Child Sexual Abuse Injury Lawyers in Virginia

Sexual abuse, as a term, encompasses any form of unwanted sexual contact, behavior, or violence against another person, particularly a child. Whether it occurs at the hands of a family member, friend, teacher, clergy member, or stranger, a survivor can be left with devastating and lasting psychological scars. The attorneys at Breit Cantor are committed advocates to sexual abuse survivors. We understand that justice through civil litigation can be a critical step in a client’s healing process, which is why we give our all to hold sexual abusers legally accountable for their actions. If you or a loved one is a sexual abuse or sexual assault survivor, contact our compassionate and trial-tested legal team for a free and confidential consultation.

Breit Cantor has filed a multi-count civil lawsuit against Cumberland Children’s Hospital in New Kent, Virginia on behalf of 20 plaintiffs for accusations of sexual abuse, physical abuse and battery of patients between 2008 and 2020.

What Is Considered Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse, which is also commonly referred to as molestation or assault, can be defined as undesired sexual behavior or contact by one person upon another. Alarmingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 17% of boys and 25% of girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.

Child sexual abuse is disturbingly frequent. About one in four girls and one in 13 boys experience sexual abuse during childhood, according to the CDC. It affects children from all cross-sections of society: all neighborhoods, cultures, and economic backgrounds.

Sexual abuse isn’t limited to physical touching. It includes any interaction in which a child is used for sexual stimulation. This ranges from an attempt to abuse to voyeurism to showing sexual materials to a child. 

Unfortunately, a typical abuser is impossible to spot. Perpetrators come in many guises. They may be a stranger, a family member, or a trusted friend. They could be an educator or other respected member of the community — an adult who abuses power to gain a child’s confidence.

Sexual abuse isn’t limited to acts of unwanted physical contact. It can take many forms, including:

  • Exposing children to explicit images, sexually-charged language, and/or pornography.
  • Asking a minor to send or take inappropriate pictures of themselves.
  • Taking inappropriate photos of a minor for personal use and/or distribution.
  • Revealing oneself to a minor.
  • Sending sexually inappropriate emails, texts, or messages.

An increasingly common form of child sexual abuse is online exploitation. It can mean loading explicit pictures of children on the internet. But it can also include trying to arrange a meeting with a child for sexual acts through instant messaging, bulletin boards, and chat. 

Types of Child Sexual Abuse Perpetrators

Most acts of sexual abuse and violence are perpetrated by men who occupy a dominant position in relation to their targeted victim. Although their actions are sexual in nature, the perpetrators are truly motivated by a need to dominate, exploit, humiliate, and control another person.

Sexual abuse cases are often linked to an inappropriate abuse of power, such as:

  • Authority: Individuals in a position of power sexually abuse others by utilizing and taking advantage of their status. An example of this could be a church youth pastor becoming sexually involved with a teenager from the congregation. The minor may feel obligated to take part in the abuse simply because the youth pastor holds a role of power. Other examples of authority figures include teachers, daycare workers, coaches, and medical professionals.
  • Age: Children are often victimized simply because they are too young to protect themselves from abuse. Research has found that those who suffer sexual abuse as children are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, addictions, and personality disorders.
  • Intimidation: Children and mentally disabled individuals can be especially vulnerable to sexual abuse. The abusers often create stories to explain their behavior, discourage reporting, and coerce the victims to not share accounts of the abuse.

Authority figures who commit acts of sexual abuse need to be held accountable for misusing their power and failing to protect those in their care.

Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse struggle to navigate the lasting physical, mental, and emotional concerns that are specific to their personal experiences. Some survivors may even develop unhealthy ideas about sexual and romantic relationships that lead to destructive behaviors and emotional distress. The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) claims that nearly 40% of sexual abuse survivors later experience relationship challenges with family members, friends, and co-workers. It’s also not unusual for survivors to develop mood disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, that provoke suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Identifying Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

There are red flags that may indicate whether your child is a victim of sexual abuse. It’s vital that parents, guardians, and care providers carefully watch for signs of child sexual abuse. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children identifies some of the potential indicators, including but not limited to:

  • Extreme mood swings and behavioral changes
  • Acting up in school—displaying troubled behavior
  • Regressing in specific behavior, including clinging, wetting the bed, displaying fear of sleeping, and having trouble going to bed
  • Fear of people or places
  • Rebellious behavior and acting out
  • Displaying sexual activity in an inappropriate manner
  • Developing depression, low self-esteem, and other self-worth issues.

It’s easy for children to fear the person who is abusing them

and they may be reluctant to report them. To prevent this unhealthy silence, make it clear to your child that they can talk to you about anything — no matter how sensitive.

Children don’t always talk about abuse right after it happens. Disclosure can be a process and abuse often comes to light after a behavior change. If you notice sleeplessness, outbursts, anxiety, withdrawn behavior, or avoidance of an adult, use it as a springboard to talk to your child.

