Legal Help for Child Sexual Abuse

As a survivor or care-giver of a child being abused, it is important that you understand your rights, the recourse options available to you, and how the legal justice system works in general. Below are some resources to assist you in understanding the laws of your state, reporting (past or present abuse), and obtaining legal help.

Criminal versus Civil Cases

The first thing you need to understand is the difference between criminal and civil lawsuits.

Criminal cases are filed by the state when abuse is reported to the authorities and sufficient evidence is available to build a case against the abuser. Although you may have filed the report of abuse and the case feels personal to you, it is not your case. The case is owned by the state and you have very little control over the way it is handled. It is important to understand this differentiation for your own personal mental and emotional well-being.

When the state files criminal charges against an abuser, the state’s case is handled by a prosecutor, who is employed by the state.  While the prosecutor will advocate to convict the abuser of the charges, the prosecutor represents the state, not the survivor.  Therefore, the prosecutor may make decisions about the disposition of the case without the survivor’s knowledge or consent.

You can, however, hire your own lawyer to represent your interests in the case (e.g., privacy concerns, such as the release of medical/mental health records, etc.).  Some jurisdictions provide a court advocate to assist you through the criminal process but the advocates typically are not attorneys.

Civil cases are filed by you against your abuser(s) for monetary compensation for losses such as lost work wages, costs for medical and psychological care, and also for pain and suffering. While we realize no amount can ever undo the damage done by child sexual abuse, compensation can help to offset financial difficulties directly or indirectly attributable to the abuse.

When it comes to your legal rights, where you live makes a difference. From the legal definition of “child seduction” (which covers a broad range of child sexual abuse crimes) to the statute of limitations for a particular sex crime, each state has it’s own separate laws.

The RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) legal rights database provides a clear and concise guide to many aspects of the child sexual abuse laws in your state, including state-specific information on:

  • Rape and Sexual Assault Crime Definitions
  • Criminal Statutes of Limitations
  • Termination of Rapists’ Parental Rights
  • Mandatory Reporting
  • Confidentiality Laws
  • HIV/AIDS testing of sexual offenders

Civil Statute of Limitations

In civil cases, any lawsuit arising from an accident or injury must be filed within a certain time limit or the injured person’s legal claim will be barred and his or her right to sue will be lost forever. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations.

RAINN’s legal rights database (see above) includes information on the statute of limitations for criminal cases. Each state also has a separate statute of limitations for civil cases.

For civil cases involving child sexual abuse (injury to minors), the filing time is typically extended to begin at the time the minor turns 18 (if the abuse was known prior to the child turning 18), or the moment when the survivor knew (or should reasonably have known) that they had suffered harm, and the nature of that harm.

So, for example, if you had repressed memories of your abuse until your 40th birthday when they suddenly came flooding back, it is possible you would have the normal statute of limitations period to file a civil suit against your perpetrator beginning on the day your memories resurfaced sufficiently to know that you had been abused and the nature of your abuse.

Statute of limitations may be updated year to year and vary for certain special types of crimes, so you will want to consult with an attorney to get more detailed information on your specific situation. However, the general statute of limitations can be found for your state using the button below.

*Note: Statute of Limitations is only one hurdle in filing civil cases for child sexual abuse damages. Please read the rest of this page and consult with an attorney before taking any action.

At some point you may come to a place in your healing where you just want to scream out loud to the world that John or Jane Doe sexually abused you as a child. You may have a number of reasons for this inclination. You might believe that revealing them is the only justice you will ever have for their actions. You might be feeling trapped by your own silence. Or you simply might feel compelled to protect other children from being harmed if your abuser is still alive.

Whatever your reasons are, if you are considering revealing your abuser, it is highly recommended that you understand the risks and benefits of publicly disclosing your abuser’s identity before you do it.  Whether you choose to report the abuse to police, file a civil suit against your abuser, or make your abuser’s identity public via social media, letters, emails, or even talking with friends, acquaintances or co-workers, there can be significant legal ramifications.

We suggest contacting an attorney to get more information about your potential liability for disclosing, especially if the case is old and you have no evidence that would support your claims in a court of law. While that seems very unfair, it is important that you protect and care for yourself as you heal form your abuse. That includes legal protection/considerations as well.

Single Filing versus Group Filing

Often adult survivors have a hard time trying their cases because without substantial hard evidence to support their claims, offenders cannot be convicted. Litigation can sometimes take years with cases taking a toll on the survivor who filed the suit.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t report your case. It just means that you need to be prepared mentally and emotionally for a potentially long and arduous journey through the legal system. However, as we’ve seen in recently publicized cases, when multiple survivors ban together to report an abuser, justice is more likely to be served.

Creating a Group Action Against Your Abuser

The legal advocacy and support organization, Vertigo Charitable Foundation, LLC, has created a unique system ( by which child sexual abuse survivors can anonymously identify their abusers and be notified when other survivors report their abuser as well.

If you choose to participate and identify your abuser in the me2csa database, VCF will notify you immediately each time a new user reports your abuser. Once notified, you will have the opportunity to share your contact information with the other user who reported, or to decline.

Sharing your contact information allows you to collaborate with other survivors of abuse by your perpetrator–for anything from emotional support and confirmation, to collectively reporting your abuser to the authorities, or filing a civil suit as a group action. You decide how far and how fast you go.

Remember, the only information shared is the contact information you provided when reporting, which could be nothing more than a fictitious name and a useable email address. Regardless, it is recommended that you take it slow as you reach out to the other reporting survivors to make sure you feel safe and confident with the people with which you are communicating. Meet in public places. Slowly learn more about each other and go from there.

