California Child Sexual Abuse Attorney
Child sexual abuse is one of the most horrific crimes committed against young, innocent victims. It’s one of a parent’s worst nightmares and is most often committed by someone the child knows. To make matters worse, the signs of abuse can easily go unnoticed, causing children to suffer physically, psychologically, emotionally, and traumatically in deep, sad silence.
Child sexual abuse needs to be stopped, and our young victim’s voices need to be heard. No child should serve as prey for a sexual predator. And, no sexual predator should ever go unpunished.
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that involves sexually assaulting a child under the age of 18. It is always non-consensual because a minor is too young to consent. It is also called, “sexual molestation,” “sexual assault,” “sexual abuse,” and “child rape.” In any case, child sexual abuse is a dreadful act that takes advantage of an innocent victim’s youth and vulnerability.
Sexual abuse involving a child comes in many forms, can happen in a range of settings and can often be hard to detect if it isn’t accidentally or intentionally exposed. The abuse can be blatant or suggestive, manipulative or threatening, physical or verbal. When a child is abused, it is a serious violation of trust for the child that is extremely confusing. Because of the contrast in authority and power, sexual abuse is also an intimidating and frightening experience for a child.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, (NCVC) one in five girls and one in 20 boys are victims of sexual abuse. More disturbingly, experts agree that the “prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine” because it is often not reported.
Sexual Abuse Comes in Many Forms
Child sexual abuse can involve the following unwelcomed forms of sexual contact or suggestive behavior between an adult and minor, or between children with a significant age difference:
- Touching, rubbing or caressing
- Non-touching sexual behavior such as exposure of genitalia
- Manufacturing, viewing or sharing child pornography
- Taking pornographic photos of a child
- Intercourse, or any type of penetration involving a child’s private body parts
- Masturbation in the prescience of a minor
- Obscene contact through the telephone or online
- Sex trafficking and prostitution
- Unwanted hugging, kissing, massaging, or tickling in a suggestive, sexual manner
- Sharing sexual stories or personal sexual information
- Any type of sexual contact or inappropriate behavior, whether verbal, visual or physical that is psychologically harmful to a minor
Has Your Child Been Sexually Abused?
Child sexual abuse is an incredibly difficult and painful subject to talk about for both parent and child. The emotions associated with sexual abuse are often a mix of anger, fear, disbelief, confusion and shame. We understand how distressing it can be and are committed to helping parents just like you stop sexual abusers from harming your child – or another – again.
If you suspect your child has been sexually abused, you may not know where to turn. Perhaps the suspected predator is a close family member and you are struggling with conflicting feelings of guilt and outrage. For help sorting out these strong emotions, please contact Jessica Pride today at (619) 516-8166. We understand what you are going through as a family and can help you decide how to best move forward.
5 Misconceptions About Child Sexual Abuse
It’s not uncommon to believe that child sexual abuse is only a crime if it’s committed in a certain way. The truth is, the abuse can happen in the most unsuspecting situations and by the most unsuspecting individuals.
- Child sexual predators are not a homogenous group of pedophiles; they have varied nuances and backgrounds that make it hard to predict their actions.
- Abuse does not only happen in situations and locations that are convenient. Some offenders go to great lengths to plan just the right abuse situation.
- Women can sexually abuse children just as much as men.
- Child sexual abuse can happen in any family, despite level of income, education, religion or race.
- Not all sexual predators are repeat offenders, which makes the crime more difficult to detect.
Who is Committing Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abusers can’t be categorized by certain looks or behavior. They are hard to distinguish, not only for adults but for children as well. The one goal child sexual abusers have in common is that they’re doing it for their own gratification. This is why it’s so important to be an “aware parent.”
Abusers most often act alone, but can also commit the crime with accomplices or while bystanders look the other way. Sadly, many people who become aware of the sexual abuse fail to disclose it, allowing it to continue repeatedly, sometimes to many children over a period of time.
Potential abusers can be just about anyone:
- Older sibling or a sibling’s friend
- Family member such as a parent, step-parent, uncle, cousin, or grandparent
- Foster or adoptive parent
- Playmate’s parent or sibling
- Parent of a child that a teen babysits for on a regular basis
- Teacher, coach, or teacher’s assistant
- Church pastor, priest, bible study leaders or other clergy
- Physician, or other medical attendee
- Business owner at a store or other place the child frequents
Where Does Child Sexual Abuse Typically Occur?
