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Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Lawyers

When you were sexually abused or assaulted, it changed everything. If you’re like many survivors of sex abuse, you don’t know how to change things back to the way they were before this happened to you. In the most difficult moments, you may believe that it’s not possible to feel like yourself again.

Sexual abuse can’t be undone. But the harm this abuse has caused you can be treated.

Compassionate, supportive care providers specialize in helping survivors heal physically and emotionally. Evidence-based methods of therapy and treatment have helped people who have been through a similar ordeal (although, of course, every instance of sexual abuse and assault is unique). And a civil lawsuit that holds accountable both the individual perpetrator and the institution that sheltered them can make you financially whole, giving you the means to afford the care you need to get better.

What Should I Do If I Was the Victim of Sexual Abuse?

Knowing what steps to take after sexual abuse or assault occurs is difficult. Here’s a step-by-step list of how to get help after sexual abuse happens.

How Much Is My Sexual Abuse Case Worth?

Sexual abuse lawsuits can result in significant payouts – often in the six- and seven-figure range – to the victims affected by abuse. This money can help you get the treatment you need to feel more like yourself again. Find out what to expect from sexual abuse compensation.

How Long Do I Have to Sue for Sexual Abuse?

Depending on the circumstances of the abuse, you may have just a couple of years to sue or – under recent changes to Pennsylvania laws – a few decades. It’s crucial that you act quickly to understand what your legal rights are before it’s too late. A Pennsylvania sexual abuse lawyer can help you understand the statute of limitations on claims like yours.

For decades, Pennsylvania sexual abuse lawyers like Console & Associates have offered caring and compassionate help for sexual abuse victims – always on a no-win, no-fee basis. There’s nothing standing in the way of getting the help you deserve.

Call (215) 225-2040 today for a confidential and free consultation with a supportive and understanding sexual assault attorney in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Cases 2020

Many sexual abuse lawsuit matters in PA are filed as class-action claims. This form of litigation allows multiple victims of sexual abuse to sue the perpetrator or the negligent party that allowed the abuse to happen.

Here are some of the sexual abuse and assault class-action lawsuits pending as of 2020:

  • Glen Mills School lawsuits: hundreds of boys and men have come forward to share their horrifying tales of abuse and assault at the prestigious reform school. These sexual abuse allegations stretch back over decades. If you suffered any form of abuse at the hands of Glen Mills School counselors, even if your stay in the juvenile detention center was years ago, you should reach out to an attorney right away. It may not be too late to pursue a claim.
  • Sexual abuse lawsuits against Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses: Although decades have passed since the scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church first came to light, the appalling maltreatment of children still isn’t over. As recently as August 2020, more clergy sexual abuse lawsuits have been filed.
  • Sexual abuse Boy Scouts of America claims: Evidence – in the form of internal documents known across the organization as the “perversion files” – shows that the Boy Scouts of America knew of problems involving sexual abuse that went on within the organization as early as 1925, according to USA TODAY. Instead of warning boys and their families or turning over known or suspected abusers to the authorities, the organization kept these files confidential and “hid” the abuse, USA TODAY reported. In 2020, sexual abuse Boy Scouts lawsuits are still being filed.
  • Devereux sexual abuse lawsuits: Former residents of Devereux Behavioral Health are suing the nonprofit organization over childhood sexual abuse allegations. The extent of the abuse became known in August 2020, when The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article detailing the abuse. The alleged abuse went on for 25 years, involved upwards of 20 defendants (individual perpetrators and entities managed by the nonprofit), and began when victims were as young as eight years old, WHYY reported.
  • Sexual misconduct and abuse lawsuits against doctors at major medical centers

Our Pennsylvania sexual abuse lawyers are currently pursuing these and other matters of assault and abuse. We hold negligent parties accountable in both individual and class action claims and offer no-win, no-fee legal representation, because nothing should stand in the way of a sexual abuse survivor getting the help they need.

What Should I Do If I Was the Victim of Sexual Assault or Abuse?

Sexual abuse is such a horrific, unimaginable thing – a trauma no one should ever have to go through – that many survivors have no idea what to do after this act of violence has been perpetrated against them. Here are the most important things

Get to a Safe Place.

The single most important thing you need to do when you have suffered any form of sexual abuse or assault is to get to a safe place where you won’t fall victim to any further harm.

This is easier said than done. You may be panicked or in shock after the terrible ordeal you just went through. You might be physically restrained by your attacker or be threatened by them. Maybe you’re afraid to ask someone to help you, thinking that they might blame you for this situation instead of coming to your rescue.

Do whatever it takes to get to a safe place. That may mean running from your attacker, making excuses, or discreetly calling for help. If you’re not able to go to the home of a family member, friend, or other individual you trust, then go to a hospital, police station, or shelter.

Report the Assault or Abuse.

Too often, survivors of sexual abuse do not report the assault. More than 75 percent of all sexual assaults go unreported, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

That means that the attacker doesn’t face criminal charges and, often, will commit further acts of abuse. For you, the victim, not reporting the assault can keep you from ever getting any sort of closure, from feeling safe, and from healing emotionally as well as physically.

There are many reasons why you might shy away from reporting the assault. Maybe you think no one will believe you or fear that you will be blamed instead of the person who hurt you. Perhaps your abuser has so much influence and authority that you don’t think they will be held accountable, or perhaps you fear retaliation.

Don’t let these fears hold you back from reporting the abuse. You absolutely did not deserve this. You’re not the one who did something wrong. The abuser is, along with any institution that allowed this person to cause you harm through its failings and negligent actions.

Please, call 9-1-1 and report the assault or abuse you have suffered to the police right away. You matter, and no one should get away with violating your rights or your trust.

Call the Sexual Abuse Hotline.

The next thing you should do is speak to a trained sexual assault advocate. These advocates are available to support you, day or night, at no cost and can provide important resources for sexual abuse victims.

  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline (affiliated with RAINN): (800) 656-HOPE (4673)
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or (800) 787-3224 (for the deaf and hard of hearing)

Talking to an advocate can help you identify the nearest health facility that is equipped to provide the medical care you need. If you wish, an advocate can attend the sexual assault forensic exam with you to offer support, so you don’t have to go through this alone.

Don’t Destroy Evidence of the Assault by Cleaning Your Body or Your Clothing.

For many survivors of sexual assault, the first thing you want to do is clean any part of you where the unwanted contact with your abuser occurred. You may hope that showering or getting rid of the clothes you were wearing will help you feel less violated.

But washing away the physical evidence won’t wash away the trauma you experienced. All it will do is get rid of the evidence that proves the abuse occurred. This evidence could be used to secure a criminal conviction of the person who hurt you and to get compensation for the sexual abuse you suffered.

That said, it may not be too late if you already started cleaning any part of your body after the attack or did anything that could compromise the amount of evidence left behind. You can preserve whatever evidence still remains by stopping now and immediately undergoing a forensic medical examination.

Get Medical Care – the Sooner, the Better.

A sexual assault forensic exam, otherwise known as a “rape kit,” can be conducted up to 72 hours after the assault, but you shouldn’t wait that long if you can help it. What you have been through is an urgent matter.

Depending on what specifically happened to you, you may have both external and internal injuries, and you may be at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unintended pregnancy. A gentle but thorough exam, preventive treatments, and emergency contraception medications are all among the possible services you may be offered as part of the medical care you receive from healthcare providers specially trained to assist the survivors of sexual assault.

The care you receive in the hours following the abuse or assault plays a huge role not only in your physical recovery but also in your mental and emotional healing.

If You Believe You May Have the Grounds for a Civil Sexual Abuse Case, Speak to a Lawyer as Soon as Possible.

Law enforcement officers will handle the criminal case against your abuser. The evidence from your sexual assault forensic exam can help them to prove your attacker’s guilt. But you will need a lawyer of your own if you will be moving forward with a civil claim for compensation.

You might have the grounds for a sexual abuse personal injury claim in Pennsylvania if some organization – like a company, a school, a government entity, a religious organization, a nonprofit or volunteer organization, or any other insured organization – had a duty to protect you from the assault.

When you’re dealing with sexual abuse and the thousands of ways that an assault can impact your life, having an experienced and compassionate sexual assault legal team in your corner can change everything. You’re not powerless anymore, because you have us to lean on.

Our Pennsylvania assault attorneys have the resources to make sure you get the help needed to start the process of sexual abuse recovery. We’ll stand up for you, even if you’re not able to stand up for yourself right now. And we’ll make sure that the perpetrator of the abuse and the organization that enabled it won’t be able to silence you, no matter how powerful or influential they may seem.

It won’t cost you anything to speak to a sexual abuse and assault lawyer in Pennsylvania, and you won’t have to pay anything out of pocket to have us represent you.

What to Do If You Suspect Sexual Abuse

Maybe you’re not the one being abused, but instead are a parent or other caretaker who is worried about a loved one.

Children, the elderly, and disabled adults are particularly at risk of suffering sexual abuse. They may not be physically able to defend themselves, especially against a person in authority. If abuse does occur, they may not have the ability to communicate what happened to them.

If you suspect that a child or teenager, an aging parent or grandparent, a disabled adult in your care, or any other vulnerable loved one may have been abused, here’s what you need to do.

Recognize Sexual Abuse Warning Signs.

If you’ve got a gut feeling that something is wrong, the first thing you should do is educate yourself about sexual abuse signs and symptoms.

Only then can you start to unravel the complex matter of whether the changes that concern you are rooted in abuse or assault.

What Are Sexual Abuse Signs?

Sexual abuse symptoms can take multiple forms, including physical symptoms, changes in behavior, and verbal cues, according to RAINN.

