Sexual abuse is sadly far more common in our society than people believe. Studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males were sexually assaulted or sexually abused as a child. Due to the shocking nature of the crimes and the power that abusers hold over their victims, many cases don’t get reported. If you or your child has been a victim of sexual abuse, you can pursue justice with the support of a St Petersburg sexual abuse lawyer.
A sexual abuse attorney will be able to assist you through this emotionally tough time and provide full support from legal assistance to mental health expert recommendations.
Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer
As parents or caregivers, we spend every day of our lives making sure our children are safe and in environments where they can flourish. But sometimes, our trust is broken in tragic circumstances. If your child is a victim, then contact child sexual abuse lawyers McQuaid & Douglas today for a free consultation.
What Is Considered Child Sexual Abuse in St Petersburg, FL?
Any sexual activity involving a minor is a form of child abuse. A child cannot legally consent to sexual activity. An abuser who engages, forces, or coerces a child into a sexual act is committing a serious crime that typically has long-lasting effects for the victim. It is important to note that child sex abuse includes non-physical contact acts also.
Consent Definitions Under Florida Law:
- A person under 16 cannot legally consent to sex under any circumstances.
- A person 24 or older, or a person in a familial or custodial position of authority cannot receive consent from minors aged 16 and 17.
Common Forms of Child Sexual Abuse Include:
- Exhibitionism (Exposing their body to a minor)
- Fondling of a child’s body
- Forcing a minor into a sexual act
- Phone calls, text messages or online interaction
- Owning, sharing or producing pornographic media of children
- Sex of any kind with a minor
- Sex trafficking
- Any other sexual act that is damaging to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare
Places Where Child Sexual Abuse Commonly Occurs:
- Family Home
- Day-care Centers
- Churches and other religious facilities
- Sports Clubs
- Foster Care
- Medical Facilities
- Boys and Girls Clubs
Common Defendants in Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuits:
- After school/recreational programs: Organizations that have custody of your child have a responsibility to keep them safe. When this duty is breached, there is liability.
- Churches/Clergy: Child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been well documented, worldwide. But still, thousands of cases go unreported. The Church has reportedly paid around $3 billion in settlements to victims of sexual abuse from its members.
- Schools/Teachers: Shockingly, teachers are among the most frequently accused sexual abusers. Should a lawsuit be filed against them, they will be named both individually and as an employee for the school they worked at when the abuse occurred.
- Sports Organizations/Coaches: Sports coaches are often looked up to and trusted by their students, but there are still hundreds of sexual abuse cases. The most high profile being Larry Nassar at Michigan State University.
- Doctors: Doctors can easily exploit their power to manipulate their clients.
- Foster Parents: Heartbreakingly, there are many cases of foster parents abusing children. In these cases, both the foster parents and the foster care agencies will have lawsuits against them.
- Youth Groups: The Boy Scouts of America and many other large youth groups in the U.S. have gained a negative reputation following some high profile sexual abuse cases. They have paid out millions in settlements, including one that reached $18.5 million.
How Can Mental Health Experts Help If My Child Is a Victim of Sexual Abuse?
As St Petersburg sexual abuse lawyers, we can refer you to some highly skilled and trusted psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists who can help your child with the trauma of the abuse.
The use of mental health experts can also prove very valuable during a legal case, as their full understanding of the impact of abuse can be better articulated than solely the words of a minor. Most therapist that we work with will treat you or your child on a letter of protection. This means that their bill will be paid out of the settlement and you do not owe anything out of pocket as the case proceeds.
What Are the Legal Options If You Were Sexual Abused as a Child?
If you were sexually abused as a child, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the abuser or against the place where the abuser was employed. Sometimes, even if many years have passed since the incident(s), you may be able to claim financial compensation for the damages you’ve endured. If you would like to discuss the matters with a sexual abuse lawyer confidentially, then contact us today for a free consultation.
The Warning Signs of Child Sexual Abuse:
- Sudden changes in behavior – Such as aggression, withdrawn, excessively clingy, or bed wetting.
- Avoiding the abuser, or location of abuse – If the child seems to be afraid of a person, or being alone with that person, or returning to a specific place.
- Physical Problems – Bruising, bleeding, infections, or discomfort in genital areas.
- Changes in school behavior – A sudden decline in their work ethic, grades, or punctuality.
- Inappropriate sexual behavior – If they begin to act in sexually inappropriate ways, use with sexually explicit language.
- Dropping hints – A child may try to drop clues and hints about sexual abuse, without stating it obviously.
What Is the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Lawsuit?
In a civil case, the defendants are pursued for money damages. In a criminal case, the case is brought by the state and the defendant faces imprisonment and sex offender designations.
If you wish to bring a claim for a sexual abuse case, contact a sexual abuse lawyer. Most sexual abuse lawyers will monitor and assist you with the criminal case until the time is right to bring the civil claim.
The Effects of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse can cause severe physical and psychological damage to the victims. The road to a full recovery can be long and require extensive help from mental health experts.
In the short term, victims may suffer health problems such as physical injuries, pregnancies and STIs. They are also likely to suffer severe mental trauma that affects their daily life, including a loss of self-esteem and anxiety.
In the long term, victims are likely to suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and eating disorders. There are also signs that self-harm, criminal behavior, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and suicide are linked to sexual abuse as a child. Victims also may suffer trouble with intimacy and physical contact in later life.
Compared to non-victims, sexually abused victims are:
- 4 times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse.
- 4 times more likely to suffer from PTSD in later life.
- 3 times more likely to suffer from a major depressive episode in later life.
The damage caused by sexual abuse can be long-lasting. Speak with a sexual abuse lawyer to help shine a guiding light on the next steps.
Sexual Abuse Lawyer for Elders in St Petersburg, FL
Adults who are elderly or physically or mentally unable to protect themselves from abusers are also often at risk of sexual abuse. Across the country, there are examples of nursing homes or assisted living facilities exploiting their clients. These victims are often vulnerable due to their physical limitations and cognitive ability to report the abuse.
Common signs of sexual abuse in elderly victims include:
- Physical Symptoms – Bruising and cuts around the body and particularly their genital areas, or sexually transmitted infections.
- Emotional Trauma – Depression, withdrawal and fears of being alone with care workers are often big warning signs. Especially if they are unusually fearful of being physically cared for.
- Behavioral Changes – Anger, anxiety, sleep disturbances or any other sudden behavioral changes may be related to sexual abuse.
If you’ve noticed any of the mentioned symptoms, or believe your loved one has been sexually abused then contact a sexual abuse attorney. Their legal expertise, combined with a compassionate understanding, can bring your family justice.
More Sexual Abuse Statistics
- It is estimated that every 92 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in the United States.
- 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys, younger than 18 are sexually abused or assaulted by an adult.
- 82% of sexual abuse victims under 18 are female.
- Females aged 16-19 are four times more likely to be sexually abused than the rest of the population.
- Every 9 minutes, child protective services find evidence for a child sexual abuse case.
- 1 out of every 6 American women has experienced attempted rape or a completed rape in their life.
More statistics about sexual abuse can be read here. The statistics, in most cases, do not take into account unreported cases.
Hire a Sexual Abuse Attorney in St Petersburg, FL
Sexual abuse lawyers Sean McQuaid and Jonathon Douglas as highly respected and trusted lawyers in St. Petersburg. If you or a family member have been the victim of sexual abuse, then contact us today for a free consultation. We can answer any of your questions with total privacy and get started on bringing you the justice you deserve.
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We represent clients throughout Southwest Florida