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 93 percent of children under the age of 18 know their abusers. Many times, it’s a close relative, leader or friend who the child knows, sees often and trusts. It can happen anywhere, within minutes or over a span of time.
Most often it happens at home or in places where the child frequents, such as:
- Daycare facilities including pre-school, after-school care or in a home where the child is babysat
- Elementary, junior high and high school restrooms, locker rooms or classrooms
- Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and youth camps
- Foster care
- Neighbor’s or friend’s house
- During volunteer activities
- In the child’s home
Speaking Up About Child Sexual Abuse
Sometimes children who have been abused will tell a parent, even though they may not fully understand what happened. This makes it much easier for the parent to take action against the abuser.
In most cases, however, sexual abuse is not disclosed by children and teens due to shame, embarrassment, or the fear of not being taken seriously. This often leads to a state of silent denial, acting out, retreating or self-destructive behavior such as drug or alcohol abuse.
Adults Who Were Sexually Abused as Children
Unfortunately, the effects of sexual abuse don’t just go away when the abuse stops. Nearly 21 percent of adults who experienced child sexual abuse kept quiet and struggled with the effects for years after the crime occurred.
How can parents keep this from happening? Getting to know the signs of abuse and helping children to feel comfortable talking about it is the first step in preventing this terrible crime.
When Child Sexual Abuse Goes Unnoticed
When children don’t talk about the abuse, and the warning signs are missed, overlooked or unintentionally ignored. The signs are especially difficult to detect if there is no reason to suspect the abuse because the only people around the child are fully trusted and respected, making them unusual suspects.
When this happens, children learn to cope with the trauma by adopting unusual habits or behaviors; sometimes they may not show signs at all. Children will also often try to hide the abuse if they have been threatened or intimidated by their predator. It’s also common for abusers to tell their young victims that harm will come to a family member if he or she talks about the abuse incident. Even though a child may stay silent to protect the family, an attentive parent may be able to detect subtle behavioral or physical changes that can help expose the abuse.
7 Signs of Abuse in Very Young Children
In very young children, warning signs can be confused with normal infant or toddler behaviors, such as tantrums. Parental instincts, however, may detect that “something isn’t quite right,” prompting further questioning about the behavior.
Children who are unable to express themselves verbally may show the following physical or behavioral changes caused by sexual abuse:
- Unexplained pain, itching, bleeding, or bruises in or around the genital area
- Unexplained injuries that occurred while under the care of someone else
- Difficulty walking, sitting or being comfortable, which may be because of genital or anal pain
- Bed wetting accidents that are not related to toilet training
- Excessive or unusual anger and tantrums
- New sexual curiosity
- Being secretive or wanting to be alone
Signs of Sexually Abused Children or Teenagers
- Complaints of painful urination or bowel movements
- Chronic stomach aches
- Headaches or other aches and pains
- Sexually transmitted diseases or recurring yeast infections
- Disturbed sleep, such as nightmares, night terrors or insomnia
- Change in eating habits, or signs of an eating disorder
- Anxiety, depression, signs of emotional pain or other struggles
- Fear of being alone, with a certain person or in specific places
- Being too quiet, or spending too much time in the bedroom alone
- Unusual mood changes such as anger, lashing out at family members, friends and pets
- Unusually compliant or disobedient behavior
- Attitude changes about school or places the child used to enjoy
- Changes in self-image and body perception
- Having new knowledge of sophisticated sexual language and behaviors
- Regression to child-like behavior such as thumb sucking
- Changes in hygiene, such as showering more than often
- Being unusually secretive
- Self-harm or hurting animals
- Pulling away from normal physical contact
- Verbal cues such as talking too much or too little
- Talk of suicide
- Change in dress, such as wearing baggy or too tight clothing
- Problems at school such as falling grades, rebellion, or withdrawal
- Sudden lack of interest in friends, sports or other activities
- Acting out sexually
How Do You Prevent or Stop Child Sexual Abuse?
Taking steps to protect your child against sexual abuse can become second nature, once you are committed to becoming an aware parent. Mostly, it means being as involved in your child’s life as much as possible so he or she is not alone with others, unless necessary.