Physical sexual abuse victim symptoms may include:

  • Bruising, swelling, pain, or other signs of injury near the genital area or anus
  • Broken bones and other evidence of physical injury on other parts of the body
  • Blood appearing on the victim’s underwear, clothing, or bedsheets

The behavioral changes that can arise from sexual abuse include:

  • Changes in your loved one’s level of comfort with physical contact, such as a formerly affectionate child becoming afraid of being touched
  • Regressing to developmentally inappropriate behaviors
  • Having unusual nightmares or sleep disturbances
  • Showing symptoms of depression, such as withdrawing from activities and social interactions the person used to enjoy
  • Changes in hygiene practices and routines
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviors, particularly in children

Often, it’s something your loved one says – or doesn’t say – that triggers your suspicions that something is wrong. The verbal signs that may indicate that abuse is going on may include:

  • Being fearful or reluctant to talk
  • Emotional outbursts
  • In children, using sexual or inappropriately “adult” language

Gently Talk to Your Loved One (and Listen).

Recognize that whatever is wrong, it can be difficult for your loved one to talk about.

Reassure them that they are safe with you, keep your tone of voice and the language of your questions gentle rather than prying or critical, and make sure that the victim knows that what happened isn’t their fault.

Listen to and validate your loved one’s feelings. Ask follow-up questions without interrupting, and be patient if your loved one isn’t sure how to answer them.

Sexual Abuse Questions to Ask a Child

Talking to a loved one about suspected abuse can be particularly challenging when that person is a child or communicates like a child. Unlike an adult, they may not understand certain words or be able to put into words what happened.

If you’re trying to determine whether a child has been abused, here are some questions to ask:

  • You’re acting different. Is something worrying you?
  • Can I do anything to help?
  • Has someone been touching you?
  • Is someone doing something that makes you afraid or hurts you?
  • Has anyone asked you to keep a secret or told you not to tell me something?
  • What can I do to comfort or support you?

Remove Your Loved One From a Dangerous Situation.

Once you’re aware that abuse is happening, you need to prevent it from continuing at all costs.

That means removing your loved one from any ongoing situation that puts them at risk or in contact with the person you believe abused them.

  • Remove a child from a daycare or school if you believe abuse is occurring.
  • If an older adult is in a nursing home where you suspect they are being abused, bring the matter to the attention of the administration and insist that your loved one be transferred out of that situation. The same goes for a disabled person who resides in a long-term care facility.
  • Abuse can also occur at home at the hands of home health care providers. If you suspect abuse, find a different provider for your loved one’s care.
  • If the abuse is occurring at church or a youth organization, keep the victim away from that environment. Don’t allow your child to be alone with suspected abusers.
  • If you suspect that abuse is occurring at a place where the victim is under someone else’s authority – like a juvenile reform school – bring the abuse to the attention of administration immediately and demand that your loved one be moved to a safe place. The organization may try to silence you or get you to go along with covering up the abuse by threatening a loss of privileges or a longer sentence, but your loved one’s immediate physical safety outweighs these threats.

Getting your loved one to a safe place may be easier said than done, depending on the situation. If you aren’t sure how to best protect your loved one, reach out immediately to a Pennsylvania sexual assault attorney who can help you understand your legal rights. Together, we’ll make sure your loved one can’t be hurt anymore.

Report the Abuse Immediately.

The next thing you must do is report the abuse to the authorities.

Reporting the abuse allows for an investigation that can lead to criminal charges for the abuser. It may also prevent further abuse, especially in institutions and organizations where there is a widespread pattern of abuse. Documenting the abuse this way can also help you get the sexual abuse lawsuit settlement that can be used to pay for your loved one’s therapy and recovery.

Although it can be beneficial to report abuse to supervisors and administrators within an organization, institutional sexual abuse cover-ups are all too common. Don’t trust the organization that allowed abuse to happen to do the right thing. Insist on taking the matter to the authorities so that it can’t be swept under the rug and allowed to continue.

In Pennsylvania, you can call CHILDLINE any time of day or night to report child sexual abuse at 1-800-932-0313. You can also call 9-1-1 or the non-emergency phone line of your local police station.

Consult With Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse & Child Molestation Lawyers About Your Loved One’s Legal Rights.

Removing your loved one from a dangerous situation prevents further abuse. Reporting the assault means that the abuser will be investigated and, hopefully, face criminal consequences for what they’ve done.

But neither of these actions fulfills the crucial purpose of helping your loved one heal from the trauma.

Your loved one may need both physical and mental health treatments and therapies to begin the process of recovery. This process can take time, and for some survivors of sexual assault, it can be lifelong.

Pursuing a sexual abuse lawsuit against an organization or institution that allowed the abuse to happen can get your loved one compensation they can use to pay for both physical and mental health care. But they’re counting on you to get their claim started by contacting a Pennsylvania sexual abuse lawyer.

Your family is going through a lot right now, so let us ease your mind. We can help you get your loved one the assistance they need without charging you anything up front for legal representation or taking up your time. We handle all aspects of the legal matter for you so you can focus on what matters most – being there for your loved one.

Why Sexual Abuse Is Difficult to Detect

For several reasons, it’s tough to determine if a loved one has been sexually abused, especially if that person is unable or unwilling to talk about it.

  • Many of the potential warning signs of abuse can also have other causes, including normal changes in development, hormonal changes or imbalances, problems in social relationships, and medical or mental health conditions.
  • If abuse has occurred, the victim may blame themselves or fear that others will blame them, rather than the abuser.
  • Some victims fear retaliation from their abuser or an organization or institution that allowed the abuse to happen. A victim may even be afraid of getting their abuser in trouble, especially if abused by someone they trusted.

What happened to your loved one isn’t your fault. You trusted that individual and organization to care for and protect a vulnerable person, and instead, they violated your trust and your loved one’s safety.

You’ve done all you can do. Now let us step in and take it from here. We’ll conduct the thorough investigations necessary to expose the abuse and prove that your loved one deserves every dollar of compensation available.

What Is Sexual Abuse?

Generally, sexual abuse includes any type of unwanted sexual contact or activity – in other words, any sexual activity that the victim has not consented to.

In cases involving a minor or a disabled person who cannot legally give consent, any sexual activity can be considered prohibited and may be the grounds for sexual abuse criminal charges and for a lawsuit.

A common misconception is that sexual abuse must include physical contact. Certainly, sexual abuse and assaults that involve direct sexual contact with the abuser are some of the most serious and traumatic instances of abuse. However, sexual abuse can occur without touching.

Understanding Sex Crime Classifications in Pennsylvania

The legal definition of sexual assault is “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent,” according to the United States Department of Justice.

The state of Pennsylvania recognizes numerous types of sex crimes, according to RAINN and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. These sex crimes include (but are not limited to) rape, attempted rape, statutory rape, sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, and sexual assault by sports official, volunteer, or employee of nonprofit association.

Forms of Sexual Abuse and Assault

Generally, any of the following may constitute sexual abuse or assault, if done without consent or to a person who is not considered legally able to give consent:

  • Any unwanted sexual touching or fondling of the victim or forcing the victim to touch the abuser
  • Rape or any form of penetration or intercourse without the victim’s consent, including statutory rape
  • Attempted rape
  • Forcing or coercing a victim to engage in any sexual contact or other sexual activities against their will
  • Taking any unwanted photos or videos, or coercing the victim into taking these photos or videos, of a pornographic, sexual, explicit, or indecent nature, particularly of minors
  • Forcing a person to look at or watch pornographic, sexual, explicit, or indecent photos or videos without their consent or if they are not able to give consent
  • Any form of sexual harassment or unwanted sexual advances

As you can see, what constitutes sexual abuse is a broad range of activities of a sexual nature.

Sexual abuse vs. sexual assault is sometimes distinguished by whether the event was a single isolated incident (an assault) or a pattern of repetitive behaviors of an inappropriate sexual nature (abuse).

There’s often some overlap between different types of sexual abuse and assaults, which can make it difficult for victims and their families to distinguish between sexual abuse vs. sexual exploitation and sexual abuse vs. sexual molestation. Sexual abuse is often accompanied by physical abuse, emotional abuse, or both, although that isn’t always the case.

As the victim or a loved one caring for a victim of sexual abuse, determining precisely what form of sexual abuse or assault you suffered isn’t a task that you should have to handle. It won’t help you recover physically or psychologically from the horrors you endured. That’s a job better left to the police officers, investigators, attorneys, and criminal prosecutors.

What matters is that you get the justice you deserve from both the criminal and civil justice systems.

Is Sexual Abuse Considered Personal Injury?

The legal term “personal injury” generally refers to an injury to your physical person. It means that you suffered harm – usually bodily harm – as opposed to just damage to your property or your reputation. Under that definition, sexual abuse can certainly be considered a personal injury.

However, does that mean you have the grounds for a successful personal injury claim? Answering this question is a bit more complicated.

Suing for Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania

Most civil sexual abuse lawsuits – as opposed to criminal charges – are filed against organizations rather than the individual perpetrator of the crime.

Although the perpetrator is often named in the lawsuit, as well, the goal of these claims is to get compensation for the victim. This usually means seeking money from the insurance coverage purchased by an organization to cover any liability on the part of the organization or its employees.

Some organizations include sexual abuse and molestation insurance coverage as part of a general liability business insurance policy, often with a separate policy limit.

Other business liability insurance policies require additional endorsements for them to provide limited liability coverage for negligence related to sexual abuse or molestation.

Proving Negligence in a Sexual Abuse Claim

To successfully sue an organization because you have been the victim of sexual abuse, you need to prove some form of negligence on their behalf that led to the assault.

This means first proving that the organization owed you a duty of care. For example:

  • Schools and daycares owe a duty of care to the children they are entrusted with – to provide a safe place that will be free from abuse.
  • An employer has a reasonable duty to provide employees with a safe work environment.
  • A nursing home should live up to its duty of care to keep residents safe.
  • A hospital or other medical facility should ensure that the patients under its care are protected from abuse.

How Negligence Enables Sexual Abusers

An organization can stray from this duty of care, negligently allowing sexual abuse and assaults to occur, in any number of different ways.

