Virginia’s Trusted Child Sexual Abuse Lawyers
With Compassion and Understanding, Our Experienced Sexual Abuse Attorneys in Richmond and Virginia Beach Will Help You Seek the Justice You Deserve
If you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual abuse, it can be challenging to know where to turn or who to trust. At Breit Cantor, our intention in every case is to support the survivors of trauma and abuse with equal parts compassion and tenacity so that they can build a brighter future. Our sexual abuse attorneys work tirelessly to ensure survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault receive the support they need to move forward, both inside and outside the courtroom.
- What Is Considered Sexual Abuse?
- Effects of Sexual Abuse
- Types of Child Sexual Abuse Perpetrators
- Identifying Signs of Child Abuse
- What to Do if You Suspect Child Sexual Abuse
- Criminal Vs. Civil Child Sexual Abuse Cases in Virginia
- Recovering Compensation for Child Sexual Abuse Survivors in Virginia
- Building a Child Sexual Abuse Case in Virginia
- Choosing an Experienced Sexual Abuse Law Firm in Virginia
- Resources for Victims of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is defined as any abusive sexual behavior performed on one person by another, often by force or exploitation. It can include any form of unwanted sexual contact, behavior, or violence toward another person, especially a child. While the physical effects of sexual abuse are traumatic, it’s often the psychological impact of this abuse that causes the deepest scars.
For many victims and their families, seeking justice through litigation and holding the perpetrators accountable is an integral part of the healing process. Our sexual abuse lawyers help survivors recover from these traumas by holding their abusers accountable and seeking compensation from the institutions that failed to protect them.
If you or a loved one is a sexual abuse or sexual assault survivor and you’re ready to move forward, contact our child sexual abuse lawyers for a free, 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 may also be referred to as molestation, involves any unwelcome sexual behavior performed by one person on another. When the abuse is sudden or infrequent, it is a sexual assault, whereas abuse typically occurs over a period of time.
Any sexual activity performed on a child by an adult or older adolescent is also considered sexual abuse. This can include physical touching and any interaction in which the child is used for sexual stimulation, like voyeurism or exposing sexual materials to a child.
While it is every parent’s worst nightmare, child sexual abuse is an alarmingly reality. An American is sexually abused every 73 seconds, and every nine minutes, that victim is a child. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that some 17 percent of boys and 25 percent of girls are sexually abused before 18. This abuse affects children of all neighborhoods, cultures, and economic backgrounds.
Even more alarming is the rise of child sexual abuse online. An increasing number of adults exploit children by asking for sexual content, including explicit images, online, whether for personal use or distribution. These perpetrators may also engage children in sexual acts through instant messaging or discussion boards, or they may even attempt to arrange to meet the child in person to initiate physical sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse can take many forms, including:
- Acts of unwanted physical contact
- Indecent exposure, which can include exposing children to pornography or the abuser’s genitals
- Asking a minor to take or share inappropriate or sexual images of themselves
- Taking inappropriate or sexual photos of a minor for personal use and/or distribution
- Sharing sexually inappropriate emails, texts, or messages
- Rape, including actual or attempted vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by an object or body part that is unwanted
- Sexual abuse
- Sexual battery
- Sexual touching of intimate parts or material covering such intimate parts
- Forced sexual touching of the accused or another person
- Any other act with the intent to sexually molest, arouse, or gratify any person
Effects of Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse can have long-lasting physical, mental, and emotional effects that impact the victim long after childhood. Many survivors have trouble navigating sexual and romantic relationships, develop mood disorders like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and even experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors. RAINN also reports that some 40 percent of sexual abuse survivors find relationships with family, friends, and co-workers challenging.
Types of Child Sexual Abuse Perpetrators
There are many underlying motivations that prompt perpetrators of sexual abuse, making it impossible to establish a typical abuser profile. Perpetrators may be a stranger, acquaintance, family member, or trusted friend.
However, most sexual abuse is committed by men who use their dominant position to take advantage of their victims. The crimes may be sexual, but they are driven by the perpetrator’s desire to dominate, exploit, humiliate, or control another person. Abuse of power is widespread in child sexual abuse cases because children are usually expected to heed those who are older.
Sexual abuse cases are often linked to an inappropriate abuse of power, such as:
- Authority: With power and influence on their side, many perpetrators can abuse others by capitalizing on their status, especially when abusing children. Minors learn to trust those in positions of power, making it easier for those mentors to overstep or take advantage. In cases of clergy abuse, hospital abuse, daycare sexual abuse, school sexual abuse, camp sexual abuse, children feel obligated to engage in sexual abuse with those in positions of authority.