Identifying Signs of Grooming

Child grooming is a manipulative technique that offenders use to lower a child’s defenses and get closer. The signs can be gradual, so it’s important to know the stages:

  1. Targeting the child: The adult becomes fixated on the child and grants them special privileges, such as rides to sports practice.
  2. Earning the child’s trust: The offender will gather information about the child’s needs and try to fill them, whether social, emotional, or financial.
  3. Isolating the child: The offender will create situations to be alone with the child to bond emotionally. This could include one-on-one coaching, a special trip, or a buddy outing. 
  4. Sexualizing the relationship: This is often done in phases. At first, they may talk about explicit topics or show inappropriate pictures. Next, they may get closer to the child by swimming together or wrestling. Finally, there may be a physical assault.
  5. Maintaining control: Once the sexual abuse begins, the offender will use emotional manipulation to keep it secret. They may threaten to leave or hurt the child’s parents if the secret is revealed.

Other signs of grooming include:   

  • Gift giving
  • Touching or hugging
  • Offering to help
  • Seeking online access to a child

What to do if You Suspect Child Sexual Abuse

If your child tells you they’ve been sexually abused or they know a child who has, it’s tempting to go into crisis mode and panic. But remember, it took a lot of courage for your child to speak up. Stay calm and use these tips:

  • Your child is looking anxiously for your reaction. Keep a calm demeanor so they know the sky isn’t falling. Many children survive sexual abuse and lead happy, successful lives. Thank your child for breaking their silence.
  • Believe what your child says and tell them you love them. These comforting words will help them reveal the whole story. Steer clear of leading questions (“Did someone touch you in a private place?”) and let them tell the story uninterrupted. 
  • Establish an immediate safety plan. Eliminate any chance of unsupervised contact with the abuser. Help the child realize they did nothing wrong, but the abuser did. Explain that even if they consented, they are too young to be blamed for adult actions.
  • Get help. Talk to a trained counselor who can help you navigate uncharted waters. To protect your rights, consult a Virginia child abuse attorney. 
  • Report the abuse. Tell the child’s parents if they aren’t involved. If the abuser is a family member, call the Virginia Department of Social Services CPS Hotline, open 24 hours a day, at (800) 552-7096. You can also use this number if the abuser is not a family member. If the abuse involves an institutional employee (at a school, church, or other organization) you should also contact authorities at that organization. For more guidance during this process, call the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453.

Criminal vs. Civil Child Sexual Abuse Cases in Virginia

Criminal Charges in Child Sexual Abuse 

Child sexual abuse is a crime and the perpetrator will be criminally charged. The police will investigate the charge and the case will be referred to a prosecutor. 

The Department of Social Services will also investigate if a family member is involved. If the perpetrator lives with the child, social services can file a petition for a removal order to place the child with a supportive caregiver. 

The case may be settled with a plea bargain or go to trial. In a criminal trial, the victims are witnesses for the prosecution. To reduce trauma, the State of Virginia has protections in place:

  • In some cases, child victims can testify by closed-circuit television, including during a preliminary hearing.
  • Preliminary hearings can be closed to the public.
  • Sentencing can include an order that the perpetrator does not contact the victim. Offenders can also be ordered to pay restitution to their victims.

Filing a Civil Case Against a Child Abuser in Virginia

You may wish to sue the abuser or other responsible people, groups, or businesses for financial compensation. No financial payoff can make up for the evils of sexual abuse, but you can get some compensation for the harm that’s been done.

In a civil suit, the person suing is the plaintiff and the offender is the defendant. There are deadlines for filing a civil suit, so it’s best to consult with an attorney right away if you’re considering one. 

The state of Virginia passed a law extending the statute of limitations for sexual abuse civil lawsuits to 20 years after the victim turns 18. But other time factors come into play including the survivor’s age at the time of the abuse and when the abuse occurred, so it’s best to consult earlier rather than later. 

In a civil suit, there is either a settlement or a jury trial to decide if damages are due. The jury can also decide to award punitive damages when behavior is reprehensible, willful, and reckless.

Recovering Compensation for Child Sexual Abuse Victims in Virginia

Sexual abuse can result in damages worthy of compensation, including:

  • Emotional and physical damage
  • Loss of work, earning capacity, or other opportunities 
  • Pain and suffering

A civil case doesn’t always mean there’s a drawn-out trial. Many lawsuits settle before a claim is filed or before the trial begins. 

How to Build a Child Sexual Abuse Case in Virginia

One building block of a strong case is evidence.

Evidence can include the testimony of people who were told about the abuse or have direct knowledge of what happened. It can also include the testimony of others who were abused by the same person. Trauma arising from the abuse is also relevant.

If a third party is being sued, there will be evidence of neglect or other failures to prevent the abuse. 

An important consideration is what kind of assets the offender has if there’s a judgment or settlement. Assets can stretch beyond bank accounts to homes, boats, stocks and bonds, and other valuable goods. If the case involves a third party, then their assets are relevant, too. Institutions such as schools, churches, or sports teams may have insurance to cover negligence claims. 

Liable Parties in Child Sexual Abuse Cases in Virginia

Businesses, institutions, and nonprofit groups can all be held responsible for child sexual abuse in Virginia if they were negligent. 