  • Failing to prevent sexual abuse or assault. When an organization has a duty to care for someone, the burden of sexual abuse prevention may fall on that organization. If an investigation determines that any actions or omissions on the part of the organization allowed abuse to occur or continue, then you may be able to sue the organization for the harm its negligence has caused you.
  • Failing to establish a sexual abuse policy. Not having a written sexual abuse and molestation prevention policy can give the impression to potential abusers that they would be able to get away with their outrageous behavior.
  • Negligent sexual abuse prevention training. Not sexually abusing others should be a given under any circumstances, but organizations do need to provide some amount of sexual abuse education to cover topics like how to identify signs of abuse and how to report suspected abuse. When an organization fails to provide sexual abuse training courses to its employees and an employee abuses someone in their charge, the organization could be liable.
  • Negligent hiring. When hiring staff – particularly staff who will be working with vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, and disabled adults – an organization should follow proper hiring practices. Failing to perform thorough background checks on candidates or hiring workers in spite of past relevant criminal or disciplinary trouble may constitute negligent hiring. In certain instances, so can hiring candidates who show worrying sexual abuse behavioral indicators. If that employee sexually abuses someone, the organization may be responsible for allowing the abuse to happen through its negligent hiring practices.
  • Failing to report. Pennsylvania has mandated reporting laws that require anyone “who, in the practice of their employment, occupation or practice of a profession, come into contact with children and have reasonable cause to suspect that a child under the care, supervision, guidance, or training of that person or of an agency, institution, organization or other entity with which that person is affiliated is a victim of child abuse.”

Often, sexual abuse cases point out more than one type of negligence on the part of the institution or organization that, combined, created an environment where assaults and molestation occurred.

As you move forward with your case, you can rely on your Pennsylvania sexual abuse and assault attorney to identify each of the ways in which the defendant was negligent and to collect the evidence to prove those assertions.

How Much Is My Sexual Abuse Case Worth?

One reason why you might be hesitant to pursue a sexual abuse lawsuit in Pennsylvania is because you may think coming forward won’t accomplish much. Why should you put yourself through the fresh pain of reliving what happened to you if you don’t believe that your case will amount to anything?

If you look at the sexual abuse lawsuit settlements and jury awards that have made the news in recent years, you’ll see that these cases can bring about large payouts. For example, lawsuits in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky had resulted in a total of more than $113 million in settlement payouts by November of 2018, according to Penn State’s blog Onward State.

No attorney can guarantee how much compensation for sexual abuse you will get, or even a favorable resolution to your case, without first knowing the circumstances of the abuse you suffered. However, if it’s possible to prove negligence on the part of an institution that is insured for liability in matters involving sexual assault, there’s a good chance that your payout will be significant.

A big part of what determines the value of a personal injury case is the extent of your damages. As you know better than anyone, sexual assault can cause such a huge array of harms that continue to affect you throughout your life that there’s no doubt the damages you have suffered are significant.

Effects of Sexual Abuse

Because the impacts of sexual abuse are so nuanced and far-reaching, there’s no simple syndrome that fully describes what sexual abuse does to you. There are physical forms of injury and damage and mental health conditions that can arise from the trauma of a sexual assault.

Common Physical Injuries From Sexual Assaults and Abuse

Physical injuries from sexual abuse include:

    • Sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STDs/STIs): If sexual contact occurred, there’s a possibility that STD transmission may also have occurred. An STD can cause severe effects on a person’s health, so it’s important to seek medical help right away. Medical professionals who are trained in dealing with sexual assault victims can administer preventive treatments that can help protect victims of rape and sexual assaults from developing an STD.
    • Internal and external genital injuries: About half of sexual assaults leave the victim with genital injuries, according to GMS Interdisciplinary Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery DGPW. A medical professional can gently examine and treat injuries in the genital area – or elsewhere on the body – that resulted from the assault. These injuries sometimes require surgical repair. Prompt, proper, and thorough treatment can help survivors of sexual assault make a better physical recovery.
    • An increased risk of cancers: STIs and internal physical injuries that result from a sexual assault can raise your likelihood of certain kinds of cancers, such as cervical cancer in women.
    • Chronic pain: Researchers have uncovered a link between chronic pain and having a history of sexual abuse or assault. Sexual abuse survivors have reported pelvic pain, frequent headaches or migraines, and other types of pain at higher rates, according to the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.
    • Gastrointestinal disorders: Both sexual and physical abuse have been linked to higher rates of gastrointestinal illnesses, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine.
    • Bladder dysfunction: Among other physical complications linked to sexual abuse, urinary retention, dysfunctional voiding, and other lower urinary tract symptoms have been studied by researchers, according to research published in Urologia Internationalis. Treatments for bladder dysfunction range from conservative treatments to surgical interventions.

Sexual Abuse and Gynecological Complications

In female sexual assault survivors, sexual assaults have been linked to the development of complications of the gynecological system.

Can Sexual Abuse Cause Endometriosis?

Sexual abuse, particularly in children, may be linked to the development of endometriosis – a painful disorder involving abnormal growth of tissue outside the uterus – according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Can Sexual Abuse Cause Infertility?

Unfortunately, some data suggest a possible link between sexual abuse and infertility, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This connection is still being examined. However, it’s possible that the physical gynecological complications, some aspect of the trauma of a sexual assault, or both could contribute to issues conceiving a pregnancy or carrying it to full-term.

Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health Problems That Result From Sexual Abuse

For many survivors of sexual abuse, the emotional trauma of the assault can be even more painful than the physical wounds, lingering for a lifetime. In the aftermath of sexual abuse, mental health conditions can be triggered by the trauma.

Sexual Abuse and PTSD

Survivors of sexual assaults often develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. PTSD is a response to a trauma, or a terrifying or dangerous event or experience, that can include a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Flashbacks, in which you re-experience the event and your distress in ways that feel more real than memories
  • Nightmares and trouble sleeping
  • Frightening, distressing, or negative thoughts
  • Feeling tense, unable to calm down, or getting startled easily
  • Making an effort to avoid feelings, thoughts, and reminders of the abuse or assault
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Withdrawing from social and interpersonal relationships

If you’re struggling with PTSD symptoms, you need to know that there’s nothing “wrong” with you. After going through sexual abuse, PTSD is a common and even “normal” reaction to a traumatic experience that was horrifically abnormal.

But that doesn’t mean you have to just learn to live with the debilitating symptoms. PTSD can be treated with cognitive behavior therapy, pharmaceutical medications, and a type of psychotherapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

The sexual abuse compensation an attorney secures for you in a lawsuit can help you afford the counseling, medications, and other forms of PTSD treatment you need to take back control over your life.

Sexual Abuse and Depression

Whether in conjunction with PTSD or on its own, depression is among the most common sexual abuse mental health effects. Many of the signs that can indicate sexual abuse – withdrawing from social situations, losing interest in activities, and more – are also symptoms of clinical depression. At times, survivors of sexual assault may engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as attempting self-harm or suicide.

If you experience blame, shame, guilt, and negative feelings about yourself, please know that none of this is your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this or to bring it upon yourself.

Like PTSD, depression can be treated. The payout your Pennsylvania sexual assault lawyers get for you can help you afford the services of an entire care team whose goal is to help you manage your depression and start to feel like you again.

Can Sexual Abuse Cause Bipolar Disorder?

Sexual abuse and other traumas may increase the chances of developing bipolar disorder, especially when that abuse occurs during childhood, the International Journal of Bipolar Disorders reported.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is characterized by extreme emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression). The drastic mood changes that occur when you have bipolar disorder can interfere with your life, including your work, your personal relationships, and your decision-making.

With bipolar disorder, as with other sexual abuse emotional effects, treatment can help you manage your condition to minimize the impact it has on your quality of life.

Can Sexual Abuse Cause Anxiety?

Sexual abuse and other forms of trauma can lead to different types of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.

After what you have been through at the hands of your abuser, it’s no wonder why you would feel afraid and anxious in certain situations. Working with a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and other healthcare professionals can help you manage acute symptoms and learn coping strategies to control your anxiety, so that you can really live – not just survive – your life.

Can Sexual Abuse Cause OCD?

Even if you know, logically, that the assault wasn’t your fault, you may have thoughts you can’t stop. These intrusive thoughts may be part of a condition called obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.

The compulsion aspect of OCD refers to behaviors – often, actions that you take in an attempt to control your life or environment. A person with OCD might repeatedly check, clean, count, or organize things on a regular basis. This repetitive behavior may interfere with your life, and you may feel like you can’t control these behaviors.

Can Sexual Abuse Cause Schizophrenia?

Considerable evidence suggests a link between sexual abuse in childhood and schizophrenia, according to the medical journal The Lancet. Schizophrenia is a troubling condition that can cause you to experience episodes of psychotic symptoms – like hallucinations and delusions – as well as cognitive symptoms and negative symptoms.

Developing schizophrenia can be a scary situation. You can’t control when episodes happen, and you essentially lose your perception of what’s real during these episodes. But a combination of antipsychotic medications, psychosocial treatments and interventions, and community and family support can help you manage this serious condition.

Can Sexual Abuse Cause Memory Loss?

In general, trauma can have an impact on your memory, and sexual abuse trauma is no different. The phenomenon of sexual abuse repressed memories – particularly, memories of abuse that occurred in childhood – is “overreported and sensationalized,” but nonetheless real, the American Psychological Association reported.

Whether a memory was truly “repressed” or it just manifests in a fragmented form due to the trauma of the event or because you were too young to fully understand what happened, you shouldn’t have to work through this painful experience alone. A mental health professional can help you process the abuse you have been through and begin healing – whether the assault happened days ago or many years ago.

Sexual Abuse Long-Term Effects

Unfortunately, the impact of sexual abuse continues long after the abuse is over. What sexual abuse does to the brain – having the potential to create measurable, physical changes in the brain, TIME reported – changes you.

Here are some of the ways sexual abuse affects you later in life:

  • Damaging existing relationships
  • Making it difficult to form new close relationships
  • Leaving you with low self-esteem and feelings of guilt, shame, or worthlessness (even though you are not the one to blame for the assault)
  • Contributing to substance abuse problems
  • Causing or contributing to mental health conditions, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety
  • Causing chronic pain or other physical problems
  • Making it difficult to succeed academically and/or professionally (according to your own goals and expectations)

Sexual Abuse Effects on Growth and Development

Humans grow, change, and develop throughout their lifespan. From the moment sexual abuse first occurs, it can wreak havoc on a victim’s development – physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially, and in all other ways.