- Age: Children are often simply too young to protect themselves from abuse. Whether they cannot yet verbalize the actions performed against them or don’t understand what’s happened, young children are often taken advantage of because of their inability to shield themselves or alert others.
- Intimidation: Sexual abuse perpetrators often rely on intimidation as a form of coercion, especially with children or individuals with a mental disability. By threatening harm or creating stories to explain their behavior, perpetrators can convince their victims not to report their abuse, even if it continues.
While we can’t turn back the clock, we can hold these abusers accountable for their actions, and our Virginia sexual abuse attorneys work to do just that.
Identifying Signs of Child Abuse
Because child abusers are often authority figures with power, only about 16 percent of child survivors report their abuse. Therefore parents, guardians, and care providers need to understand and recognize the signs of sexual abuse. According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, warning signs of sexual abuse in children include:
- Excessive knowledge of sexual topics or sexual behavior that is inappropriate for their age
- A secretive or unusually quiet demeanor
- Fear of being left alone with certain people or away from caregivers, especially if they weren’t before
- Regressive behaviors like thumbsucking or bedwetting
- Spending more time alone
- Mood or personality changes or swings, like aggression
- Changes in eating habits
- Anxiety, worry, or fearfulness
- Decrease of interest in school, friends, or activities
- Nightmares or fear around being left alone overnight
- Rebellious behavior or acting out in school
- Lower self-esteem or depression
You may even notice signs of grooming, a manipulation technique where an adult develops a friendship with a child in order to build trust and ultimately take advantage of the child. Grooming evolves overtime, so there are a few different stages to recognize.
What to Do if You Suspect Child Sexual Abuse
Victims of child sexual abuse may be scared of their abuser or perceived consequences. As a caretaker, there are important steps you can take if you suspect child sexual abuse.
Make it clear to your child that they can talk to you about anything—no matter how sensitive. Even if you establish open communication with your child, it may take time for them to come forward with a report of sexual abuse. The first step may be recognizing behavior changes that indicate a shift in your child—like sleeplessness, outbursts, anxiety, withdrawn behavior, or avoidance of an adult—and beginning the conversation.
You want to lead a calm conversation about the abuse with your child, giving them the time and space to share their story in a judgement-free environment. From there, you should establish a safety plan to protect the child from any further abuse. Next, you should report the abuse by calling the Virginia Department of Social Services CPS Hotline, available 24 hours a day,at (800) 552-7096.
Criminal Vs. Civil Child Sexual Abuse Cases in Virginia
You may begin to consider how to move forward and seek justice for sexual abuse. You have two options: criminal and civil cases. While a criminal case holds the perpetrator accountable for their crimes, it does little to support survivors as they begin to move forward after the wrongs done to them. A civil case serves as an additional legal remedy to help the child and their caretakers recover damages for the wrongs done to them. An experienced child sexual abuse lawyer can help you weigh your legal options and pursue the best course of action for you.
Filing a Criminal Sexual Abuse Case in Virginia
Child sexual abuse is a crime that entails criminal punishment if the perpetrator is found guilty and charged. Once reported, the police will investigate the charge and gather evidence. The case is referred to a state prosecutor, who will pursue criminal charges against the perpetrator.
If a family member is involved in the abuse, the Department of Social Services will also investigate the case. If the abuser lives with the child, social services may take action to remove the child from dangerous living conditions. In such circumstances, social services will file a petition for a removal order, which will place the victim with a supportive caregiver.
Once the case is prepared, it can be settled via a plea bargain or go to trial, in which case the victim is a witness for the prosecution. Research has shown that serving as a witness can retraumatize survivors of sexual abuse, especially children. Therefore, the State of Virginia has put protections in place to reduce additional trauma to the child, including:
- In certain cases, child victims can testify by closed-circuit television, including during the preliminary hearing
- Preliminary hearings are sometimes closed to the public
- Sentencing usually includes an order that the perpetrator not contact the victim
- Offenders may be ordered to pay restitution to their victims
Filing a Civil Sexual Abuse Case
There is no financial compensation that can possibly right the wrong that has been done to you or your child. However, as you begin to move forward, you should be able to focus on healing and not be distracted by financial concerns. Seeking financial restitution via a civil case can feel like justice, but it also provides a support net for your family as you turn toward a brighter future.
In a civil suit, the victim or their family sues the abuser, as well as other responsible people, organizations, or businesses, for financial compensation. In these cases, the perpetrator may choose to settle outside of court, or there may be a jury trial to decide if damages are due and how much. The jury may also award punitive damages if the behavior was reprehensible, willful, and reckless.
