Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of a child is an abhorrent crime and can have devastating consequences for the survivor. It can cause psychological and emotional damage as well as physical harm. There are certain types of abuse that can constitute a criminal act in which those who suffer from it should report the incident to the police.

Over the years, there have been reports of teachers and priests taking advantage of impressionable children who look up to these individuals and are too frightened to speak up. Fortunately, these people are getting exposed, and survivors are speaking up and shining a light on the pain and abuse they have suffered.

Coming forward with the trauma you have experienced can be stressful. To help you figure out your best course of action, it is best to consult with a lawyer who knows how to handle these situations and will protect you and your identity.

How Much Time Do I Have to File a Sexual Abuse Claim?

The state of New Jersey takes a strong stance against those who commit sexual abuse on a child. In 2019, the state passed a significant piece of legislation that makes it easier for survivors to come forward, particularly those who may have been holding their truth for years. The law:

  • Extends the statute of limitations to seven years in most sex abuse cases.
  • Allows survivors abused as minors to file suit until 55 years old or within seven years of first discovering that the abuse caused them harm.
  • Created a two-year window for all survivors, no matter their age, to file a sexual abuse claim if they had been barred previously.

The law came about because of a rash of sexual abuse claims committed by members of the church, Boy Scouts of America, and several schools against minors. The goal is for survivors to have a better opportunity to bring their abusers to justice.

What are Types of Sexual Abuse?

Predators often use their position to gain access to vulnerable children. The impact may be so devastating that some survivors do not remember it clearly, or they do not come forward until many years later.

Clergy abuse and sexual abuse that occurs at school may take many forms, including:

  • Unwanted touching, with or without clothing
  • Sexual threats
  • Sexual harassment
  • Indecent exposure
  • Lewd acts or comments
  • Molestation
  • Statutory rape
  • Sexual assault

Abusers manipulate their targets into thinking that the incident might be their fault. They will use that guilt to silence them and give themselves cover to continue the abuse on others.

What Atmosphere can Promote Sexual Abuse?

The right circumstances must be present for someone to attempt to exert authority over another, especially a minor. These individuals must be emboldened by those around them. They are held within a high regard by the people that they serve.

When there has been a history of covering up or hiding unpleasant incidents in the past, that could be a sign that a situation even as severe as sexual abuse will also be ignored. The individual in question could be in a position where they rule their classroom or church with a level of authoritarianism in which everyone is blindly loyal to them.

What are Signs of Abuse?

When a child is abused, it could be a terrible secret that they feel compelled never to reveal. However, it still bothers them, and they might not be the same person they were before. As a parent, it is important that you notice the potential signs of abuse in your child’s behavior. Those signs include:

  • An uncharacteristic and sudden decline in academic performance.
  • Reluctance to come to school or attend specific classes.
  • Self-destructive or aggressive behavior.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Signs of withdrawal and exhibiting fear.
  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Disciplinary issues.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares.
  • Creating sexually explicit or violent artwork.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

It is imperative that you learn the warning signs of this type of behavior in your child. An experienced lawyer will have experts on staff who will work with your child and help them tell their story.

Who is Responsible for Sexual Abuse?

There have been reports in both churches and schools of high-ranking officials committing these acts. It has been allowed to go on because in both institutions, the behavior was ignored. The church famously would get unconfirmed reports about the immoral acts of priests and would quietly transfer these priests to another parish. This would not fix the problem but unleash a potential sexual predator on another unsuspecting group of innocents.

The same has been true for schools, as not all states require that they disclose information that comes to light at the completion of an investigation. A school may wish to avoid liability for a situation and allow that teacher to quietly move to another school without telling the unsuspecting school about the person they just hired.

The church has been predominant in the news over the years for its involvement and lack of action when it comes to sexual abuse. Most of the abusers in the church have been priests, but there are others who may also have committed grievous acts, including:

  • Nuns
  • Youth leaders
  • Sunday school teachers
  • Bishops
  • Deacons
  • Choir directors
  • Volunteers

In the schools, there have been reports of inappropriate relationships teachers have had with their students. Although the salacious details of these connections have been what has gripped the headlines, the teachers are not the only individuals who have taken advantage of their roles as authority figures in schools. They include:

  • Principals
  • Custodians
  • Teacher’s aides
  • Guidance counselors
  • Assistant coaches
  • Coaches

What Expenses can I Recoup in a Sexual Abuse Case?

If you have been abused by anyone connected with the church, other religious organizations, or school, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Although financial recovery can never erase the pain you have endured, it can be the beginning to healing as you hold accountable your predator and those who enabled the predatory behavior.

In addition to emotional suffering and scarring, the abuse can also affect relationships, spirituality, and health. Although no amount of money can restore someone completely, financial compensation can help put a survivor on the road to recovery.

New Jersey law recognizes the severe trauma associated with sexual abuse and realizes that it is difficult to put a specific dollar amount on that situation. These damages are known as non-economic damages. These damages include:

  • Psychological counseling
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

The court will look at the level of abuse you suffered at the hands of your abuser and decide of the proper amount of compensation. If the act was particularly heinous, you may be entitled to seek punitive damages against your abuser. This is not an amount you will receive but serves as a deterrent to the person or punishment for the act itself.

What Must I Prove in My Sexual Abuse Case?

To prove a case of sexual abuse, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of evidence that the accused sexually abused the survivor. The standard is significantly lower than that of a criminal case, which is why many chose to take this route as opposed to a criminal case.

New Jersey Clergy Abuse Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Will Fight to Get You the Justice You Deserve

Our New Jersey clergy abuse lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr fight to hold abusers accountable for their actions. We offer knowledgeable and insightful service to survivors. Call us today at 877-249-4600 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth, and Newark.