Sexual Abuse Lawyer in Texas and Louisiana
At Attorney Tom, we want to help victims of sexual abuse in Texas and Louisiana seek justice. Our goal is to help hold abusers accountable while helping abuse victims pursue meaningful compensation. If you or a loved one have suffered sexual abuse, contact our office today. We can discuss your situation and your legal options.
What Is Sexual Abuse?
There are some common misconceptions surrounding sexual abuse. Many people mistakenly believe that sexual abuse must be violent or that abusers tend to be strangers. In fact, sexual abuse is any form of sexual contact that is non-consensual, including touching and non-touching interactions.
Child sexual abuse is any sexual interaction between an adult and a minor. The age of consent in Louisiana and Texas is 17. Those younger than 17 cannot legally consent to sexual interactions with adults in most circumstances. Data indicates that 93 percent of childhood victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. Only 10 percent of children are sexually abused by a stranger.
What Are the Most Common Examples of Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse comes in many forms. Again, sexual abuse is not always about violence or sexual penetration. Numerous types of interactions may constitute sexual abuse. Examples can include:
- Attempted rape
- Forced masturbation
- Masturbation in the presence of a minor
- Inappropriate touching
- Indecent exposure
- Creating or manufacturing child pornography
- Sex trafficking
- Sexual contact with an individual unable to give consent (drunk or drugged)
- Threatening or pressuring someone to engage in sexual contact (coercion)
Many cases of sexual abuse go unreported. Abusers often threaten their victims to keep them silent. Victims, especially children, may fear the stigma and repercussions that follow reporting sexual abuse. When an abuser is someone the person knows or trusts, it may be significantly harder to address the damaging behavior.
Identifying the Signs of Sexual Abuse
Since those suffering from sexual abuse may be afraid to come forward, it helps to learn how to identify the potential signs of sexual abuse in family, friends, and children. Signs can include:
- Avoiding specific people or places
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Low self-esteem
- Keeping secrets
- Sexual behavior inappropriate for a child’s age
- Regressive behaviors
- Development of sexually transmitted infections
- Unexplained signs of trauma to the genital area
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Sudden changes in behavior can signal deep problems. If you believe something feels off about a loved one’s behavior, especially a child, trust your instincts and seek help.
Consequences of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is life-changing and can lead to physical and emotional scars. Short-term consequences of abuse can include physical injuries, sexually transmitted infections, and depression. Long-term effects of sexual abuse can include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Risk for developing substance abuse
- Risky sexual behaviors
- Increased risk for perpetrating sexual violence
- Increased risk for suicide
- Unwanted pregnancy
- Trust issues
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that individuals who experienced childhood sexual abuse are at twice the risk for falling into non-sexual intimate partner violence later in life.
Who Can Be Liable for Sexual Abuse?
Numerous sources indicate most sexual abusers know their victims. The younger the victim, the more likely their abuser will be a trusted adult or authority figure. However, both individuals and organizations can be held responsible for sexual abuse in civil court. Perpetrators of sexual abuse can include:
- Church leaders
- Club leaders (such as Boy Scouts)
- Camp counselors
- Foster care parents
- Childcare providers
- Family members
Sexual Abuse by the Clergy
Religious institutions are supposed to be safe harbors for individuals. However, there are numerous, well-documented reports of clergy and religious leaders committing acts of violence and sexual abuse, especially against children. At least 286 priests in Texas have faced credible accusations of sexual abuse from Catholic dioceses throughout the state. However, some reports indicate there are many more alleged abusers within the Catholic Church than what the diocese publicly reports.
In Louisiana, the Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to explore reports of sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in New Orleans. Victims of abuse perpetrated by clergy members have banded together to hold the Church accountable via the legal system.
Pursuing Compensation for Sexual Abuse
In some cases, you may be able to pursue compensation for sexual abuse. An abuse victim can file a civil lawsuit against an individual or organization seeking damages for financial losses and pain and suffering.
The civil legal system differs from the criminal justice system. The state prosecutes criminal cases, meaning a prosecutor files the lawsuit in court, not the victim. To be convicted of a criminal violation, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual committed the offense. A person found guilty of a criminal offense faces punishment in the form of prison time or fines.
Civil cases involve a dispute between two parties, meaning the victim of sexual abuse can bring a lawsuit against an alleged abuser. Instead of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the perpetrator is guilty, you must only prove liability through the preponderance of the evidence. The preponderance of evidence means it is more likely than not that something occurred a certain way. It is a lower burden of proof than in criminal cases. Additionally, civil cases are not about doling out punishment. They are about compensating a victim monetarily for their losses.
Compensation that may be available through a sexual abuse civil lawsuit may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
In some situations, a victim may also be eligible for punitive damages. Punitive damages do not compensate a victim for a specific loss. Instead, punitive damages are supposed to help prevent similar behavior from the individual in the future.
Seek Justice with an Experienced Sexual Abuse Attorney
Have your or a loved one suffered sexual abuse? You deserve justice. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation and let an experienced attorney with Attorney Tom help you navigate this challenging time. Call our office today at (713) 244-6363.