Louisiana Child Sex Abuse Lawyers
Every nine minutes, a child is sexually assaulted in the U.S., and it’s estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18. While childhood sexual abuse is rampant in the United States, it’s widely underreported, and many survivors keep it to themselves for their whole lives. Those who report or share what happened typically take decades to do so. In fact, the average age of a victim who reports child sex abuse is 52.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows, such as:
- Family members
- Daycare providers
- Camp counselors
- Family friends
These are people in positions of trust and authority, and their heinous crimes often cause lifelong struggles for survivors.
The Louisiana-based attorneys at Herman, Herman & Katz have worked tirelessly to help survivors of child sex abuse hold their attackers responsible and seek compensation for their suffering. We also pursue claims against institutions and organizations complicit in the abuse – those who covered it up, silenced and intimidated victims, or failed to investigate reports.
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
In Louisiana, the age of consent is 17. Any form of sexual activity with a minor is child sexual abuse because they are not considered to have the ability to consent to these acts; they cannot comprehend nor are developmentally prepared to do so.
Abusers are both adults and other children/minors, and the types of abuse fall into two categories: touching and non-touching (contact or no contact). Child sexual abuse that involves physical contact can cause physical injuries, but emotional and psychological damage can surpass physical harm.
Many acts of child sexual abuse involve no physical contact. Some of the most common forms of this type of abuse include exposing genitalia, creating, owning or sharing pornographic pictures and movies of children, texting, calling or emailing obscene content, and watching a child undress.
Often an abuser manipulates the child into believing that what they’re doing isn’t wrong, is normal to explore, and that the victim enjoyed it. Threats and intimidation, claiming they “asked for it” and that no one will believe them, are other ways sexual predators silence their victims.
The extreme breach of trust when a child suffers sexual abuse can cause irreparable damage. Louisiana has clear laws regarding all forms of child abuse and seeking support and legal representation can help those affected by these crimes.
Louisiana Child Sex Abuse Laws
On June 10, 2021, Louisiana child sex abuse laws changed significantly, and on August 1, 2021, the changes came into effect. Now, those who have suffered or will suffer trauma of this kind have an open-ended timeline to file a claim for damages.
Previously, Louisiana victims of child sexual abuse had until they were 28 years old to sue their abuser – a far too short deadline. The removal of the age limit allows survivors to pursue compensation much later in life. It recognizes the fact that most survivors take years, usually decades, to tell anyone or report it.
In addition to removing the age limit, a three-year lookback window came into effect that allows those who were unable to make a claim because they had passed the statute of limitations. With the lookback window, more survivors have the opportunity to seek compensation from their abuser and any institution or organization that could be liable.
Like many other states that have revised their legislation in recent years, the lookback window for victims of child sexual abuse in Louisiana is a huge step forward. Louisiana is now considered to be at the forefront of victims’ rights and advocacy and is diligently working to curtail the rate of childhood sexual abuse.
Certain people are legally bound to report child sexual abuse, and failure to do so can result in serious fines and jail time. These include doctors, law enforcement, social workers, teachers and school employees – adults who work with vulnerable populations, which includes children.
There are a lot of factors and nuances to Louisiana’s child sexual abuse laws. The age of the child and perpetrator and the type of abuse are all considered in these cases. It’s a complex process that requires specific types of attorneys to help survivors navigate their legal options. At Herman, Herman & Katz, our compassionate and dedicated team of child sexual abuse attorneys have extensive experience representing Louisiana victims. We’re here to help survivors receive compensation for their trauma.
Where Are Children Sexually Abused?
The sad reality is that child sex abuse can – and does – happen anywhere. Children are victimized in childcare settings, such as daycare, preschool and camps. Abuse can also occur at home, school, church, sports facilities and community clubs. These are locations where children should be safe from harm, and a lot of trust is put into the adults who care for children. But since more than 90% of child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows, it’s unsurprising that it occurs in these settings.
Like the widespread sex abuse claims against clergy and the Boy Scouts of America, daycare sexual abuse occurs far too often. Children suffer neglect, psychological, sexual and physical abuse by childcare providers at daycares and camps. Since these are places with people children and their parents trust, it’s difficult for a child to recognize that what happened was wrong.
Many high-profile childcare sex abuse cases in the 1980s led to daycares and individual workers standing trial for serious crimes. In response to these scandals, children were pulled from daycare settings amidst public hysteria, even though childcare allowed both parents to work and offered important socialization and skill-building for kids. After about a decade, concerns quieted, but childcare sex abuse cases in Louisiana and across the country still make headlines today.