There are deadlines for filing a civil suit, so victims who are considering a civil suit are encouraged to consult with an experienced sexual abuse attorney as soon as possible. While the state of Virginia passed a law that extended the statute of limitations for sexual abuse civil lawsuits to 20 years after the victim turns 18, there are additional reasons to pursue a civil suit quickly. For example, the survivor’s age at the time of the abuse and memories of the abuse may come into question, so it’s best to consult with a lawyer as early as possible to ensure relevant measures can be taken and to secure your chances at compensation.
Recovering Compensation for Child Sexual Abuse Survivors in Virginia
The damages done by child sexual abuse extend far beyond the physical impacts. These consequences of sexual abuse are worthy of compensation, which could help your child recover and go on to live a happy, everyday life. Your child should be compensated for:
- Emotional and physical damage
- Loss of work, earning capacity, or other opportunities
- Pain and suffering
Our Virginia sexual abuse attorneys are joined by experts, like psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health professionals, who help our clients cope with their recovery and help jurors understand the impact of the abuse performed against the victim. The insight of these experts helps strengthen the case and prevents a drawn-out trial. Oftentimes, our legal experts can avoid a trial entirely by settling out of court, providing survivors with the compensation they deserve without the trauma of a court hearing.
Building a Child Sexual Abuse Case in Virginia
A child sexual abuse case begins with the gathering of evidence. Of course, this includes physical evidence gathered by the police, but it also includes testimony provided by those we were told about or witnessed the abuse. In some cases, evidence includes testimony from those who experienced similar abuse by the same perpetrator. Knowledge of the trauma inflicted upon the victim and its consequences also provides important evidence. In the case of suing a third party, like a school or church, there will also need to be evidence of the institution’s neglect or failure to prevent the abuse.
Once the evidence is collected, your Virginia sexual abuse attorneys will also consider the assets the offender has that may be accessible via a judgment or settlement. Assets can include bank accounts, homes, boats, stocks and bonds, and other valuable goods. If the case includes a third party, the lawyers will also consider their assets. These institutions often have insurance that protects them—and their victims—in the case of negligence claims.
Liable Parties in Child Sexual Abuse Cases in Virginia
When it comes to seeking justice for your child’s sexual abuse, our priority is to hold the perpetrator accountable and to ensure he or she is unable to harm children in the future. However, it is possible that there are other parties who are also accountable for the crimes committed against your child. Businesses, institutions, and nonprofits can all be held responsible for the role they play in child sexual abuse cases in Virginia.
If these institutions’ negligence allowed the perpetrator to access and abuse the child, these third parties are also responsible for compensating survivors. The state of Virginia allows these institutions, including schools, churches, child-care centers, camps, and more, to be prosecuted in child sexual abuse cases.
The negligence committed by institutions in child sexual abuse can be varied. In some cases, the institution did not follow up after complaints of sexual abuse. When this happens, the perpetrator may have access to more victims, which the law rightly condemns and deems negligence.
When an institution fails to respond to these complaints or, even worse, “closes ranks” to defend the abuser, their behavior can harm more children and eventually lead to a costly lawsuit. Other examples of negligence include the institution’s failure to perform basic precautions like background checks or to ignore early warnings about an employee.
Who Is Required to Report Sexual Abuse
In certain professions, if a fellow employee suspects abuse, Virginia law dictates they must report their suspicions. If they fail to do so, these employees may face civil penalties. If the employer fails to communicate these mandates to their employees, that, too, could be evidence of neglect and justification for a civil suit.
Reports of child abuse are mandatory under Virginia law for these employees, among others:
- Medical professionals
- Social workers
- Probation officers
- Child-care workers
- Law enforcement officers
- Nonprofit employees who are responsible for children
- Camp leaders and youth group leaders
If any of these employees suspect abuse within their organization, it is a legal necessity for them to report it immediately. If they do not do so, their negligence can result in civil consequences. If you suspect institutional negligence was a factor in your child’s abuse, our experienced Virginia Beach and Richmond sexual abuse attorneys can help you determine the consequences of their negligence.
Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations
In most personal injury claims, the statute of limitations (SOL) is two years from the incident. When determining the statute for sexual abuse cases, however, it 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 the exact timeline for a statute of limitations in cases involving survivors of childhood sexual abuse requires considering the details and circumstances of the abuse. Different factors may impact the legal determination of the SOL, like when the abuse occurred, the age of the survivor at that time, and whether the victim received medical treatment related to the sexual abuse.
Understanding these details and their implications requires an experienced child sexual abuse attorney’s expertise. We encourage all survivors to consult with a child sexual abuse attorney, whether at Breit Cantor or elsewhere, to understand whether they have a viable case and, if so, to ensure they’re able to carry forth that case within a timeline that offers them the opportunity to seek compensation.
