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
- Legal Rights for Adult Survivors and Child Victims
- Legal Advocacy Support
- Single Filing versus Group Filing
- Creating a Group Action Against Your Abuser
- Attorneys for Children
- Attorneys for Adult Survivors
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.
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.
Legal Rights for Adult Survivors and Child Victims
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 limitation 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 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
Click here to ==> View Your Legal Rights
Legal Advocacy Support
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 simply make a public announcement via social media posts, letters or emails, or even talking with friends, acquaintances or co-workers, there can be significant legal ramifications.
Vertigo Charitable Foundation, LLC (VCF) is a legal advocacy support organization for adult survivors of child sexual abuse. They offer guidelines and tips–from both a survivor’s perspective and a legal perspective–on what to expect if you expose your perpetrator publicly. VCF can also direct you to people and services that can assist you if you choose to pursue pressing criminal charges or filing a civil case against your abuser(s).
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 (me2csa.com) 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.
To find out if your abuser has been reported, click here ==> Anonymous Predator Reporting
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.
Attorneys for Child Victims
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.
Attorneys for Adult Survivors
USA – Georgia
Wilbanks CEASE Clinic
Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation
The University of Georgia School of Law
225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602-6012
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.
Recommend an Attorney
*Disclaimer: The information provided above and on other HelpforSurvivors.org 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.