Warning Signs of Child Sex Abuse
There are many warning signs that a child has been sexually abused, but it can be difficult for parents or other adults to recognize them because the abuser is often someone they know and trust. Some of the warning signs of child sex abuse include a child not wanting to be left alone with someone, wearing extra layers of clothing, having nightmares, displaying angry outbursts, and withdrawing socially and emotionally. They may act differently around the predator, become untrusting of adults, and have inappropriate sexual knowledge and behaviors for their age.
While there is a wide range of warning signs, many children don’t outwardly display any changes. The guilt, shame, fear, and confusion often cause them to hide what’s happened, so it’s important that children are educated and develop open communication with trusted adults. This way, even if warning signs are not apparent, children will know what’s happened or happening is wrong, how and to who they can report abuse, and where to get help.
Effects of Child Sexual Abuse
Children are a highly vulnerable population that relies heavily on adults and older children for guidance and protection. Because of this, when a child is sexually abused, it can cause physical harm and also impact future relationships and lead to serious mental health struggles and unsafe behaviors.
There are numerous short- and long-term effects of child sexual abuse, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), nightmares and sleeping problems, angry outbursts, and anxiety. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), as a child gets older, the impact of abuse often changes; depression, self-harm, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), difficulty forming relationships, and substance abuse may not occur immediately after the trauma. Instead, children may experience these in the years following and throughout adulthood.
Beyond these extensive side effects, childhood sexual abuse can also increase the risk of future violence and victimization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says females who suffered child sexual abuse are 2-13 times more likely to experience sexual violence victimization as an adult. All victims face twice the risk for non-sexual intimate partner violence. Another source, the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, indicates about 30% of adults who were abused and neglected as a child will abuse their own children.
The sad reality is that the impact of child sexual abuse is far reaching and life changing. A civil claim against abusers can help hold them accountable and aid in the healing process. Given the short-and long-term effects, Louisiana victims of child sex abuse can seek much-needed compensation through a lawsuit for what they’ve suffered – and may suffer in the future.
Support for Childhood Sexual Abuse
Parents and other adults who guide and care for children can help prevent abuse, or at the very least, help children recognize and report when they’re abused. It’s essential to communicate about boundaries and body safety so that they know when something is wrong and create a trusting relationship for them to share concerns and harm. But when a child is sexually abused, support and treatment are vital to limit – and sometimes prevent – long-term effects.
Everyone is affected by trauma differently, and because of this, it’s crucial that support services and resources for those who are sexually abused as a child meet all potential needs. There are organizations in Louisiana and at the national level that provide this support for victims of child sex abuse:
The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services offers support and reporting services for all forms of child abuse. They can be called 24/7, 365 days a year at 1-855-452-5437. Their online resources, including the informative guide, What is Child Abuse and Neglect, explain what’s considered abuse, the major types of abuse, recognizing signs and when to report it, and a list of valuable resources.
The Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LaFASA) helps those sexually abused at any age and offers a wide range of helpful online resources. Their hotline (1-888-995-7273), online chat, and text chats connect victims to trained crisis support specialists. They’re available to talk about current and past trauma and provide general and long-term support resources and services.
The Rape, Abuse, Incest & Neglect Network is a national organization that connects victims in any state to vital support services, tools, and programs. From individual counseling and support groups to emergency shelters and a 24/7 hotline, survivors of childhood sexual abuse can access the tools they need to deal with the effects of their trauma. An online chat and support groups are also available for those who prefer this method. The RAINN hotline can be called at 1-800-656-4673.
Stop It Now! is an organization that works to prevent child sexual abuse in the United States. They provide a comprehensive collection of resources and training with the goal of stopping the abuse of children through prevention initiatives and advocacy.
Legal Options for Survivors of Child Sex Abuse
If you or someone you know suffered sexual abuse as a child, a civil claim may be filed against the perpetrator (and, in some cases, an institution or organization). While it can’t erase what happened, seeking compensation for the physical, psychological, and emotional impact of sexual abuse can provide financial security and force a level of accountability on the abuser. Unfortunately, few perpetrators are imprisoned for their crimes, but damages may be recovered through a claim.
At Herman, Herman & Katz, our attorneys offer a safe, compassionate environment for survivors of child sexual abuse. We work tirelessly to create supportive relationships with our clients and have helped many navigate the legal process and receive compensation for these horrendous crimes. Contact us today for a free consultation.