When a young child is abused, the trauma can affect them throughout their childhood. Then at every stage of their adolescence. Moving into adulthood, the experience of being abused is ever-present, an obstacle to achieving the life they want. Finishing school, starting your career, forming relationships, becoming a parent – every event, achievement, and milestone in your life can be influenced by the abuse you once suffered, especially if you never got the help you need to start healing.

How Sexual Abuse Affects Relationships

In many different ways, sexual abuse can impact the relationships you have with other people – even people who had nothing to do with the assault.

  • Perhaps you blame others in your life for not somehow doing something to stop the abuse from occurring.
  • Maybe you have trouble trusting people again after the terrible way your abuser broke your trust.
  • Depression, PTSD, and other mental health effects of sexual abuse can cause you to withdraw from social relationships and avoid interactions with others.
  • The low self-esteem and shame that survivors of sexual abuse often feel – even though the assault was not your fault – can make you feel like you don’t deserve love or friendship. Even though those things aren’t true in any way, it can be difficult to break these cycles of negative thoughts without help.
  • If you attempt to cope with the emotional pain of the past abuse by using or abusing drugs or alcohol, your substance use can add further strain to your relationships with others.
Can Sexual Abuse Affect Your Sexuality?

The sexual abuse you suffered can bring about challenges in having healthy sexual experiences. Some survivors of sexual abuse feel uncomfortable with sexual activities. Even in the context of a safe and supportive intimate relationship, sexual activities can sometimes trigger painful memories and flashbacks of the assault.

This isn’t something you should just “learn to live with,” and you don’t need to resign yourself to a life without physical closeness to other people. Counseling and therapy can help you work through the trauma and gradually work toward developing a level of comfort with physical intimacy, so the abuse you suffered doesn’t stop you from living your life.

Is Sexual Abuse a Social Problem?

When you look at all the ways in which sexual abuse can impact an individual’s life – and the alarming frequency with which sexual assault is committed – it makes sense to view sexual abuse as a social problem.

This is less because of the so-called “sexual abuse cycle” – a misguided notion that sexual abuse victims become perpetrators – than because of the numerous and devastating effects abuse can have on a victim.

Survivors of sexual abuse should know that most people who are abused do not go on to become abusers themselves.

They do, however, have a greater tendency to struggle with:

  • Mental illness
  • Several physical medical conditions
  • Substance use and abuse
  • Difficulties in their professional lives and personal relationships

Many victims of sexual abuse, especially child victims, wind up involved in criminal activities. That’s often because how child victims respond to the trauma of abuse – substance use, running away, and truancy – is criminalized, according to a joint report by the Human Rights Project for Girls, the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the Human Rights Project for Girls.

This criminalization further leads to incarceration, difficulty finding gainful employment after incarceration (due both to stigma and to lack of education and job training), and other serious impacts on life after abuse.

Even a sexual abuse victim who looks successful to outsiders may struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, guilt, and worthlessness. These feelings can get in the way of living a happy, fulfilling life – but they don’t have to. With the right help and support, sexual abuse healing is possible.

How Getting Sexual Abuse Compensation Can Change Your Life

The reality is that no amount of money will ever erase the horror you have been through as a survivor of sexual abuse. We know that.

But we also know that one of the biggest obstacles to making the fullest physical and emotional recovery possible is the financial cost.

Affording Sexual Abuse Counseling

Sexual abuse counseling is crucial for processing the trauma you have been through and resolving those feelings of shame and guilt that victims so commonly feel (even though those feelings aren’t deserved). Therapy for sexual abuse can help you cope with mental health issues that arise out of, or are made worse by, the assault.

If you’re afraid that you can’t afford the cost of care – whether immediate care at a sexual abuse treatment center or sexual abuse counseling services over a longer term – knowing that you may be entitled to compensation can put this help within reach.

The cost of counseling for sexual abuse can rise to thousands upon thousands of dollars. In fact, the expense of getting sexual abuse therapy has proven to be so prohibitive that the state of Pennsylvania now provides for up to $5,000 of counseling for victims abused after they turned 18 and $10,000 for victims of childhood sexual abuse, according to TribLive.

This money provides much-needed access to sexual abuse therapy. But it’s nowhere near enough to cover all of the care you will need and all of the effects the abuse has on your life. Only the payout your Pennsylvania sexual abuse attorneys get for you in a lawsuit can fully address all of the harms you suffered.

What to Expect From Sexual Abuse Therapy

Treatment for sexual abuse may include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. Researchers have found that CBT, a type of psychotherapy or “talk therapy” that focuses on modifying negative thought patterns, can successfully help improve symptoms of anxiety and PTSD in survivors of child sexual abuse, according to an article published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior.
  • Cognitive processing therapy, or CPT. CPT is a form of CBT intervention that emphasizes identifying and modifying negative and unhelpful thinking that results specifically from a trauma, rather than from other mental health troubles, the American Psychological Association reported.
  • Prolonged-exposure therapy, or PE. Avoiding anything to do with the assault – like the thoughts and feelings a victim has about it and any person, place, or situation that triggers memories of it – is a normal response to a trauma, but that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy way to cope in the long run. In prolonged-exposure therapy, the sexual assault survivor works with their therapist to gradually confront and process these memories and emotions, the American Psychological Association reported.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, or EMDR. Another form of psychotherapy used to help trauma survivors process the event and their feelings and thoughts around it is EMDR, a unique intervention developed especially for treating PTSD, Psychology Today reported.

Who provides therapy for sexual abuse victims?

  • Psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors and often use pharmaceutical treatments in addition to cognitive-behavioral interventions.
  • Psychologists. A sexual abuse psychologist has a doctoral-level education in the practice of psychology, the study of the mind and behavior, as well as a focus on how sexual abuse affects the mind.
  • Licensed professional counselors. Licensed professional counselors typically have a master’s degree in the field of professional counseling, which includes diagnosing and treating mental health conditions through the use of psychotherapeutic interventions. Licensed clinical social workers. Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) have a background in social work, training in clinical mental health interventions, and a master’s degree. LCSWs treat clients with an emphasis on the social aspects of mental health.

A sexual abuse therapist is a mental health professional with special training or experience in helping victims of abuse and assaults. One type of provider isn’t necessarily better at providing sexual abuse trauma therapy than another.

Some sexual abuse survivors work with a combination of providers with different specialized skills, such as a psychiatrist who manages a medication regimen and a counselor who provides talk therapy on a regular basis.

Although all sexual abuse therapists should be trained in the delicate work of assisting victims of abuse and assault, you may find that different therapists are a better match for your personality type and the specific problems you are struggling with. If you feel like a therapist isn’t the right fit, don’t be afraid to find a new one. You deserve to feel better, to take your life back – whatever it takes.

When and Where Does Sexual Abuse Happen?

Sexual abuse can, unfortunately, occur anywhere, at any time.

Although sexual assaults can happen at the hands of armed strangers in dark alleys, they also occur in the home of a friend or relative (or at the hands of a trusted person in the victim’s own home).

Most sexual abuse lawsuits arise from assaults that occur in an environment where someone else had some sort of authority over the victim. Too often, the results are institutional sexual abuse cover-ups in which those responsible try to sweep the abuse under the rug – in many cases, allowing it to continue.

Some examples of the institutions and companies that could be liable for sexual assault in a civil case include:

  • Public and private schools, including reform schools and juvenile detention centers
  • Colleges and universities
  • Daycare centers
  • Hospitals and healthcare facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Group homes and residential facilities
  • Employers in matters of workplace sexual assaults or sexual harassment
  • Youth sports leagues and youth activity organizations
  • Religious organizations
  • Hotels
  • Government entities, in the event that the assault or abuse occurred while in government or police custody or due to negligence on the part of a government agency or representative

Sexual Abuse at Schools, Colleges, and Universities

For too many children, a sexual assault brings the innocence of childhood to an abrupt and shattering end.

When the abuse or assault occurs at the hands of those trusted to care for pupils in an academic setting, legal recourse may be possible by way of a lawsuit.

Sexual abuse or assault can occur at public schools and private schools, at education institutions with poor reputations and those with prestigious reputations.

Although every matter of sexual abuse and assault is unique, child abuse lawyers have successfully sued institutions like the following over matters of sexual abuse:

  • Daycares
  • Preschools
  • Elementary schools
  • Middle schools
  • Junior high schools
  • High schools/senior high schools
  • Juvenile reform schools
  • Community colleges
  • Vocational-technical schools
  • Public and private four-year colleges and universities

Sexual Abuse by Teachers

Although teachers typically undergo background checks as part of the certification process, the Pennsylvania Department of Education reported, there have been numerous instances of classroom teachers and other school employees sexually abusing students. Sometimes referred to as educator sexual misconduct, sexual abuse of students by their teachers is, in the words of researchers, an “insidious” problem, Education Week reported.

Official sexual abuse by teachers statistics are hard to come by, not because this situation is rare but instead because it so often goes unreported. A study by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation found that 38 percent of students reported witnessing sexual harassment of students by teachers and other school employees in 2000. That’s an improvement from the 44 percent of students who reported sexual harassment by teachers in 1993, but it’s still an alarmingly high rate of misconduct on the part of adults who are trusted to educate children.

Perhaps even more worrying, it’s not easy for children or their parents to realize that a teacher may be a perpetrator of sexual abuse until it’s too late. “Most sexual abusers in schools are considered among the best teachers available,” respected educational researcher Charol Shakeshaft wrote in an article, although she noted that “most of the distinguished teachers are not pedophiles.” Despite their propensity for committing horrific acts of abuse, sexual predators who work in education realize that “being a good teacher is the way they get to children, especially those who abuse elementary and younger middle school students,” Shakeshaft added.

When child sexual abuse occurs at the hands of a teacher or another school employee, students may feel afraid to report the abuse. Even when it is reported, schools may try to sweep it under the rug – including reassigning the teacher without disciplinary action or firing the teacher without documenting the misconduct. When this happens, the allegations of sexual abuse won’t appear on future background checks due to not being documented properly.