If you do not choose to share your contact info with the other survivor(s) reporting your abuser, no one outside of the survivor advocates responsible for matching abuse reports will ever see the information provided.

Find out if your abuser has been reported.

Watch the tutorial below to see how simple and anonymous the process can be.

Lawyers & Firms Specializing in Child Sexual Abuse

Below is the beginning of a list of lawyers and law firms specializing in child sexual abuse. If you have used a law firm or lawyer with extensive experience helping child sexual abuse victims, please send us their information using the form at the bottom of this page. Be sure to include whether you used the attorney or firm yourself, know another survivor who has used them, or you simply have heard of them in some other way.

Child Welfare Attorneys for Child Victims – Protection for your child

If you have an open custody, parental rights termination or other case related to your child and you believe your child is being abused by a parent or guardian, you may request to have a Guardian ad Litem assigned to your case by the court. You will not be able to choose the appointed lawyer for your child, but your child will still have an extra layer of protection by an attorney who has specialized training on child welfare issues and whose sole purpose is to protect and promote the interests of your child and their well-being.

The video below provides information on how the Child Welfare Law Specialist training via NACC helps lawyers and judges to protect the children they represent. While this is only one specific training program that attorneys can take for child welfare law, it gives you an example of how this specific program helps child welfare attorneys.

Note: Child Welfare Law does not include representation in private custody and adoption disputes where the state is not a party.

Attorneys for Civil Cases

Choosing an attorney

In selecting an attorney, the best advice is to find one who specializes in litigating survivor cases. Below are resources both from an association of attorneys that specialize in litigating victim’s rights cases and also from survivors themselves.

Note that a recommendation from a survivor only indicates the survivor’s level of satisfaction or comfort with that particular attorney. It does not indicate the attorney’s level of proficiency in child sexual abuse cases and it does not mean the recommended attorney would be right for you. Similarly, just because an attorney is a member of the NCVBA  does not automatically mean that they are a good fit for you or your case.

Interview the attorneys you are considering before hiring and prepare as much as possible before beginning your selection process.

If you cannot afford an attorney*

You might consider asking an attorney to take your case on contingency. That means, they only get paid if they win your case for you. Then they take their pay from your awarded amount.

It’s not always easy finding an attorney to take a case on contingency, but it’s worth asking.

Alternatively, you might consider using a subscription service like LegalShield, which can provide legal answers to any general legal questions you may have for a low monthly fee – without needing to come up with money for a retainer unless you decide to hire someone for a case.

This service is good for quick inquiries, and also offers special member pricing for attorney’s fees if you do decide to file a case against your abuser.

Note: We have used LegalShield for many years for both general questions and for personal cases, and our personal experience with our firm has overall been positive. However, experiences vary. You will need to use your own best judgment to find a solution that works for you.

Attorneys Specializing in Victims’ Rights Cases

Wilbanks CEASE Clinic
Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation
The University of Georgia School of Law
225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602-6012
(706) 542-5191

Our mission is to provide direct legal services to our clients in a supportive, professional environment as well as to educate and prepare the next generation of lawyers to represent survivors of child sexual abuse. As a resource center for survivors and attorneys who are seeking these claims, we form part of a movement that seeks justice for all survivors of child sexual abuse.

The NCVBA Attorney Referral Line

The National Crime Victim Bar Association (NCVBA) is an association of attorneys specializing in litigating victims’ rights cases.  There is a Child Sex Abuse Section of the NCVBA, which consists of lawyers who specialize in CSA cases. For an attorney referral, call the number above and request help from the Child Sexual Abuse division.

Attorneys used and recommended by CSA survivors

Below is a list of attorneys recommended by survivors based on their personal experience with the attorney. The attorneys in this list have not been evaluated by and are not in any way an endorsement by our organization.

USA – Georgia

Esther Panitch, Trial Attorney
The Panitch Law Group, P.C.
The Woodlands Office Building
4243 Dunwoody Club Dr #216
Atlanta, GA 30350

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Recommended by 1 CSA Survivor who has worked with this firm for child sexual abuse help.

Mark Tate, Attorney at Law
Tate Law Group
Personal Injury Attorneys
2 E Bryan St #600
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 234-3030

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Recommended by 1 CSA Survivor who has worked with this firm for child sexual abuse help.

Natalie Woodward, Attorney at Law
Shamp, Jordan & Woodward
1718 Peachtree St NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 893-9400

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Recommended by 1 CSA Survivor who has worked with this firm for child sexual abuse help.

USA – Illinios

Lyndsay Markley, Esq.
Lyndsay Markley Law
Smurfit-Stone Bldg 150
N Michigan Ave #800
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 523-2158

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Recommended by 1 person as an indirect referral from a CSA survivor who used this attorney.

*The ratings above are solely those of the survivor(s) who recommended them and do not reflect the opinion of or Light Path Wisdom, LLC.

Have you used an attorney for a CSA civil suit?

Were you satisfied? If so, please consider sharing your attorney’s contact information with other survivors looking for high-quality legal representation related to CSA survivors’ rights and civil litigation in the state where you filed your suit.

Your information will remain confidential (as with the listings above). Contact information is only requested in case our staff has any questions before publishing your recommendation.

Recommend and attorney

*Disclaimer: The information provided above and on other pages is provided in good faith for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as a replacement for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney for professional legal assistance.