Did you or someone you know experience childhood sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse by clergy members creates immense traumas for its victims, who often have to go to therapy for years in the hope of leading a normal life.
It is essential for victims of sexual abuse to understand their rights and how to prosecute their abusers. While it doesn’t erase what happened, it allows victims to no longer feel powerless and can prevent more abuses.
Read this article to learn more about how to report and prosecute a sexual abuser.
What to Do in the Case of Sexual Abuse
Suffering sexual abuse can be overwhelming, let alone as a child. It is devastating on a physical, emotional, and psychological level.
Abusers seek to isolate their victims, often through threats of retribution and manipulation. Clergy members use their positions of authority to make the children they abuse feel powerless.
However, living in fear like this is unacceptable. The first thing to do is to ensure the safety of the victim. You can then reach out to support systems such as close family and friends and legal counsel.
You then have to decide whether to seek medical attention for the victim. There are medical rape centers that specialize in sexual abuse and can assess the victim’s physical and psychological health.
After ensuring the victim’s safety, it is time to think about reporting the aggressor.
Reporting Sexual Abuse by a Clergy Member
Unfortunately, sexual abuse by a clergy member often goes unreported for many years. Abusers have a strong psychological hold on their victims, who don’t dare to challenge them.
But even if the sexual abuse happened years in the past, it is still possible to report it to the police depending on your state.
The statute of limitation is the period of time a victim has to initiate a lawsuit after the crime occurred. But a lot of states, including California, have special extensions for childhood sexual abuse victims.
These special extensions allow people to pursue a case of sexual abuse whose statute of limitations has expired, taking into account that repressed memories and the damage done can surface later.
How Does Filing a Lawsuit Work?
Depending on what happened, the lawsuit will be either a criminal or a civil case. A criminal lawsuit may only be filed by the state government after the district attorney determines that there will be enough evidence to prove guilt.
However, the district attorney may decide against pressing charges due to insufficient evidence even if a survivor reports a sexual abuse case.
If the state decides not to pursue the case, you can file a civil lawsuit against the abuser. Unlike criminal lawsuits, civil lawsuits do not result in jail time but in financial compensation.
In some states such as California, it isn’t necessary to have filed a police report before filing a civil lawsuit.
Contacting a Sexual Abuse Attorney
Sexual abuse attorneys have a better understanding of the legal system and are experienced in these types of cases.
They will help you build your case and get the financial compensation you’re due. Additionally, many attorneys only get paid if you win your lawsuit.
Don’t Let Childhood Sexual Abuse Go Unreported
Childhood sexual abuse can carry dramatic consequences well into adulthood. Reporting and prosecuting it is a step towards healing and getting due compensation.
Make sure that the victim is safe and has got all the medical attention they need. You can then file a report to the police.
However, even if the district attorney decides not to pursue the case, a civil lawsuit with the help of an experienced sexual abuse attorney can give you some measure of justice.
Need more legal advice? Check out our Law articles.