouts of America: Over 800 former Boy Scouts have come forward in recent years alleging abuse. The organization issued an apology and has filed for bankruptcy. Girls Scouts of the USA are also under fire for sexually abusing girls during camping and overnight activities. Ironically, the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts compete for more girls to join their organizations.
- Catholic Church and Pontifical Secrecy: The Secrecy Act was recently abolished by the Pope, encouraging victims of sexual abuse in the church to come forward. Before this, the church addressed any abuse cases internally without involving law enforcement. Adding insult to injury, some priests and church members left their roles and took up roles in daycare centers and schools.
These are some of the most trusted organizations for children, and yet they make up a substantial amount of child sexual abuse cases. What is shocking is these organizations have faced little consequence and continue to operate. They are not making changes to their process or system, which can leave children open to continued abuse.
The Pope has taken a step by abolishing the pontifical secrecy, but that means victims must come forward. If they do, we can hold church leaders and others accountable.
A New Port Richey child sexual abuse attorney can help hold perpetrators responsible.
Potential Criminal Penalties for Child Sexual Abuse
A person convicted of child molestation or sexual abuse may face several penalties, including:
- A felony charge for molestation of anyone under 12 with up to 25 years to life in prison
- Second-degree felony charges for cases involving children between 12 and 16 can result in 15 years of imprisonment.
- If the abuse was from someone under 18 and the victim is between 12 and 16, the person may face third-degree felony charges, resulting in up to five years in prison
Additionally, a conviction also results in placing the person on a sex offender registration. This means anytime the person moves, they must register, and they cannot be near schools or children indefinitely. Authorities take child sex abuse cases seriously, and perpetrators cannot escape consequences.
Potential Damages in a Civil Case
You can recover damages if you file a civil case and prove liability and your financial losses.
Some of the losses you can receive compensation for include:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Mental distress
- Mental health counseling
- PTSD, anxiety, and depression
- Damage to relationships
When a child is the victim of sexual abuse, it can impact their life long-term. An injury claim must account for any future losses. Children may grow into adulthood and require additional counseling and medical treatment, and they should not cover those losses themselves.
Our New Port Richey child sexual abuse lawyer will assess current and future losses.
To determine the value of your case, we will review:
- Severity of injuries
- Nature of the attack
- Recovery duration
- Medical treatment costs
- How the attack impacts the quality of life
- Emotional well-being
Where to Find an Attorney for Your Child Abuse Claim
Child sexual claims are severe and traumatic to speak about. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, we are committed to helping you recover without adding extra stress to your claim. Our knowledgeable New Port Richey personal Injury lawyers will attend to you and get you started on your case as soon as you hire our firm.
Let us fight for your full compensation. We are not afraid of going after anyone; we prioritize quality over quantity, and you can relate to our activities. Call us today at (727) 477-9660 to get your confidential, obligation-free case evaluation.