Sexual abuse is devastating to its victims, whether it occurs at the hands of a family member, mentor, teacher, caregiver or stranger. The mental and emotional scars left in the wake of sexual abuse can last a lifetime. The lawyers at Foster & Sear help victims of sexual abuse and assault, and understand how important it is for victims to get justice. Sexual abusers must be held accountable; likewise, people in a position of authority, who fail to protect those in their care, must be held responsible for what happens on their watch.
What is Sexual Abuse?
While the legal definition varies by state and type, it is generally understood that sexual abuse involves unwanted sexual contact.
It not only covers fondling and touching of a sexual nature, but:
Showing children explicit images, exposing children to sexually charged language and to pornography
Taking inappropriate photos of a child for personal use or distribution
Requesting the minor send or take pictures of themselves in an inappropriate manner
Revealing oneself to a child
Cases of abuse typically involve an inappropriate use of power, and a number of factors can contribute:
Authority: Individuals holding a position of inherent authority sexually abuse others by taking advantage of the authoritative dynamic. An example of this would be a teacher becoming sexually involved with a student. The student may feel obligated to take part in the abuse simply because the teacher holds a role of power.
Age: Acts that involve an adult and a minor are despicable acts; children are victimized simply because they are too young to protect themselves from the assault. Research has found that those who suffer sex abuse as a child are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, addictions and personality disorders.
Physical size: A larger physical presence can be exerted as a form of influence. Smaller individuals may shy away from stopping sexual abuse out of fear of a physical confrontation.
Coercion: Children and mentally handicapped individuals can be especially vulnerable to sexual assault. Perpetrators often concoct stories to explain their behavior and discourage reporting.
Effects of Sexual Abuse
Damage done by sexual abuse is not just physical; oftentimes, the mental and emotional impact of sexual abuse continues for many years or even a lifetime. Those who have been abused might develop unhealthy ideas about sexual relationships that can cause destructive behaviors and emotional distress.
Signs that a child has been sexually abused may include:
Abrupt changes in behavior, sometimes affecting quality of schoolwork.
Depression and low self-esteem. A low sense of self-worth.
Sexually acting out for their age. Promiscuous behavior, unnatural interest in subjects of a sexual nature.
When children show symptoms of sexual abuse, professionals have a duty to report those behaviors and protect the child. Health professionals, police, teachers, school employees and others have an obligation to assure the mental and physical safety of the children they watch over. Unfortunately, our lawyers have seen many cases of institutional disregard for the safety of children or others who are in their care.
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What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is any type of unwanted sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Any act of molestation or unwanted sexual advances may be considered sexual assault, which may include attempted rape, forcible sodomy, forced sexual intercourse, child molestation, incest, or fondling.
Those who have suffered from sexual assault are oftentimes fearful of reporting the incident for a number of reasons:
Fearing their accusations will not be taken seriously
Discomfort with the entire situation
Embarrassment about the event
Denial about the severity of what took place
Fear of retaliation
Survivors of sexual assault have the right to come forward with information about the incident and take legal action against their attacker. Our lawyers are prepared to treat you with the utmost respect and dignity while we build your case, always acting in your best interest.
If you or a loved one were subject to unwanted sexual abuse or assault, you deserve justice, support and a chance at moving on with your life. Please contact us at 1-800-631-5908 for a free, confidential discussion about your legal rights.