Being involved also means talking to your child or teen often about school, friends, extracurricular activities and family relationships. You can also get to know the leaders and other people in your child’s life, such as teachers, coaches, clergy, and the families of your child’s friend.
Teach Your Child to Speak Up
Encouraging your child to talk about experiences – no matter how uncomfortable – is one of the best ways to learn about sexual abuse. When talking to your child about sensitive or private subjects, be sure to use a gentle, non-confrontational tone.
Also, be available if it seems like your child or teen has something to say or just feels the need to connect. A short conversation can reveal feelings of fear, confusion or sadness that may be related to abuse.
Questions you can ask include:
“Who did you spend time with at school today?”
“Did you meet any new friends?”
“Did you do anything fun today?
“Is there anything you want to talk about? I’m always here to listen.”
“Tell me what is going on in your life?”
“Has anyone been touching you?”
What to Look for When Adults Are with Children
While it is impossible to watch your child at all times of the day, there are things you can look for to be proactive in possibly preventing child sexual abuse. You can observe their relationships with others, particularly older children or an adult.
If you have not already, teach your child boundaries. An effective example of this is introducing the concept of personal space; a child’s personal space is the imaginary boundary that makes your child separate from other people. This can be physical, emotional, visual or even verbal. Your child can choose to keep out those things that make him or her uncomfortable, such as unwanted or unsafe words, touching or sights.
As a parent, you can observe how adults and older children respect or disrespect other’s personal space.
You can also pay attention to adult behavior towards children, such as:
- Seeks emotional or physical comfort in a child and shares personal or private information that is normally shared with adults
- Spends excessive time emailing, text messaging or calling the child and has private interactions with him or her
- Persists in spending uninterrupted alone time with the child
- Extravagant or extremely generous towards the child, such as taking the child on special outings alone, buying gifts, giving money for no apparent reason or babysitting for free
- Asserts crude or sexual jokes or behavior when around the child
- Is overly interested in the sexuality of the child, such as by commenting on the child’s developing body
Teaching your child to keep good boundaries can help them understand when they are being violated and could possibly prevent abuse.
What to Do If Your Child Has Been Sexually Assaulted
- Remove your child from the suspected predator, location, or situation to keep him or her safe.
- Call an experienced sexual assault attorney like Jessica Pride to talk privately about the abuse, learn about your legal options and the process of pursuing the abuser in both criminal and civil courts. You do not need hard evidence of the abuse; if you suspect your child has been abused, it’s best to follow your instincts to protect him or her before it happens again.
- Call a Child Abuse Hotline for Parents: National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline or Childhelp Hotline.
- Contact your local law enforcement. If you have evidence to support your claim, you can share it at this time. If you file a report, authorities may follow with an investigation and interviews to determine if there is enough evidence to substantiate abuse. If abuse has occurred, law enforcement will talk to you about the next steps regarding criminal prosecution. A sexual assault attorney can help with taking action in civil court.
Sexually Abusing a Child is a Serious Crime in California
Child sexual abuse is a heartbreaking, horrendous crime that needs to be stopped. It is critical that you speak up if you see warning signs; it can be a child’s first hope of protection against their abuser.
In California, child sexual abuse laws and punishment are harsh due to the heinous nature of the crime. Predators who engage in this type of inappropriate behavior should face the consequences of their actions, which often result in imprisonment and other penalties. Anyone who knew about the crime but failed to report it can also be held liable.
Jessica Pride has represented countless abuse clients through the civil court process, obtaining highly favorable results for her clients’ restitution and justice. More than just an attorney, Jessica is a trusted friend and advocate who has helped many families find their healing after the tragedy of child sexual abuse. Our staff’s combined experience provides unparalleled service to families while seeking the just compensation for physical, psychological and emotional damages they deserve.
If you live outside California, we can work with co-counsel while pursing your case.
Talk to Someone at Jessica Pride Law Today About the Sexual Abuse
If you suspect or have evidence that your child or a child you know has been sexually abused, our sincerest thoughts and condolences go out to you. Please, if you would like to talk about your situation, contact our office at (619) 516-8166 to learn about how we can help your child and family heal. All consultations are free, with no obligation. A compassionate staff member is available 24 hours a day to talk, and your information is held in the strictest of confidence.