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Frequently Asked Questions
We support survivors of sexual abuse. It takes a lot of courage to come forward and tell your story. Our team has talked with hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse and is available to answer your questions. If you aren’t quite ready to take that step, here are some helpful videos.
What are the effects of sexual abuse?
There are many serious effects of suffering sexual abuse. Sexual trauma can have physical, emotional, and physical effects on survivors. These effects aren’t easy to deal with and often require help from experts on how to deal with them. Depression, flashbacks, issues with intimacy, and post-traumatic stress disorder are only a few examples of the types of effects that survivors may have to face. The effects of traumatic events manifest differently from survivor to survivor. The one common denominator is that everyone needs help to work through these resulting phenomena.
What are the long-term effects of sexual abuse?
As sexual abuse lawyers, we know first-hand how abuse can impact a person’s life. Adults and children experience severe trauma at the hands of their perpetrators – often people they know and trust.
Every 68 seconds, another person is a victim of assault.
- Alcohol and drug abuse can be more common among child abuse victims.
- Suicide attempts are 2.5 times higher among victims.
- Post-traumatic stress can cause people to act out, especially when they’re younger.
- Relationship problems can be lifelong, due to the victim having difficulty trusting others.
- Depression and anxiety are associated with sexual abuse and can last the duration of the person’s life.
Eating disorders are more common in sexual abuse victims, leading to either eating too much or too little. While it’s unclear why these eating habits occur, it’s thought that the person feels a sense of control with their food or discomfort with their body, leading to extreme disorders.
Victims may not realize that their past has led to certain behaviors that they exhibit as an adult, and can even lead to socioeconomic consequences. For example, it’s not uncommon for a person to:
- Feel guilt or a sense of no self-worth because of the events that happened even decades prior.
- 14% higher chance of being unemployed compared to non-victims.
- 1.3 – 2.1 times higher chance of poor health, pain, gynecological issues, gastrointestinal issues and obesity.
Victims of sexual abuse experience a wide range of emotional and physical effects from sexual abuse. Adults are not immune from these symptoms. Depression can take as long as 11.5 years from the abuse to set in, so the impact may not be immediate.
I or Someone Close to Me Was Sexually Abused, Where Do I Start?
Start by calling Cohen & Malad, LLP’s sexual abuse litigation team at (317) 636-6481. There is no fee to speak with us and we can help you to come to an informed decision about the best path forward.
What if I suspect a loved one was abused?
Victims of sexual abuse deserve a voice, and you may or may not be able to report the abuse on their behalf. For example:
If the victim is now an adult, they’ll need to pursue help from the authorities or an attorney. You can make the report, but without the consent of the adult, it’s often not going to result in any real action.
However, if the adult is unable to act on their behalf, then you may be able to report the abuse. A good example of this is if your loved one is impaired or has the mental capacity of a child, you may report the abuse.
Otherwise, you’ll want to:
- Offer support to the adult
- Talk to the person about the abuse
- Try and convince the person to report the abuse
Adults need to take action on their behalf, but many may not want to drudge up the old, painful memories again.
If your loved one is a child and you suspect that abuse is taking place, you may be required to provide a mandatory report. You can report the abuse to the authorities and an investigation will take place.
Depending on the age of the child, if they do mention that abuse occurs, you should contact the authorities immediately.
If you believe that the abuse just occurred or that the child is in immediate danger, you can call 911. Removing the child from the abusive situation is a top priority, but unless you’re their parent, you may not have a legal right to do so.
How can I tell if a child may be a victim of grooming?
Grooming is a tool many abusers use to coerce their victims. Anyone can be a victim of grooming, but children, particularly young children, are common targets.
In many cases, it’s a person of trust who carries out the grooming. That person could be a family member, a coach, a teacher or anyone in the child’s circle of trust that they interact with regularly.
Grooming can happen in person or online. The signs are not always easy to spot. Your child may be a victim of grooming if they:
- Are in a relationship with a much older person
- Talk a lot about a particular adult or spend a lot of time with them
- Have unexplained gifts and don’t want to talk about where they came from
- Are skipping school or extra-curricular activities
- Are suddenly spending less time with their usual group of friends
Often, grooming follows a similar pattern. The abuser may attempt to:
- Isolate the victim from those who would protect them. Abusers will often seek out roles that give them access to minors.
- Gain the trust of the victim by making them feel they have a special, caring relationship. They may “share secrets,” or the abuser may give the victim gifts and extra attention to win their trust.
- Desensitize the victim to touch. Initially, the abuser may try to engage in seemingly innocent forms of touching, like hugging or wrestling. Eventually, things escalate to increasingly more sexual contact.