Virginia law allows claims against a wide range of defendants in the case of child sexual abuse. They can include schools, churches, child-care centers, and more. 

In some cases, there’s a failure to follow up on complaints about sexual abuse. Because of this negligence, abuse may spread to more victims, which the law rightly condemns. A lax institutional attitude or “closing ranks” to defend an abuser can lead to a costly lawsuit.

In other cases, there’s a failure to take basic precautions such as background checks on employees to prevent child sexual abuse. Or, early warnings about a problem employee may be ignored.

Virginia law makes it mandatory for certain employees to report suspected abuse if they notice it in their professional capacity. If they fail to do so, they face civil penalties. If their employers fail to mandate reports, it could be evidence of neglect. 

Reports of child abuse are mandatory under Virginia law for these employees, among others: 

  • Medical professionals
  • Social workers
  • Probation officers
  • Teachers
  • Child-care workers
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Nonprofit employees who are responsible for children
  • Camp leaders and youth group leaders

If these workers suspect any act of sexual abuse, it must be reported immediately under the law. 

Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations

While personal injury cases typically have a Statute of Limitations (SOL) of two years from the incident, the statute for sexual abuse can be less clear. Virginia law § 8.01-243 extends the SOL on sexual abuse of a minor for 20 years after the Cause of Action (COA) accrues. Virginia law § 8.01-249(6) says for abuse during infancy or incapacity, the COA accrues when the disability is removed (at 18 for minors) or potentially when the fact of injury is first communicated to the person by a medical professional.

Determining whether a Statute of Limitations has passed for a survivor of child sexual abuse is often fact specific. Different factors play a role in this legal determination, including when the sexual abuse occurred, the age of the survivor at the time of the abuse, and whether the survivor has received medical treatment related to the sexual abuse. We strongly encourage all survivors of child sexual abuse to consult with an attorney, at Breit Cantor or elsewhere, as soon as possible to better understand their rights and whether they have a viable legal cause of action.

The following actions are considered indicators of sexual abuse according to Virginia law:

  • Rape
  • Sodomy
  • Object sexual penetration
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual battery
  • Sexual touching of intimate parts or material covering such intimate parts
  • Forced sexual touching of the accused or another person
  • And any other act with the intent to sexually molest, arouse, or gratify any person

Far too often, survivors are afraid to step forward because they fear their attacker or because they feel it is too late to take action. The statutes can be confusing but don’t let that keep you from speaking up. Talk to a trusted advisor and seek the counsel of a reputable attorney to do whatever is necessary to pursue compensation and justice against the responsible party.

Choosing an Experienced Sexual Abuse Law Firm in Virginia

A lawsuit revolving around child sexual abuse is emotionally draining. It’s crucial to choose an experienced professional law firm in Virginia like Breit Cantor, who can guide you and your child every step of the way. Child victims of sexual abuse are entitled to protections and sensitivity that a child sexual abuse attorney can provide. 

Whether you’re giving a deposition or recalling details of a traumatic event, an experienced attorney will be caring and compassionate. They have techniques to reduce trauma and make the legal experience as painless as possible.

An experienced child sexual abuse attorney in Virginia Beach can anticipate bumps in the road. No matter what happens, they’re experts at keeping your family calm and on-task. Attorneys at Breit Cantor strategize to find creative solutions, so you can move on with life sooner. 

Access to the best resources is also key. A child sexual abuse attorney in Virginia Beach and other parts of Virginia has connections with psychologists and doctors who can bolster your case. Expert testimony can influence a jury in favor of a plaintiff. 

These resources also help your family confront emotional issues with top-notch, experienced help. The right resources help your family work through painful issues and move towards healing. 

Whether you’re looking for a child sexual abuse lawyer in Richmond or a sexual abuse attorney in Virginia Beach, or are from elsewhere in the state, attorneys at Breit Cantor will safeguard your rights. Those grappling with stressful life events deserve top-shelf representation and resources. Our caring attorneys will ensure you have the best possible settlement so justice is served.

Child Sexual Abuse Attorneys: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the chances that the case will settle out of court?

 In the case of sexual abuse of a child, the odds are good. Many defendants are afraid of the publicity that such a lawsuit could bring.

Under what circumstances can I recover damages from an insurance policy?

Importantly, more and more insurance companies provide “sexual abuse coverage” to institutions. This can provide coverage to the institution for sexual abuse, but it also complicates other available insurance coverage.

As a victim or the parent of a victim, what are my rights and what kind of treatment should I expect?

Virginia law is respectful of victims. Victims are entitled to make a victim’s statement to influence sentencing in a criminal case. Other victim’s rights include:
·  The right to play a meaningful role in the justice system as the case progresses.
·  The right to be treated respectfully and with dignity.
·  The right to fair, impartial treatment.
·  The right to be protected from the offender.

Call (855) 212-8200 to speak with a Virginia sexual abuse injury lawyer at Breit Cantor today. Our compassionate team will take the time to discuss your situation and provide a free case analysis.

You can learn more about resources available for survivors here.

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