What Is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse is tragically a rampant problem in America. The statistics are staggering, but it is important for victims to know they are not alone, and that there are many people who want to help them heal.

Defining Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is any sexual act that involves a minor (a child under the age of 18 years old). This definition includes touching offenses, as well as non-touching and exploitation.

Examples of sexual touching offenses include:

  • Fondling the child’s sex organs
  • Unwanted kissing
  • Vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • Forcing a child to touch the perpetrator’s sex organs

Examples of sexual non-touching offenses include:

  • Indecent exposure
  • Masturbating in front of a child
  • Deliberately exposing a child to sex, such as forcing them to watch pornography or others having sex

Examples of sexual exploitation include:

  • Using a child to create pornography, including film and photographs
  • Engaging a child in prostitution, either by paying for sexual activity with a child or by accepting payment for others to have sexual activity with the child

Who Are the Perpetrators?

A perpetrator can be an adult or another juvenile who has exerted their power over the child. Perpetrators — as well as those who purposefully expose a child to the perpetrator, cover up the abuse or enable a perpetrator to continue molesting other children — can be arrested or sued for child sexual abuse charges.

“It is the responsibility of every institution that puts a person in a position of power over a child to thoroughly vet that person, supervise them and institute safeguards to protect the child from harm,” according to Jerry Kristal, managing attorney at Weitz & Luxenberg P.C.

The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

The emotional harm resulting from the child sex abuse remains for years. Victims may have a wide variety of feelings about their experience that often manifest in different ways, especially if they never disclosed their abuse to anyone.

Child sexual abuse warning signs may include:

  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Lack of trust
  • Hypersexuality
  • Hyposexuality
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or eating disorders
  • Feelings of fear, shame or guilt
  • Attempted suicide

Victims who confront their personal history are often able to heal. While the abuse can never be undone, the effects of it can. In our experience, legal empowerment is often an important part of the healing process.

Child Sexual Abuse Is a Widespread Issue

Despite all of the laws, regulations, advocates and agencies dedicated to protecting children, child sexual abuse is still a widespread problem in the United States.

Research has found that as many as one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before they reach 18 years old. Abusers are usually in a position of power over a child, and many are trusted adults in authority, such as clergy members, coaches, or Boy Scout leaders. Additionally, most perpetrators are friends or family of the victim — only 10% of victims are abused by strangers. In 30% of child sex abuse cases, the perpetrator is a family member; in 40%, the abuser is an older or more powerful juvenile. Unfortunately, these statistics may not reveal the full extent of child sexual abuse in the U.S. because the majority of victims never report these crimes.

Why Children Don’t Speak Up

Research has found that about 60% of children never speak up about their abuse. This number is understandable; there are many reasons why a victim may not trust an adult enough to confide about abuse.

For example, abusers often scare a child into keeping the details of the abuse a secret by threatening to hurt the child or their family, claiming no one will believe the child or insisting the child will get in trouble with their family. In instances where the victim knew the perpetrator, the child may keep the abuse secret to protect the abuser. In some cases, the child’s feelings of shame, guilt or that they are somehow at fault causes them to retreat into silence.

Seeking Justice for Abuse Survivors

If you were sexually abused as a child, you can seek justice and accountability against your perpetrator and others responsible. Doing so will allow you to get justice for yourself and protect other children from the pain that you have experienced.

It takes courage to face your perpetrator and those who allowed the abuse — particularly where it involves an institution like a church, national youth organization or school. Weitz & Luxenberg attorneys are here to help empower you. We’ve helped hundreds of survivors get justice, including financial compensation and peace of mind knowing they have saved other children from abuse.

Were You Sexually Abused?

If you were sexually abused as a child, it’s time to start healing. By taking your perpetrator to court, you can get justice for yourself and protect other children from experiencing child sexual abuse.

It takes courage to face your perpetrator in court, and our attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg are here to help empower you. Our legal experts have helped child sexual abuse survivors get justice, including financial compensation for their pain and suffering and peace of mind knowing they have saved other children from abuse.

Please call us at 888-981-6038 or use the contact form below to talk with one of our attorneys free of charge. During our confidential conversation, we can walk you through your rights and explain your legal options to get the justice you deserve.