St. Louis Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Child sexual abuse is a horrendous act that impacts survivors for decades after their trauma. Many victims require extensive counseling to deal with the mental and emotional scars left by sexual abuse. If you suspect a child you know has suffered sexual abuse, report to the police immediately. If the child is in immediate physical danger, call 911 to send police to the scene. If the child is not in imminent danger of further harm, you can file a report online with the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services or call their hotline at 1-800-392-3738.
If you are an adult survivor of child sexual abuse or your child has been victimized, Missouri law entitles you to seek compensation from the abuser for damages, beyond any criminal penalties the abuser might receive.
Contact the knowledgeable and compassionate child sexual abuse attorneys at Bruning Law Firm for a confidential, no-obligation consultation to discuss your child sexual abuse case and determine the best path to recover compensation given your circumstances.
Defining Child Sexual Abuse in Missouri
Although you may have your own idea about what conduct constitutes sexual abuse of a child, if you bring a lawsuit against an abuser, you must show their conduct falls under Missouri’s legal definition of sexual abuse.
A person who subjects another to sexual contact by force or when their victim is incapacitated or unable to consent is guilty of child sexual abuse. Under Missouri law, anyone under age 13 cannot give consent for sexual contact. On the other hand, teenagers 14 and older can consent to sex, at least within certain age limits. Specifically, teenagers between 14 and 16 can consent to sexual contact with people up to four years their senior but cannot consent to sexual contact with anyone 21 or older.
Child sexual abuse is often used to describe a wide range of sexual acts against children.
Although Missouri law does not enumerate the following in its definition of sexual abuse, these sexual offenses against children may also provide grounds to bring a lawsuit against the perpetrator or abuser:
- Child molestation refers to the sexual touching of a child and typically does not include penetration.
- Sexual misconduct occurs when an adult shows their genitals to a child who is 15 or under or coerces a child under age 15 to show their genitals or breasts.
- Sexual contact with a student is any sexual offense committed by a teacher, school employee, school volunteer, school district employee, or an employee subcontracted to work at a school.
- Sexual trafficking of a child specifically applies to children under the age of 12 recruited by force, fraud, abduction, or other criminal means to participate in commercial sex acts, sexual performances, or create child pornography.
Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse can be limited to one event. But, unfortunately, abusers often groom and repeatedly touch, rape, or engage in other sexual offenses with a child. Sometimes, child victims suffer abuse for months or years of their childhood without coming forward because they fear retaliation from their abuser. It is common for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to confront their abusers as they work through their trauma in therapy. However, they may not be able to take action until they are much older.
Missouri once required child sexual abuse victims to take legal action within ten years of their 18th birthday. However, accusations against abusive priests and bishops in the Roman Catholic Church have sparked changes in the law throughout the nation. As of 2018, Missouri has dropped all statutes of limitations for sexual offenses committed against those under age 18. If you are a child sexual abuse survivor, you have the right to seek justice even if you suffered your abuse decades ago.
Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Louis
Astoundingly, several thousand Catholic priests have been accused, arrested, and/or convicted of sexual abuse against children in their parishes. More than 100 of those priests served in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. If a clergy member abused you as a child, you have the right to sue and receive compensation for the damages you suffered as a result of the trauma. You can learn more about the accused and the churches where they served here. Child sexual abuse, whether committed by clergy or anyone else, has long-term consequences for survivors, and abusers should be held accountable.
Long-Term Consequences for Child Sexual Abuse Survivors
Personal injury cases involving child sexual abuse differ from cases involving traffic accidents, slip and fall accidents, workplace injuries, and other common accidents and injuries. Sexual abuse can include physical harm; however, the emotional distress and psychological trauma from the abuse often dwarfs the physical injury associated with a sexual offense.
According to the American Counseling Association (ACA), child sexual abuse survivors face the following long-term consequences:
The ACA warns that depression is the top long-term condition that survivors of child sexual abuse suffer. Children internalize the violation of their bodies and think negatively about themselves. People display different symptoms of depression, but those commonly associated with child sexual abuse include feelings of deep sadness, suicidal thoughts, sleep troubles, and eating disorders.
After suffering child sexual abuse, many survivors blame themselves and feel guilty about being sexually abused. Self-blame and feelings of shame and guilt are especially prominent when the child holds their abuser in high regard and trusts them, such as a teacher, coach, priest, or family member. Survivors have difficulty seeing their abuser in a negative light, so they struggle to hold them accountable. Shame also leads to self-harm and suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Child sexual abuse is a violation of the body that leaves some children feeling defiled, ugly, and shameful about the appearance of their bodies. Without therapy to work through the trauma, body issues stemming from sexual abuse sometimes lead to anorexia, bulimia, obesity, and other eating disorders.
The ACA states that several studies about childhood sexual abuse show survivors suffer Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many symptoms are similar to those that war veterans face after service. PTSD may manifest in multiple ways, including increased anxiety, panic attacks, and severe phobias related to the specific types of sexual abuse they suffered.
Child sexual abuse victims may dissociate themselves from the abuse to emotionally detach from the experience. This coping mechanism is especially common for those who have suffered abuse for months or years. Some survivors face dissociation when they are adults, especially as a reaction to an unsafe or threatening person or situation. Dissociation also includes confusion, nightmares, and flashbacks. Some even deny or repress the abuse they suffer, which is why adults do not remember their abuse until they are much older.
