Many attorneys joined the profession to make a good living, have opportunities to do the right thing, and help people in need. When you and your firm represent victims of sexual abuse, you can accomplish all these goals.
Many of these cases, such as those against religious organizations or scouting groups, initially couldn’t be filed because adults abused as children ran the statute of limitations for these claims. That’s changed in many states as legislatures realized the injustice of the situation and granted look-back periods. To find out the status of these laws in your state, check out this information from Child USA.
Who Will I Help?
It’s estimated a quarter of American girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18, according to Deborah Khoshaba Psy.D., who wrote an article in Psychology Today. Less than ten percent will tell anyone about it. Only about six to eight percent will report it.
If word gets out about the allegations, relationships change forever. Families may become pariahs in their churches and community. Friends and family members may shun them. Children and parents will be accused of lying, seeking attention, and making false claims for money. This is a difficult road to take. Those on it need all the support they can get.
Victims often suppress abuse memories so they can function. After they accept the reality of what happened, they face the pain and suffering they tried to conceal from themselves. A victim may convince themself they’re perfectly fine, what happened didn’t really happen, it wasn’t as bad as they recall, or they somehow caused the incident.
Sexual abuse involves a lot of shame and guilt. Others may think the child or teen is to blame or their parents didn’t do enough to protect them. This crime can rob them of their self-esteem and confidence, and when victims are young, it takes away their childhood. Long term, they can suffer serious psychological issues, eating disorders, drug abuse, alcoholism, sex addiction, and suicide.
How Do Sexual Abuse Victims Recover?
Healing requires preparation and willpower to stay grounded in the truth. The easier way out is avoiding these living nightmare memories rather than confront them. Those who come forward to confront abusers and those who enabled them need psychotherapy so they can cope and feel strong enough to embrace the truth and report what went on.
After the truth is revealed, perhaps after years or decades, victims feel shocked and then relieved. The truth, pain, guilt, and shame are given an outlet, up and onto the perpetrator. Their experience is made real. No matter how much denial went on, the memories remained. They came back in dreams. They fueled anxieties and fears. They impacted and possibly prevented or destroyed loving relationships.
After that truth’s released, you can’t get it back. The victim must develop healthy ways to deal with this new situation. Despite all they’ve been through, including the stress of confronting the truth and the retaliation they may suffer, these people can be healthier and stronger. Like a soldier returning home from war, they learn how to be normal again.
These are incredibly strong people stuck in a terrible situation through no fault of their own who need help through the legal process. These cases take an enormous mental and emotional toll on plaintiffs. As hard as it is, litigation can be part of the path towards healing, where they can feel strong enough to get through settlement talks and possibly a trial before a judge and jury.
Is This an Area of Law I Should Get Involved With?
It’s a practice area worth considering. There are many kinds of sexual abuse cases and you need to choose those that are right for your firm. They require a lot of work, but the plaintiffs can be sympathetic, their stories are compelling, and they may suffer lifelong trauma. Defendants may be easy to portray as villains or not. They may be defended by insurance companies or near bankruptcy. Settlements and verdicts can be substantial.
These cases may involve churches, schools, summer camps, physicians, individuals, and human trafficking. This NPR story about human trafficking includes a complaint filed against a hotel for failing to take action to help trafficking victims. This website tracks settlements of church-related sexual abuse claims.
We Can Help Your Law Firm Grow
There are many hurdles you face to finding institutionalized sexual misconduct cases. First among them is the reluctance of victims and their families to come forward. Given these issues, you need all the help you can get to people willing to at least learn more about possible legal claims.
If your law firm helps victims of sexual misconduct, we can help you find cases.
We can reach prospects ready, willing, and able to retain your legal services.
We are seeking more attorneys willing to represent victims. If you would like more information on our program features and how you can participate, please contact us.
Edward Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Human Trafficking Project, LLC