Instead of reporting the crime of sexual abuse or assault to the authorities, schools may attempt to “handle” the matter quietly themselves – avoiding negative press and legal liability for the misconduct at the expense of the child who never gets the help they need.

Preventing Sexual Abuse by Other Students

Schools have a responsibility to provide a safe learning environment for students – even if it’s another student, rather than a school employee, acting as the sexual abuser or assailant.

Sexual harassment by other students is the most common form of sexual harassment at school, according to the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation study. This abuse goes far beyond unkind words of a sexual nature. While 76 percent of students report nonphysical sexual harassment at school, nearly 60 percent of students have been the victim of a physical form of sexual harassment at school, which can range from unwanted touching or groping to rape.

Students and their families have sued high schools that allowed another student to sexually assault them on the property, especially during school hours. There have also been lawsuits filed against colleges that failed to take students’ reports of sexual assaults on campus seriously, such as an August 2020 lawsuit filed against Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA.

How often does sexual assault occur on college campuses? More than 11 percent of all undergraduate and graduate college students in the United States have been the victim of rape or sexual assault committed by means of physical force, violence, or incapacitation, according to RAINN. College students are also less likely to report the assault than non-students, with just 20 percent of female college-age students reporting the rape compared to 32 percent of non-student victims of the same age, RAINN reported.

Sexual Abuse at Reform Schools

Students at residential reform schools and juvenile detention centers may face an even greater risk of sexual assault without their parents nearby to observe the child on a regular basis.

In February 2019, an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer exposed allegations of abuse that went back decades at Glen Mills Schools, a prestigious reform school in Delaware County, PA. Glen Mills abuse lawsuits are still being filed as of October 2020, and attorneys practicing child sexual assault law in Pennsylvania are standing by to help victims of Glen Mills abuse and abuse in other detention centers.

Sexual Abuse at Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

A hospital, healthcare facility, or any other place where you go to get physical or mental health care should be a place where you can let down your guard. But just when patients are vulnerable, some abusers seize their moment to harm them.

You should be able to feel safe when you’re in any kind of medical hospital, psychiatric hospital, medical facility, group home, nursing home, or other setting where you’re supposed to be receiving medical care. Whether the person who assaults you there is the doctor, a nurse, an aide, a technician, or any other staff member, the hospital that hired and trained (or failed to train) them may bear liability for the abuse.

Sexual Abuse by Doctors

Far from doing no harm, the doctors who have faced massive lawsuits over allegedly sexually abusing patients have done harm on an unimaginable scale.

While former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar made headlines after being accused of assaulting at least 265 patients, many less prominent physicians and other providers have also faced sexual abuse allegations and lawsuits.

A doctor should never abuse the patients under his or her care, but some predators use their status as a physician to gain access to, and get away with abusing, victims. Patients may feel that they can’t speak up, especially in the confines of a medical facility where they’re at the mercy of their providers. As a result, these doctors may continue their pattern of widespread abuse.

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to hold a doctor accountable for sexual abuse or assault. Sexual abuse law firms like Console & Associates will fight for you, even against powerful doctors and hospitals, on a no-win, no-fee basis that prevents obstacles from standing in your way.

Sexual Abuse at Nursing Homes

Sexual abuse of the elderly is a disturbing situation, particularly when it occurs in the very place where the senior citizen is supposed to be safe – their own home or a nursing home where they live.

Just 28 percent of elderly victims of sexual assault report the attack or abuse, according to RAINN. And those elderly sexual assault victims who don’t report the assault rarely get the help they need to cope with this trauma or to be safe from further abuse.

“Elder sexual abuse is most often being reported in nursing homes,” the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Aging reported, noting that sexual abuse nursing home instances may be perpetrated by the nursing home staff themselves or by other residents. In either case, the nursing home had a duty to protect the sexual abuse victim – and that includes protecting them from sexual violence on the premises.

Sexual Abuse in Group Homes and Residential Facilities

Group homes and other forms of residential facilities are meant to keep people safe when a disability presents them from living at home with their family, or when they don’t have a safe and healthy home life.

Types of Group Homes and Residential Facilities Where Assaults Occur

Group homes and other residential facilities often house individuals – whether children or adults – who have complex medical needs. Often, these individuals aren’t in a condition to stay with their own families due to some form of disability and must have care available 24 hours a day.

Other group homes provide a living situation for children in foster care. Then there are halfway houses, residences where adults may live on a temporary basis while transitioning back into society after a stay in a substance abuse rehab facility or after serving jail time.

The residents of a group home or other residential facility are vulnerable, whether due to physical disabilities, cognitive or mental health conditions, age (young or old), and the staff of the facility’s position of authority. When group homes allow staff or other residents to sexually abuse a resident, they can be held accountable for their negligence.

“Children are at serious risk of harm at Pennsylvania’s residential facilities,” concluded a 2018 report by nonprofit organization Children’s Rights and the Education Law Center. Between 2010 and 2018, the report noted, there were 73 reports of children in these facilities exposed to inappropriate sexual contact and 156 reports of physical maltreatment. Further, 44 percent of the facilities reviewed had repeat violations of either physical or sexual maltreatment of children in their care, according to the report.

Devereux Behavioral Health Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Devereux sexual assault cases are an ongoing type of sex abuse litigation. Dozens of former residents have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse occurring over a period of 25 years, according to WHYY.

In late September of 2020 – following an August article in The Philadelphia Inquirer detailing the abuse and six weeks of investigation of the facility – the Philadelphia Department of Human Services and Community Behavioral Health announced that children currently in the care of Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health would be removed from the residential facility.

Sexual Assaults and Harassment in the Workplace

Although there are certain occupational hazards in many lines of work, sexual assault should never be one of them.

Sexual abuse in the workplace is unacceptable under any circumstances. In some cases, employers can be held legally liable – and financially responsible – for matters of workplace sexual assaults or sexual harassment.

An employer has certain responsibilities to employees. Often, providing a work environment that is free from sexual violence can fit under these responsibilities.

Whether the assault was committed by a manager or supervisor, a colleague, an outside vendor or contractor, or some other party, if the employer’s negligence played a role in allowing it to happen, the employer could face a sexual abuse negligence lawsuit.

When the organization employs minors, in particular, its obligations to that young employee are even greater. And so is the need for your family to have skilled legal representation. Our crime victim and sexual abuse lawyers in PA have experience getting six-figure payouts for minors assaulted at work due to an employer’s negligence. We know what a trauma an assault of this nature can be – particularly for a minor – and we know how crucial it is that you get the money you need to afford sexual abuse therapy and treatment.

Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports and Activities

Unfortunately, it’s not always a genuine love of children that drives people to volunteer or work for youth sports leagues and youth activity organizations. Some of these seemingly altruistic individuals are, in fact, sexual predators who use their involvement in these organizations to gain proximity to potential victims.

Children and adult sexual assault and rape survivors have filed lawsuits over sexual abuse youth sports matters in every sport, from gymnastics to football. Outside of youth athletics, the ongoing sexual abuse Boy Scouts cases are among the most widely publicized matters of sexual assaults in youth volunteer organizations.

Sexual Abuse by Clergy

Religious leaders are supposed to act as their congregations’ spiritual guides. But the horrifying truth has emerged that clergymen and clergywomen have used their positions of power to sexually abuse churchgoers – particularly, children and teenagers.

The religious organizations for which these clergies work have been accused of engaging in massive institutional sexual abuse cover-ups that enabled abusers to continue their heinous behaviors.

Both your abuser and the religious organization that allowed the abuse to happen deserve to be held accountable for what they’ve done to you. Our clergy abuse lawyers in PA can make this happen.

Sexual Abuse by Priests in the U.S.

How many sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church have been reported? In the United States, more than 10,000 sexual assault victims have accused more than 4,000 Catholic priests of abuse between 1960 and 2010, according to BBC News – and both allegations of sexual abuse and new lawsuit filings continue to emerge to this day.

These appalling acts of abuse have occurred on a massive scale right here in Pennsylvania.

In 2018, a grand jury report that investigated sexual assaults and abuse in six of the eight Catholic Church dioceses in Pennsylvania – Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton – identified more than 1,000 victims of sexual assaults over a period spanning 70 years, The New York Times reported.

“From available research we now know that in the last 50 years somewhere between 1.5% and 5% of the Catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi wrote in 2009 in an official communication between the Vatican and United Nations Human Rights Council. When you’re talking about tens of thousands of clergy members in the United States alone, that percentage translates to a colossal number of sexual predators.

Can I File a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against the Catholic Church?

In many circumstances, victims sexually abused by priests – as well as bishops, nuns, and other clergy members – have the right to sue the Catholic Church for its role in allowing the abuse to occur. The Catholic Church dioceses in Pennsylvania are currently facing numerous sexual assault lawsuits from victims whose stories are, tragically, much like yours.

If you believe you may have the grounds for an individual or class-action sexual abuse lawsuit against the Catholic Church, you need help from a clergy abuse lawyer in Pennsylvania. We can help you understand your legal rights and options and start putting your claim together, at no upfront cost to you.

Sexual Abuse in Other Religious Organizations

Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has emerged as a major problem, even prompting Pennsylvania and other states to change their laws regarding how long sexual abuse victims have to sue. However, clergy members of a variety of different faiths and denominations have been accused of abusing members of their congregation, particularly children.

In February 2020, for example, USA TODAY reported that the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization appeared to be under investigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. Across the United States, other lawsuits have been filed over sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, according to USA TODAY.

Sexual abuse is never okay, regardless of the abuser’s religious faith or their status within the clergy. Neither is covering up the abuse by insisting that the organization handle sexual abuse allegations internally. Clergy abuse lawyers in PA can move forward with a claim against a religious organization that enabled and attempted to hide abuse, whether that institution was the Catholic Church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or another organization.

Suing Hotels for Sexual Assault

Sexual predators can exist anywhere. That’s one of the reasons why the property owners of certain environments have an obligation to maintain adequate security to protect their guests, visitors, employees, contractors, and others. When a property owners’ inadequate security allows a terrible assault to happen, that company may be sued for negligence.