Child sexual abuse is not only a physical violation of a child’s body, but it violates the trust a child places with another person in their life. When that trust is broken by sexual abuse, victims can have difficulties placing trust in others in the future. These trust issues often create problems with creating and maintaining relationships later in life. Many survivors struggle to set healthy boundaries in their romantic relationships, family relationships, and friendships. Similarly, child sexual abuse survivors may be vulnerable to abusive relationships because they loved and trusted the person who abused them.
Child sexual abuse survivors may also be afflicted by sexual dysfunction when they reach adulthood. The symptoms vary from person to person, but they often exist alongside other conditions such as dissociation and depression. Survivors might avoid sex, fear sex, or exhibit and experience a wide range of negative emotions when thinking about or engaging in sex. Additionally, some suffer physical detriments, such as the inability to get aroused or to climax. Finally, other survivors’ sexual dysfunction might skew in the other direction, in that they compulsively engage in high-risk sexual behavior, such as unsafe sex with multiple partners.
The mental consequences of child sexual abuse do not go away easily. Many need extensive therapy to eliminate symptoms or learn how to manage symptoms. Child sexual abuse survivors may experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and symptoms of PTSD that not only interfere with their personal lives, but also can prevent survivors from engaging in meaningful employment or completing daily tasks.
If you have survived child sexual abuse, you are not alone. However, you may need therapy and other medical treatment to move on with your life, and you should not have to bear the economic burden of any such treatment and other expenses because someone violated you. You deserve compensation to help you pay for the counseling and treatment you need to work through your trauma. An experienced St. Louis child sexual abuse lawyer can help.
Criminal Cases vs. Civil Cases for Sexual Abuse
Under Missouri law, child sexual abusers may face both civil and criminal legal consequences. The criminal and civil processes are independently handled. If you have reported your abuse or your child’s abuse to law enforcement or the Department of Social Services, the State may bring criminal charges against the abuser and it may ask you to testify in a criminal trial against the abuser. Separately, you may bring a civil lawsuit against the abuser for compensation.
Civil cases sometimes trigger criminal charges. If you have not yet reported your child sexual abuse to the authorities, the St. Louis circuit attorney may bring charges against your abuser once you bring a civil lawsuit.
It is your choice whether or not to file a civil lawsuit against your abuser; the outcome of a criminal trial does not prevent you from filing a lawsuit. Suing your abuser means you seek compensation for the physical, mental, and financial damages you suffered because they sexually abused you. If you win your case, it does not mean your abuser has to pay a fine or go to jail—these penalties may only result from the outcome of any criminal case brought against them. Instead, winning your case means you can receive compensation for the harms you have suffered, in the form of a settlement or court-awarded damages.
Bruning Law Firm Helps Child Sexual Abuse Survivors
If you are the parent or guardian of a child who has suffered sexual abuse, or you are an adult survivor of child sexual abuse, facing the trauma can be overwhelming. The skilled legal team at Bruning Law Firm has decades of experience helping clients who have been harmed by others, and we can help you through this difficult time.
We cannot undo the abuse you endured, but we can help you seek the justice you deserve and the compensation to fund the treatment you need to continue to work through your trauma. Specific services we can provide include:
Investigating Your Abuse
We can investigate your child abuse claim to build a strong case against your abuser while taking every precaution to keep your case and your identity confidential. Investigations include various activities and differ for each case.
However, common investigative steps include: gathering police reports, collecting medical records and other documentation of the abuse, speaking to witnesses who reported or suspected the sexual abuse, and consulting with experts who can confirm the extent of your abuse and the associated long-term consequences.
Negotiating a Settlement
Child sexual abuse survivors and their families may, understandably, want to avoid having a case drag on any longer than necessary, and thus pursue settlement negotiations to reach an agreement without going to trial. Other times, survivors want and need to face their abuser in court, so settlement is not an option. The attorneys at Bruning Law Firm are here to guide you on the best path and help you hold the abuse financially liable for the harm they caused you, whether through a settlement or in court.
Litigating Your Case in Court, if Necessary
In situations when a case goes to trial, our experienced personal injury attorneys will advocate for you and present your case to the court. This includes months of pre-trial preparation to ensure you have the best chance of receiving a verdict in your favor.
If you or your child has suffered sexual abuse and live in the Greater St. Louis area, contact the compassionate and experienced attorneys at Bruning Law Firm online or call (314) 735-8100 to determine your next steps.
The Bruning Law Firm
555 Washington Ave Ste 600A,
“AJ and team were so delightful to work with. They were very responsive to all emails and phone calls. I always knew which step we were on in the process of getting my lawsuit settled. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the amount the settlement was for was twice that of the original coverage of the insurance company. I don’t know how they did it but I am very pleased with the service they provided. Hands down easiest process, and people to deal with. 100% recommend if you have a personal injury case to be worked. Hopefully I won’t need their services again, but if I do I won’t hesitate to call.” – Amanda W. Rating: 5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ February 2020 Read more reviews on Google!