When sexual abuse occurs, it can be difficult for the victim to understand what happened, and even if they do understand, the fear around that circumstance can be too great to pursue legal action. Because victims are often too afraid to speak out immediately following the act, they may assume their timeline has run out and it’s too late to take action against their attacker. While these statutes are confusing and there is a timeline during which you need to take action, neither of these factors should prevent you from speaking up and pursuing justice. When you’re ready to talk, a trusted advisor or reputable sexual abuse attorney like those at Breit Cantor are ready to listen. We will do whatever is necessary and possible to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve and the perpetrator of these horrible crimes is held accountable.
Choosing an Experienced Sexual Abuse Law Firm in Virginia
Choosing a sexual abuse law firm to help you navigate your case isn’t just about competency or experience (though those are certainly important). It’s about choosing a law firm whose sexual abuse attorneys will support you with compassion and sensitivity and who will fight for your case with dedicated and unfaltering persistence. Breit Cantor is the kind of firm that will create a support system for you before, during, and after your case to ensure you receive justice while you are able to focus on healing.
A lawsuit involving child sexual abuse takes an enormous emotional toll, and our attorneys are dedicated to shouldering that burden and helping you and your child every step of the way. We understand that recalling the details of your trauma is difficult. Our experienced child sexual abuse attorneys will work with compassion and care to reduce the trauma of those retellings and make your legal experience as painless as possible.
The child sexual abuse attorneys at Breit Cantor are unique in that they focus all of their attention on one case—your case—working after hours and behind the scenes to ensure justice is served. Our entire legal teams in both Virginia Beach and Richmond, including mental health experts and investigators, work collaboratively and creatively to identify the strategies to build your best case. At trial, the expert testimony of these psychologists and doctors can help a jury understand the impact of the sexual abuse and rule in favor of the plaintiff. When the courtroom door closes, these experts will continue to help you seek and receive the support your family needs to put this ordeal far behind you.
Whether you’re looking for a child sexual abuse lawyer in Richmond, a sexual abuse attorney in Virginia Beach, or you’re looking for support in your case from anywhere in Virginia, the attorneys at Breit Cantor will safeguard your rights and your future. You’ve already experienced one of the most atrocious aspects of the human experience, and you shouldn’t have to worry about how you move forward. Our attorneys support survivors of child sexual abuse because they care. They care about holding the guilty accountable, but more importantly, they care about supporting your family and ensuring your future is secure.
Resources for Victims of Sexual Abuse
If you or a loved one experienced sexual abuse, it can be difficult to know how to move forward. There is a robust network of organizations who stand ready to help victims of sexual abuse immediately following their abuse and long after, including:
- RAINN, 800.656.4673
This national hotline helps those affected by sexual violence and automatically connects callers to their nearest service provider.
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
This site offers a host of information related to sexual abuse, including a legal resource library.
- National Organization for Victim Assistance
This long-standing victim assistance organization advocates for victims of sexual assault.
- Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
This organization offers support for survivors of sexual assault in Virginia, including resources for survivors, family, and friends.
Child Sexual Abuse Attorneys: Frequently Asked Questions
What are the chances that the case will settle out of court?
When it comes to cases involving the sexual abuse of a child, defendants often choose to settle outside of court. These perpetrators are afraid of the publicity of lawsuits involving child abuse, and will therefore try to settle to avoid it. This could protect your child from unnecessarily reliving the trauma of their abuse.
Under what circumstances can I recover damages from an insurance policy?
An increasing number of insurance companies are providing “sexual abuse coverage” to institutions like schools and churches. While it’s disturbing that this coverage is necessary, it does help protect victims of sexual abuse and ensure they’ll be compensated for the wrongs done to them. While this coverage protects the institution, it can complicate other available insurance coverage options.
As a victim or the parent of a victim, what are my rights and what kind of treatment should I expect?
The state of Virginia respects and supports victims of sexual abuse. All victims are entitled to making a victim’s statement during a criminal case, which allows them to share their experience, in their own words, to influence the sentencing of the perpetrator.
Other victim’s rights in Virginia 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
How much does a sexual abuse lawyer cost?
Recovering from sexual abuse is stressful enough without having to consider the costs of pursuing justice for the horrible wrongs done to you. That’s why the sexual abuse attorneys at Breit Cantor work without payment until that justice is served. We believe it’s important that everyone has access to the representation they deserve, which is why our clients don’t pay until their case has been won.
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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Experience The Breit Cantor Difference
- Long tradition of success in court.
- Over 300 years of combined legal experience.
- Attorneys have been recognized among the most experienced trial lawyers in Virginia and the country.
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- Secured some of the largest settlements in Virginia history.