Hotels are an example of a type of company that may bear liability for a sexual assault. If the hotel lacked appropriate security measures, then the hotel may share some of the blame for the attack, even if it wasn’t committed by hotel staff.

Some examples of inadequate security measures that could enable sexual assaults include:

  • Failing to have operational security cameras on hotel entrances and exits
  • Failing to install secure locks in guest rooms and ensure all locks are in safe working order
  • Failing to install and maintain proper lighting in parking lots and corridors
  • Failing to have security guards on staff, if appropriate

What Are Some Situations in Which You Could Sue a Hotel for Sexual Assault?

You might have a case against the hotel if:

  • You were assaulted by a hotel employee or by a vendor contracted by the hotel
  • You were assaulted in a hotel hallway or another common area of the property
  • You were assaulted in your hotel room by someone who entered without your permission or consent – such as by breaking into the room – and the hotel’s inadequate security contributed to the break-in
  • You were abducted from the hotel and assaulted elsewhere, and the hotel’s lack of security is what allowed your captor to abduct you

Suing Other Property Owners for Inadequate Security

Hotels aren’t the only property owners who can be sued over negligent security measures.

You might also have a case against any of the following types of property owners, if the circumstances of your sexual assault or abuse involved a failure to provide reasonable security:

  • Apartment and condominium complexes
  • Shopping malls
  • Retail stores and restaurants
  • Parking garages
  • Hospitals and medical facilities
  • Workplaces

Determining if the property owner should have done more to protect you from your attacker is a difficult task. Our Pennsylvania sexual assault lawyers can thoroughly investigate the attack and the hotel’s policies, hiring practices, and security measures to identify negligence.

When Can You Sue the Government for Sexual Abuse and Assault?

At times, a government entity may be the one that enables sexual abuse or assault to occur.

The assault may happen:

  • While in the custody of government agents
  • On government premises
  • At the hands of government employees using their work environment or status to prey on others

Sexual abuse victims have filed lawsuits over assaults that occurred in publicly-funded, government-run detention centers; police departments; border camps; and state or local departments of child and family services (DCFS) or child protective services (CPS).

If you suffered sexual abuse by ICE agents, sexual abuse in a detention center, sexual assault by officers while in police custody, or sexual assault while in a state-run residential care facility, you’re not alone. And you don’t have to face it alone, either. Our PA sexual abuse lawyers can help you get access to the care you need and recover the compensation to fund your treatment. Only once you get appropriate care can healing from sexual abuse really begin.

Sexual Assault Lawsuits Against the Military

Sexual abuse in the military is a startlingly common event. Yet there are strict – and often, confusing – limits on who can sue the military for sexual assault or abuse.

How often does sexual assault occur in the military? That’s hard to say due to the widespread and stubborn issue of underreporting. According to the Department of Defense’s Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, 7,623 sexual assaults in which members of the military were either the victim or the alleged perpetrator were reported to Military Services during 2018.

However, the Department of Defense estimates that the full number of Service members who suffered “some kind of contact or penetrative sexual assault” in the military was closer to 20,500. That estimate not only suggests that nearly two-thirds of assaults go unreported but also that the rate of sexual assault in the military is on the rise, increasing sharply from the 14,900 assaults believed to have occurred just two years earlier, in 2016.

The Challenges of Suing the Military for Sexual Assault

The Federal Tort Claims Act allows individuals to pursue a claim against the federal government when harmed “by the wrongful or negligent act of a federal employee acting in the scope of his or her official duties.”

This law applies to acts of sexual assault committed by members of the military – but not, generally, to victims who were on active duty as Service members at the time of the assault.

That’s because a 1950 Supreme Court ruling, Feres v. United States, established that “the Government is not liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries to servicemen where the injuries arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service,” according to the LexisNexis.

If military negligence contributed to you becoming a victim of sexual assault as a private citizen, you likely have the grounds for a claim. But if the same circumstances led to the sexual assault of an active duty Service member, you may run into many more legal obstacles.

That said, don’t give up hope without at least discussing your matter with a Pennsylvania sexual abuse lawyer. The only way to fully understand your legal rights and options is to have an experienced sexual assault injury attorney review the facts of your matter.

When Does Sexual Abuse Happen?

Sexual abuse can occur at any time, day or night. Sometimes it occurs when the victim is isolated, alone with the abuser, and other times it happens even with witnesses present. A sexual abuser may strike at the first available opportunity or build a relationship with the victim – only to later betray their trust.

Whether you suffered years of hidden abuse or a one-time assault, you have legal rights. These rights may include pursuing compensation for the harms you suffered in the form of a lawsuit. A Pennsylvania sexual abuse attorney can preserve and protect these rights and launch the investigation on which your claim will be built.

Who Are Victims of Sexual Abuse?

Who does sexual abuse happen to? Abusers often prey on victims who are vulnerable – whether for some physical or medical reason, because of an imbalance of power or status that favors the abuser, or both.

Sexual Abuse of Children and Students

Legally, children can’t give consent to sexual activity. Sexual activity of any type with a person under the age of consent in Pennsylvania is considered sexual abuse or assault and can result in both criminal consequences and a civil lawsuit against a negligent party.

What Is the Age of Consent in Pennsylvania?

Generally, the age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16 years old.

However, this matter gets a little more complicated. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Pennsylvania law establishes the following restrictions regarding the age of consent to sexual activities:

  • Under no circumstances can a child under the age of 13 give consent to any form of sexual activity. Sexual activity of any kind with a child under age 13 can constitute abuse or assault.
  • Teens aged 13 to 15 can only legally consent to sexual activity with someone who is less than four years older than they are and with whom they are not in an institutional relationship in which an imbalance of power and authority would prevent the minor from legally giving consent.This provision, sometimes called a “Romeo and Juliet” exception, is meant to protect teenagers engaging in consensual and non-exploitative sexual activities from facing criminal charges based strictly upon age. (Non-consensual sexual activities still constitute sexual abuse or assault even if the victim and perpetrator fall within the ages that fit into Romeo and Juliet laws.)
  • At age 16, Pennsylvanians are legally considered able to give consent to sexual activity with a partner of any age – but not if the partner is in a position of power or authority over them.
  • Certain relationships are forbidden under Pennsylvania law regardless of the age of the individuals involved. A relationship between a school teacher or coach and a student, a prison employee and an inmate, or an employee of a group home and a resident is considered “institutional sexual assault” no matter what ages or age differences are involved. That’s because one party’s authority over the other prevents true consent from being given.

Sexual Abuse of Students

Matters of sexual abuse of students often violate laws pertaining to the age of consent, but they don’t have to. Under this concept of institutional sexual assault, sexual relationships between teachers and students are illegal in Pennsylvania even if the student is 16 – or even 18 – years old.

A teacher or school coach is, by definition, in a position of authority over the student. Using that authority for sexual purposes is inappropriate and illegal under Pennsylvania sexual assault and abuse law.

Sexual Abuse of the Elderly

There’s no maximum age of consent. An elderly person who is of sound mind may give consent to sexual activity, as long as the relationship isn’t in violation of age of consent laws or institutional sexual assault laws.

However, that activity constitutes sexual abuse when the senior citizen – aged 60 or older – is “forced, tricked, coerced, or manipulated into unwanted sexual contact,” according to a government Elder Sexual Abuse Training Guide for Law Enforcement.

Since elderly adults may be physically, cognitively, and mentally vulnerable due to medical conditions they develop as they age, they may not be able to resist an abuser using physical force. If that abuser is a caretaker, such as personnel in a nursing home where the victim is a resident, the victim may fear retaliation if they report the abuse or assault.

Further, certain medical conditions may make an older adult legally unable to give consent for sexual activities. For example, a person with advanced dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions that affect cognitive functioning may not have the capacity to consent.

Sexual Abuse of Disabled Persons

Individuals with a disability that significantly impacts their functioning may be targeted by abusers precisely because this disability makes them vulnerable. They may be targeted by caregivers or other employees in a residential care facility.

Sexual abuse of vulnerable adults who are deemed “incapable of consent” because of a mental disability is considered a felony, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Even disabled persons who are considered capable of giving consent may be taken advantage of in instances of institutional sexual assault. A physically disabled person whose cognitive functioning is not impaired may be threatened, coerced, or physically forced into unwanted sexual activities.

The sexual abuse of a disabled person is an outrageous crime – even more so, perhaps, when committed by the very people trusted to care for the vulnerable adult. A care facility that hired the abuser or otherwise neglected to keep the victim safe can face a lawsuit.

Who Causes Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse and assault is a pervasive problem that is committed by all kinds of perpetrators, in all kinds of settings. Sexual abuse injury lawsuits are often filed in response to abuse by perpetrators like the following:

  • School teachers (daycare, preschool, and K-12) and college professors
  • Students (K-12 and college)
  • School sports coaches
  • School counselors
  • School security guards
  • Other school employees
  • Physicians and surgeons
  • Nurses
  • Psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and other mental healthcare workers
  • Physical therapists
  • Healthcare aides and technicians
  • Other medical and healthcare workers
  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare clinics and private practices
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Caretakers
  • Group homes and residential facilities
  • Bosses and supervisors
  • Coworkers
  • Youth sports coaches
  • Youth sports leagues
  • Youth activity organizations and their volunteers
  • Clergy
  • Hotel staff
  • Hotel guests
  • Government employees
  • Government-run facilities and government entities

Why Sexual Abuse Happens

Sexual abuse is inexcusable behavior. It should never happen – ever. But it does.