- Make their behavior seem natural to avoid raising suspicion.
If you suspect that your child is a victim of grooming and abuse, a sexual abuse lawyer can help you pursue a claim and hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.
How much does it cost to talk to an attorney?
What types of sexual abuse cases does Cohen & Malad, LLP handle?
What is the difference between civil and criminal lawsuits?
When searching for a sexual abuse lawyer, you may find firms talking about civil and criminal lawsuits. It’s important to understand the difference between these two types of cases.
- Criminal cases involve crimes against the state
- Civil cases are, in simple terms, disputes between private parties
- Civil attorneys cannot force prosecutors to file criminal charges.
On a deeper level, criminal and civil cases differ in:
Burden of Proof
In criminal cases, the burden of proof is much higher than what a plaintiff must meet in a civil case. The state will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.
In a civil lawsuit, however, the plaintiff merely needs to show that the accusations are more likely than not to be true.
Criminal trials typically involve a jury. Civil trials can also involve a jury, but in many cases, they are heard and decided by a single judge.
Defendants in criminal cases are entitled to an attorney, regardless of their ability to pay. However, that same right does not apply to civil cases.
Punishment or Outcome
In a civil case, the outcome is usually monetary damages. In a criminal case, money may be at stake, but more importantly, the defendant’s freedom is at stake. Criminal cases may involve monetary damages as well as jail time.
How can I protect my privacy in a sexual abuse case?
Protecting your privacy during a sexual abuse case may be a top priority. A sexual abuse lawyer can help you take steps to protect your privacy in a few different ways:
Filing Under a Pseudonym
One way to protect your privacy is to file a lawsuit under a pseudonym, such as Jane Doe or John Doe. A pseudonym can also be your first and last initials, or your first name and last initial only.
Courts will generally permit a pseudonym if there is a legitimate privacy concern, and they are particularly common in cases involving sexual misconduct.
While a pseudonym will protect your identity from the public, you must still provide the court with your real identity.
Limiting Access to the Case
Another way to protect your privacy is to request that the court seal transcripts, documents, and evidence from the public. Judges and attorneys will still have access to this information, but the public will not.
Attending the Trial Virtually
If you do not wish to see your abuser in person, you can request to attend the trial virtually. In this case, you’ll be taken to a separate room and use video testimony to participate in the trial.
Virtual attendance may not protect your identity, but it will save you from the potential trauma or triggering process of having to address or interact with your abuser.
Can I still get help if the abuse happened when I was a child and I’m now an adult?
Yes. The statutes of limitations on sexual abuse cases vary greatly from state to state. Because the rules are so different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it is important to call an experienced attorney to decide the best way forward for you.
Do you take cases in every state?
We do. Cohen & Malad, LLP’s sexual abuse litigation team takes cases in all 50 states. Call us today and we can help you to move forward in the courts of the state where you were abused.
My child was sexually abused. Will my child have to testify in court?
What is a mandatory report?
Professional adults who work with children are considered “mandated reporters.” What is a mandated reporter? These are individuals who have to:
- Report suspected abuse
- Report disclosed abuse
For example, if you notice the child has bruises or they tell you of the abuse, you must alert the authorities. You do not have to contact a sexual abuse lawyer, but you do have to seek help from the authorities.
State laws vary, and in some states, any adult is a mandated reporter.
However, in other states, the professional must work closely with the child, which means that they often work in one of the following capacities:
- Law enforcement officials
- Employees in youth-related organizations
Even if you’re not obligated to file a mandatory report, adults should seek help for children who they believe are in immediate danger.
Filing a report will require you to provide numerous details to help speed up the investigation and remove the child from danger. You should supply as much information as you can, which will include the victim’s:
- Guardian or parent names
You’ll also be asked to describe the type of abuse that you believe has occurred. Even if you don’t have enough information to be 100% confident in your report, it’s better to allow the agency you contact to decide the best course of action.
Often, you can report the abuse anonymously, but if you’re a professional who’s required to make a report, you will need to provide your name.
Failing to file a report when you should have filed one is a crime. Each state has its own laws in place and will impose different penalties for your failure to report.
What does it mean to be trauma-informed?
The average person does not understand the effect of trauma on the brain. There are both short-term and long-term effects that manifest in different ways in different people. Traumatic experiences impact every area of functioning, including physical, mental, behavioral, and social processes. Trauma-informed care means treating a whole person, taking into account past trauma and the resulting coping mechanisms when attempting to understand and interact with clients who’ve been through traumas. Cohen & Malad, LLP is proud that each member of its sexual abuse litigation team has been trained in trauma-informed care and will treat our clients and their families with understanding, respect, and dignity at all times.