Child sexual abuse in Philadelphia and the remainder of the US seems to be rampant. Whether it is the recent stories of Priest sexual abuse, the Sandusky news from 2017, or stories of teachers and coaches engaging in sexual acts with minor students and athletes, there is a need to help protect our children now more than ever. For the past 25 years, the attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group have worked with victims of child sexual abuse in Philadelphia to help get them the justice they deserve.
Child sexual abuse in Philadelphia is a serious crime that leaves lasting psychological and physical scars on its victims. It is when a minor child between the ages of 0 and 17 is sexually violated in any way. The actions do not need to include intercourse, nor do they need to include physical contact. The following violations are all considered child sexual abuse:
• Vaginal, anal, or oral penetration with a penis, finger, or other objects
• Sexual contacts such as touching breasts, genitals, or other intimate areas
• Taking nude photos or videos of a child
• Forcing a child to perform sexual acts
• Possession of child pornography
• Showing a child pornographic material
• Discussing sexually explicit things that developmentally inappropriate for a child’s age
• Sending sexually explicit emails or text messages
• Sexual exploitation
• Public display of sexually explicit images
Child sexual abuse will leave scars, both emotional and physical, on its victims for many years. If the victim never receives the proper therapies and help to overcome the scars, the final effect can be dire. Many child sexual abuse cases occur because a trusted adult took advantage of a child. It is often a person the child knows well and wants to trust or is told he or she can trust. As a result, the child often feels frightened and believes he or she is the cause of the abuse. The child develops deep-seated trust issues as well as extremely low self-esteem and a victim mentality.
Additionally, a child sexual abuse victim often struggles with night terrors and severe nightmares and develops severe depression, anxiety disorder, substance abuse issues, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some victims have even developed schizophrenia as a way to separate their conscious mind from the abuse as it occurs.
As a result of these effects, many victims of child sexual abuse do not report the abuse. They are often either unaware that they are actually victims who are not at fault for the horrors they endured, or they are too scared to face their abuser in court as they come to terms with the reality that was their childhood.
Child sexual abuse does not discriminate. Anyone can be the victim of child sexual abuse, no matter where they come from, what their race is, what they look like, or what their gender or gender identity is. Any person between the ages of 0 and 17 can be a victim of child sexual abuse. As a matter of fact, according to the child sexual abuse advocacy site, Darkness to Light, 1 out of every 10 children has been or will be sexually abused before his or her 18th birthday. More specifically, that means about 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 25 boys will be sexually abused by the time he or she turns 18. Of those children, 60% never tell anyone that they were or are being sexually abused. The statistics only get worse. 20% of children who have sexually abused experience this fate before they reach 8 years of age. These children spend their entire lives wondering what they did wrong, when in fact, it was the adults in their lives that are meant to protect them that did so much wrong.
The victims of child sexual abuse have some rights in Philadelphia. Any child who chooses to come forward before they turn 18 will be able to press criminal charges and sue in civil court. Pennsylvania laws were updated in 2002 to allow a longer statute of limitations to file your case in criminal and civil court. Under the new laws, a victim of child sexual abuse can file a criminal action against the perpetrator up until the victim reaches age 50.
In addition, if the abuse occurred after August 27, 2002, the victim can bring a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator up until the age of 30. However, if the abuse occurred before August 27, 2002, the victim’s time limit to file a lawsuit will typically be 5 years after he or she turns 18, which is the person’s 23rd birthday.
As discussed, most child sexual abusers are trusted individuals. They are coaches, parents, family members, doctors, teachers, and clergymen, to name a few. These people have easier access to a child and can coerce a child into participating because the child knows them and is taught to trust them. Any of the following person may be a perpetrator of child sexual assault:
- Scout leaders
- Medical doctor
- Daycare worker
- Priest or other Clergy members
- Religious leaders
- Aunts, Unless, parents, grandparents, siblings, or any other family member
- Society influences, such as celebrities, athletes, business leaders, government officials, etc.
Children are vulnerable. It is our job in society to protect children in Philadelphia from child sexual abuse. Sometimes, a person who has a duty to protect the public and children drop the ball and do not do what they know they need to in order to protect these children, they can be defendants in the lawsuit filed for child sexual abuse. The acts of negligence may have been the window the sexual abuser needed to begin or continue the acts of sexual abuse against a child. Some of these types of people would include:
- Therapists who did not report the abuse or thoughts of abuse
- An agency or government entity that ignored reports of suspected sexual abuse
- Property owners who did not install required security equipment
- School administrators who ignored reports of sexual misconduct and abuse
- Adults charged with supervising children and adults that did not supervise properly
- A person who encouraged or aided in the continuance of child sexual abuse
Victims of child sexual abuse become witnesses in criminal court. They are seeking justice that their abuser will never be able to hurt another child. The punishments for child sexual abusers who are found guilty in Philadelphia can vary. They can be any of the following:
- First-degree misdemeanor which holds a sentence of a maximum 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines
- Third-degree felony which holds a sentence of a maximum 7 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines
- Second-degree felony which holds a sentence of a maximum 10 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines
- First-degree felony which holds a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines
Civil court abides by a different set of laws. First, the child sexual abuse victim is the plaintiff. This means he or she is at the helm of the case and a party to the process. In civil court, the child sexual abuser does not need to be found guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. Instead, the plaintiff just needs to show there is enough evidence that it could have happened in the manner in which the jury or judge was informed. Therefore, the remedies from the court are also different. Some remedies may include:
- Medical expenses
- Expenses for therapy and counseling
- Loss of income
- Reimbursement for stolen or damaged property
- Attorney’s fees
- Pain and Suffering
- Emotional Distress
- Punitive damages
The US had gotten better on realizing that it takes a village to raise a child. therefore, the village has developed resources to help victims of child sexual abuse get the help they need to recover and provide a community they need to help them learn they are not alone in this struggle. Some of the best resources available are:
- Lauren’s Kids. Lauren’s Kids help victims of child sexual abuse find the guidance and education necessary to help them heal.
- RAINN. The Rape, Assault, Incest National Network includes a national hotline as well as thousands of providers that can help victims of child sexual assault move forward in life.
- Darkness to Light. Darkness to Light can help victims of child sexual abuse find reputable therapists and organizations trained to help you heal from your child sexual abuse trauma.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. NCTSN helps children through therapy and evaluations heal from the abuse they endured.
- Stop It Now. Stop It Now directs adult survivors of child sexual abuse to the organization best suited to help them heal.
Child sexual abuse is a horrific ordeal that no child should ever have to undergo. However, if it did happen to you, you are not alone, and you have rights. If you have been the victim of child sexual abuse in Philadelphia, the experienced attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group can help. Contact us today at (215) 391-4790 for a free consultation. We do not accept any money until you win your case.