Addressing and preventing sexual abuse means understanding the factors that can contribute to abuse. These factors include:

  • Age: When age plays a role in sexual assault, power and authority are usually just as important. Whether the victim is a minor or a senior citizen, the abuser is usually relying on the victim’s age making them physically unable to defend themselves and cognitively unable to – or just reluctant to – report the abuse.
  • Physical size and strength: Sexual abuse and assaults are usually committed by a larger or stronger perpetrator against a smaller or weaker victim, rather than being the other way around. The abuser may use physical force to harm, restrain, or incapacitate the victim or threaten them into submission.
  • Authority & institutional sexual assault: When a person in authority misuses that power and influence to abuse those they are in charge of – whether as a student, patient, resident, employee, or other relationship – they are engaging in an improper sexual relationship under Pennsylvania law, specifically laws pertaining to institutional sexual assault.
  • Coercion & manipulation: It’s not always physical force and threats that abusers use to get away with their misconduct. An abuser can pressure you to go along with their actions or keep the assaults to yourself through many different forms, including blaming you for the abuse or telling you no one will believe your report. Often, abusers rely on their authority and influence to coerce victims into doing what they want or into not reporting the abuse.

No factor, no story, no excuse makes sexual abuse in any way acceptable.

You may think, because of the lies your abuser told you, that no one will understand or be on your side.

That’s not true. In healthcare, mental health, and the legal world, there are professionals specially trained to provide sexual abuse victim help.

Wherever you start – seeking medical care from a sexual assault nurse examiner, therapy from a sexual abuse counselor, or legal assistance from an experienced sex abuse team of attorneys and investigators – you fully deserve caring and compassionate support.

How Sexual Assault Victims Can Get Justice

A sexual assault can lead to two types of legal consequences: criminal charges and – in certain situations – civil lawsuits for sexual abuse compensation.

In a criminal case, the perpetrator of the abuse or assault can face criminal penalties, such as jail time. In a civil matter, the outcome the victim is seeking is financial compensation for the harm the abuse has caused.

Despite their differences, both forms of serving justice are invaluable in helping survivors of sexual abuse and assault get their lives back.

How a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Is Different From Criminal Charges

A sexual abuse survivor should receive justice in all of the possible ways available to them. If you have the chance to pursue criminal charges against your abuser or assailant, you should absolutely do so.

However, you need to know that, however much seeing your attacker go to prison brings you closure or makes you feel safer, that consequence will not directly help you to recover from sexual abuse. Their criminal penalties don’t make sexual abuse therapy any easier to access or cheaper to afford. Only sexual abuse compensation, secured through a personal injury lawsuit, will accomplish that aim of making you financially whole – which can, in turn, help you feel closer to being whole in physical and emotional ways.

Is Sexual Abuse a Crime?

Sex abuse is absolutely a crime. In fact, Pennsylvania identifies 8 distinct types of sex crimes, according to RAINN.

What are sexual abuse charges in Pennsylvania?

  • Rape
  • Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
  • Sexual assault
  • Statutory sexual assault
  • Aggravated indecent assault
  • Indecent assault
  • Institutional sexual assault
  • Sexual assault by sports official, volunteer, or employee of nonprofit association

Sexual abuse charges may include both the crime of which an individual is accused and a degree, or grade of the crime. The degree of crime with which a person is charged depends on factors like the severity or extent of their guilt. Generally, first-degree crimes are more serious and carry harsher sentences than second-degree crimes, which are more serious than third-degree crimes. Crimes that constitute sexual abuse felony charges are also considered more serious criminal violations than misdemeanors.

Some sex crimes are always considered a crime of a certain degree. For example, rape is considered a first-degree felony in Pennsylvania, according to RAINN. However, certain other factors, like the age of the victim and whether the victim sustains “serious bodily injury,” can affect the maximum sexual abuse jail time sentence and any mandatory minimum sentence that applies.

Jail Time for Sexual Abuse

How much jail time for sexual abuse can you expect your abuser to face? That all depends entirely on the unique facts of your case.

If convicted of rape in Pennsylvania, a person can face up to 20 years of imprisonment generally and up to 40 years if the victim was a child under age 13.

However, if convicted of sexual assault but not rape, the maximum amount of jail time for this sex crime charge is 10 years. Abusers convicted of crimes of a lower degree, or of misdemeanors, may spend even less time behind bars.

Convicted abusers may also be ordered to pay fines. Victims should know, though, that the fines their abuser pays won’t necessarily help them personally. That’s why civil lawsuits are important.

Are There Any Differences Between Criminal and Civil Standards in Sexual Abuse Cases?

In large part because criminal charges can leave an offender facing jail time and other penalties, the standards needed to prove criminal charges are higher than what’s required to prove a civil claim for damages.

  • To win a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove the perpetrator’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
  • To succeed in a civil lawsuit, you only have to prove that the defendant (not necessarily the perpetrator of the assault) acted negligently based on a “preponderance of the evidence” – generally, that the likelihood of the claim being true is higher than 50 percent.

The standard required to prove criminal charges is considerably higher. The result is that survivors of sexual abuse may succeed in getting compensation for their civil claims even if there isn’t enough evidence for prosecutors to secure a criminal conviction.

How Often Are Sexual Assault Charges Dropped?

Unfortunately, few perpetrators of sexual assault actually wind up in jail. Just 5 out of every 1,000 perpetrators of sexual assaults receive a criminal conviction and face jail time, according to RAINN.

The biggest reason for the lack of criminal consequences for rapists and sexual abusers isn’t that the charges are dropped, but that the assaults were never reported in the first place. Just 230 out of 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. When these attacks go unreported, there’s no chance of the perpetrator facing a trial or jail time for their actions.

That said, only about 20 percent of the sexual assaults that are reported to police – 46 out of the 230 reported assaults – will prompt an arrest of the perpetrator. That means fewer than 5 percent of the original 1,000 assaults will even get this far.

Of those 46 arrests, only 9 cases will progress to the extent that they are referred to a prosecutor. That’s about 20 percent of arrests for sexual assault, and just 0.9 percent of the original 1,000 sexual assaults, that get prosecuted. Although there may have been enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant, there may not be sufficient evidence to keep moving forward with the case and pursue a criminal conviction.

About half of the sexual assault cases that are referred to a prosecutor (5 out of 9) end in a felony conviction. That’s just 0.5 percent – in other words, just one-half of one percent.

The likelihood that the person who abused you may never see the inside of a jail cell makes it even more important that you pursue accountability in all ways in which it is available to you. Most victims will have to come to terms with the fact that their abuser may not face the criminal consequences they really deserve.

You can’t always depend on a criminal conviction to get you closure – and even if one occurs, it won’t erase the trauma you endured. A compassionate and experienced sexual abuse counselor can help you find ways to heal, to reduce the severity and frequency of distressing feelings and symptoms, and to move forward with your life in spite of the pain you have been through. A lawsuit can help put therapy in reach.

What Are My Legal Options in My Sexual Abuse or Assault Case?

In addition to reporting the assault to the police, which can lead to a criminal case against your abuser, you may have the option of pursuing a civil sexual abuse lawsuit in Pennsylvania.

Who You Would Sue in a Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Generally, the primary purpose of a civil personal injury lawsuit is to seek financial compensation for the harms (financial and otherwise) that you suffered. For a lawsuit to be successful in actually getting you that money, the defendant named in your case must have a way to pay for that compensation.

That’s why sexual abuse lawsuits in Pennsylvania are usually filed against organizations, rather than against individual perpetrators only. These organizations may be covered by business liability insurance policies that can pay you compensation, while a private individual might not have the financial means to pay your settlement.

Examples of Negligence in Sexual Abuse Cases

When you sue an organization over sexual assault, an assertion of negligence may be the grounds for your claim.

You might sue an organization for negligence on a basis like the following:

  • The entity put your safety at risk by negligently hiring workers or recruiting volunteers who went on to abuse you. Negligent hiring practices may include failing to run a background check, hiring a worker in spite of concerns raised in the background check, or ignoring indicators of a candidate’s capacity for sexual abuse.
  • The organization failed to have in place policies on preventing, reporting, or responding to sexual abuse. This may include neglecting to train employees on their obligation to and methods of reporting abuse.
  • The organization failed to protect you by committing systemic cover-ups of abuse by those within the institution. Often, organizations cover up abuse by failing to report abuse to the authorities, “handling” reports of abuse in-house without a thorough investigation or disciplinary action against the perpetrator, moving or reassigning a perpetrator (which allows them to continue the behavior), and threatening or coercing victims to keep the abuse a secret.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the negligent actions that can lead to sexual assault. Just as the details of every survivor’s story are different, so are the precise arguments a Pennsylvania sexual assault lawyer might make in your claim.

Reporting Sexual Abuse

Whether you’re pursuing criminal consequences, a civil lawsuit, or both, the first step is to report the sexual abuse to someone. Only then can victims get help with sexual abuse matters.

Where to Report Sexual Abuse

You should always report sexual abuse to the authorities – the police – so that an investigation by an outside party, rather than the organization itself, can begin.

In the event that the organization that allowed your abuse to occur is the police department, such as a rape you suffered while in police custody, you would make sure to submit a written complaint to the Internal Affairs Division of the police department as well as the chief of police, according to USA.gov.

In Pennsylvania, there’s a special 24/7 hotline for reporting child sexual abuse, called CHILDLINE. You can reach CHILDLINE by calling 1-800-932-0313. You can also call 9-1-1, because sexual abuse and assault is an emergency that warrants urgent response and intervention.

You should also report sexual abuse or violence to the institution. However, given the number of institutional sexual abuse cover-ups that have occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, you shouldn’t treat reporting the assault to the organization as a substitute for reporting the assault to the authorities. When institutions are left to investigate themselves, some would rather sweep abuse under the rug – and let it continue – then do the right thing.

Finally, it’s important to report the abuse to an attorney if you may want to move forward with a sexual abuse lawsuit. An attorney who has experience handling matters of sexual assault and abuse will provide a caring and supportive environment for you to discuss the abuse and its impact on your life. You should know that a Pennsylvania sexual abuse attorney won’t charge you anything for an initial consultation or case review and will go over your rights and options with you for free.

Once a lawyer understands what occurred, the legal team can launch a thorough investigation into the institution’s practices, policies, and history. Sometimes all it takes to expose a years-long pattern of widespread abuse is one brave survivor being willing to come forward.

When to Report Sexual Abuse

The best time to report abuse is right after it happens. Any physical evidence that exists from the crime is still available for police and investigators to acquire. Witnesses can be tracked down. The perpetrator just may be stopped before anyone else can get hurt. And you can begin the road to sexual abuse recovery sooner rather than later.

