Child sexual abuse is one of the most vicious and reprehensible crimes regardless of where you are in the world. It can refer to a range of sex crimes involving children such as sexual assault, forced physical contact, statutory rape, sexual abuse, and public lewdness.
Under the California Penal Code, a person will have committed a sex crime if they engage in a sex act with another person without their consent. A child, defined as a person under the age of 18, does not have the legal ability to consent to sex. Thus, if a person engages in a sex act with a child, even if the child appears to have given consent, they will have committed child sexual abuse.
Many victims of child sexual abuse feel scared or embarrassed about reporting the crime. They may feel guilty, ashamed, and may even blame themselves for the abuse. Others report the abuse, but they aren’t always taken seriously by their adult caretakers – under the guise of them not able to understand what they have experienced. In either case, sexual abuse of any nature can have a devastating impact on a child’s physical and mental health and well-being.
The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Adults
The long-term impact of child sexual abuse can be intense and distressing. It isn’t uncommon for victims to suffer from low-self esteem, anger, and isolation. Some victims may also engage in self-harm to cope with their trauma. Moreover, survivors of child sexual abuse are at a greater risk of developing substance abuse problems to cope with their experiences.
Studies show that a staggering one in three girls will be sexually abused. But the nature of the crime means that most of them are not reported to law enforcement personnel. Children with mental illnesses, physical disabilities, or learning disabilities are twice as vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse can happen in any community, with the biggest factors being poverty and homelessness. Children who are homeless are much more likely to have experienced sexual abuse.
Reporting Child Sexual Abuse in California
If you have reason to believe that a child you know has been sexually abused, you should report the abuse to law enforcement or Child and Family Services. Reporting child abuse can be a difficult decision to make, especially if you are not exactly sure if the abuse has occurred. However, even if you suspect that abuse is taking place or has taken place, you owe it to the child (as well as potential victims) to report the issue.
At the very least, the law enforcement personnel will clear up any doubt. And in worst case scenarios, you will have averted a threat to society and provided much-needed relief to the victim.
Once you have reported the abuse, consider contacting Justice Firm for a confidential and free consultation to discuss your legal options. Working with Justice Firm’ child abuse lawyers can go a long way in getting justice for the child – both in terms of financial compensation for the suffering they’ve been through and for securing high quality therapy for them.
California’s Child Victims Act (CA AB-218)
Legislators passed an important bill in 2019 called the Child Victims Act that took effect on January 1, 2020. This allows California to extend the statute of limitations for adult survivors of child sexual abuse so they can pursue justice against their abusers. It is a landmark victory for victims of sexual abuse, and follows in the footsteps of other states such as New York’s Child Victims Act.
The most significant aspect of AB 218 is that it allows victims of child sexual abuse with three years to file civil proceedings against their abusers. This means that even if the abuse took place three years ago, the victim can use AB 218 to file for damages and monetary compensation.
At the time of writing, victims have less than one year to initiate civil claims against their abuser.
At Justice Firm, we can help victims of child sexual abuse file lawsuits even if the abuse took place several years ago. Our attorneys work tirelessly to navigate the complex legal framework surrounding child sexual abuse in California to help the victim achieve justice and obtain the closure they deserve.
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