But in the real world, there are dozens of reasons why abuse may not be reported right away. Some of these reasons include:

  • Wanting to avoid distressing thoughts and memories of the abuse or assault by “putting it behind you,” whether or not that effort actually works
  • Fearing that you will be blamed, judged, or “in trouble” for what happened
  • Panicking or feeling in shock
  • Not feeling safe to come forward or fearing you will not be believed
  • Feeling confused, disoriented, or unsure of what happened, especially if you were drugged or otherwise incapacitated at the time of the assault
  • Not being able to put into words what happened to you, especially if you were a child at the time the abuse occurred
  • Not wanting to get your abuser in trouble, especially if the perpetrator was someone you previously trusted or admired

Even if you’re dealing with sexual abuse years later, it may not be too late to take a stand. At the time, your abuser silenced you. But you don’t have to keep this secret anymore. You’re not the one to blame – the abuser is, along with their protector, the organization that sheltered abusers instead of stopping them.

Reporting sexual abuse years later can be difficult, but it can also be healing. And, when that report is what helps you pursue criminal charges against your abuser and get the sexual abuse compensation you need and deserve, the closure telling the truth can bring you is worth it.

Moving Forward With a Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Case

Pursuing a Pennsylvania sexual abuse lawsuit isn’t easy, emotionally speaking – especially if you’ve been trying your best to avoid any reminders of the abuse. But our knowledgeable sex abuse team of attorneys and legal professionals will do all we can to make it easier.

  • We’ll listen to your story with a compassionate ear during a confidential and completely free consultation.
  • We will answer your questions about the legal process, your rights, and what to expect.
  • We will undertake a thorough investigation to uncover the truth about how the institution dealt with – or failed to deal with – sexual abuse.
  • We will use any evidence we uncover of the institution’s negligence or any pattern of enabling and covering up abuse to prove your claim for compensation.
  • We will do all that we can to ensure that you’re getting the care you need to recover physically and emotionally to the greatest extent possible. If you’re having trouble accessing care, let us know, and we’ll see if there’s any way we can help.
  • We will handle every aspect of your legal matter, walk you through any legal proceedings that require your direct involvement, and stand up for your legal rights every step of the way.
  • We will fight for the maximum amount of money available to you while keeping in mind your wishes and preferences, such as whether you would prefer to settle your claim or face your abuser in court.

Support starts with a simple phone call or a click. Contact us today. Together, we’ll get your life back.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Lawyers?

If you’re thinking all of this help sounds expensive, here’s the good news: Pennsylvania abuse lawyers handle claims on a no-win, no-fee basis.

This means:

  • The consultation and initial case review are completely free and risk-free. You can decide that you don’t want to move forward with a case, and you still owe nothing.
  • You pay nothing out of pocket for legal representation throughout the course of your case, from the day you hire us to represent you to the day your case closes.
  • You pay nothing upfront for the legal costs of pursuing your claim, including legal filing fees and the services of expert witnesses, because we advance these costs for you.
  • You only pay when and if we secure financial compensation for you, not before.
  • You will only ever pay a percentage of the money we get for you. If your claim isn’t successful, you owe nothing.
  • Since we have to get you money before we get paid and we make more money when we get more money for you, you can rest assured that our goals for your case are aligned with yours – to get you the most money possible.

It won’t cost you so much as a dollar out of your pocket to have an attorney review your case or to officially hire us as your legal representation. You only pay after we succeed in settling your case or winning you a jury award at trial, and you will only owe a fraction of the money we’ve gotten for you.

How Long Do You Have to Sue for Sexual Abuse?

The time you have to sue for sexual abuse in Pennsylvania is changing. For survivors of sexual abuse and assault, that’s a good thing.

For years, victims of child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania could only pursue compensation if they filed a lawsuit by the time they turned 30, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Given how long it can take a victim to come to terms with a trauma like sexual abuse and how severely abuse can impact every aspect of your life, that’s nowhere long enough. Add to this the fact that many survivors of institutional sexual abuse cover-ups are afraid to come forward with allegations against influential entities and organizations, and it’s easy to see how this prior statute barred too many victims from getting justice.

By the time the news broke about allegations of widespread abuse – for example, in the Catholic Church, Glen Mills reform school, the Boy Scouts, and more – many victims were told it was too late to come forward.

That’s just not fair. The far-reaching impacts of childhood sexual abuse don’t just stop when you turn 30. So why should your right to sue end then?

Under new legislation signed in November 2019, the state of Pennsylvania extends the statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit over child sexual abuse to age 55. This law also completely does away with any statutes of limitations on pursuing criminal charges, whereas the deadline for criminal prosecution in these cases used to be the victim’s 50th birthday.

Adult victims of sexual assault or abuse typically have just two years to file a lawsuit in Pennsylvania. However, under the new laws, young adults who were abused between the ages of 18 and 23 would have until they turn 30 to sue.

It’s never a good idea to wait to start pursuing your Pennsylvania sexual abuse lawsuit matter. Not only do you have legal deadlines to worry about, but there’s also the risk that evidence could get lost during the years of delay. A meticulous investigation is crucial to proving that the entity that allowed the abuse to occur was negligent.

If you’re ready to hold your abuser accountable for the harm they have inflicted on your life, call (215) 225-2040 and speak with one of our Pennsylvania sexual assault lawyers today.

You’re Not Alone: Sexual Abuse Statistics

Often, victims of sexual assault feel isolated by the trauma they have been through. They should know that they’re not alone – far from it, in fact (and unfortunately).

How Often Does Sexual Abuse Occur?

Sexual abuse rates in America are alarmingly high. According to RAINN, 433,648 Americans age 12 or older and 60,000 children under 12 suffered some form of sexual assault, according to RAINN. So did 18,900 military personnel and 80,600 inmates.

All in all, a sexual assault happens every 73 seconds in the United States, according to RAINN’s sexual abuse facts and statistics. Females are sexually assaulted at a much higher rate than males, accounting for 90 percent of rape victims. Rape (completed or attempted) affects 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the United States.

The age group with the highest rate of sexual assault is age 18 to 34, which accounts for 54 percent of assaults, and the majority of sexual assault victims are under age 30, RAINN reported. College-age young adults, whether or not they are actually college students, are at a high risk, and transgender college students are at an especially high risk of sexual violence.

How Many Sexual Abuse Cases Go Unreported?

More than three-quarters of all sexual assaults go unreported to the police, according to RAINN. That adds up to hundreds of thousands of unreported assaults.

Some groups of victims are more likely to report sexual abuse and assault than others. Among college-age female victims, 32 percent of non-students report sexual assaults, but just 20 percent of students do. Report rates are higher than the average among female members of the military, at 43 percent, but lower among male Service members, at just 10 percent.

The relationship between the victim and their abuser also affects the rate at which assaults are reported. Statistically, sexual assaults committed by strangers are the most likely to be reported to the police, but they still go unreported in 54 percent of cases, according to the National Institute of Justice. Sexual assaults committed by friends or acquaintances go unreported 61 percent of the time, and assaults by current or former romantic partners go unreported in 77 percent of cases.

Sexual abuse is common, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. Perpetrators deserve to face the consequences of their crimes, and the institutions that protect them deserve to pay for their role in causing victims serious harm.

For survivors, sexual abuse help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Sexual Abuse and Assault FAQs

Is Sexual Abuse Trauma?

If you never confronted your memories of sexual abuse, you may wonder why you could never just “get over it,” no matter how hard you tried. Sexual abuse and assault aren’t just one “bad thing” – or even a series of bad things – that happened to you. Sexual abuse is a trauma.

A trauma can be any sort of terrible, terrifying, or shocking event that may cause you to feel that your life or your safety is at risk. The sexual abuse or assault you suffered certainly fits the bill, as do events like war, serious accidents, and natural disasters. What is traumatic to one person might not be traumatic to another person, but most people would agree that sexual abuse – particularly, when suffered as a child – is a deeply traumatic experience.

A trauma response can include things like having intense flashbacks of the event that seem and feel real, even if it happened years ago. Trauma can bring about emotional, cognitive, and physiological symptoms. You might struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety, or you might feel “numb” and detached. Some trauma survivors feel like they have trouble with their memories, concentration, and thinking clearly. PTSD can even cause physical symptoms and changes.

For sexual abuse victims, therapy can be life-changing. Traumatic experiences can’t be erased, but they can be processed with evidence-based therapies and interventions, under the direction and support of trained and licensed mental health professionals. Your symptoms can be made manageable so that you can feel like you are in control of your life again.

Are Sexual Abuse Settlements Taxable?

Suppose you do get a sexual abuse settlement. Will you ever even see the compensation awarded to you, or will you have to pay it all back in legal fees and taxes paid to the government?

Whether your sexual abuse settlement is taxable depends on the precise circumstances of your situation – in particular, whether you’re suing primarily for personal physical injuries or for emotional distress.

This seemingly small detail matters because the IRS distinguishes between personal physical injuries and emotional distress that doesn’t result from a physical injury when it comes to figuring out tax obligations.

  • The IRS considers payouts for personal physical injuries – and any emotional distress or mental anguish those physical injuries cause – to be generally non-taxable.
  • If the harm you suffered was due mainly to the emotional distress and mental anguish of the traumatic experience rather than a documented physical injury, your settlement could be taxed as income.

Because the matter of how sexual abuse settlements are taxed is so complicated, it’s important to have a Pennsylvania sexual assault lawyer who will guide you through the entire process, including what to expect tax-wise. An attorney experienced in these matters may negotiate not only how much you will receive but also how the settlement is broken down and addressed for tax purposes.

The other thing you should know is that the cost of your legal representation isn’t an astronomical figure that climbs by an exorbitant amount for every hour your legal team spends on your case and each phone call you have with your attorney. Instead, what you pay in attorneys’ fees is limited to a fraction of the financial settlement or jury award your lawyer gets for you. You don’t have to worry about spending more money to pursue your claim than you’ll actually win in a settlement.

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