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Understanding the Signs of Sexual Abuse and How to Seek Help

By April 9, 2019Blog
signs of sexual abuse

The signs of sexual abuse may not be evident until years after the actions have taken place. Many survivors of sexual abuse don’t make the connection between the physical and emotional pain they may currently suffer and the sexual abuse they experienced in the past.      

An online survey conducted by National Pain Report and For Grace, a non-profit devoted to better care and wellness for women in pain, found that seven out of 10 women with chronic pain had a past history of childhood trauma. In this case, the definition of “childhood trauma” included emotional abuse, persistent bullying, sexual abuse, witnessing violence, physical abuse, and the death of a parent. Of all these, sexual abuse was found to be linked to the development of chronic pain later in life.

For survivors of sexual abuse experiencing chronic physical or emotional pain, the two may be linked. Even if you didn’t take legal action because the signs of sexual abuse weren’t there in the beginning, you can still seek justice for your pain and suffering. Working with an experienced civil attorney will help you navigate the laws regarding the recovery of personal damages as well as calculating any statute of limitations that may apply to your case.  

Knowing the Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children

For parents, identifying the signs of sexual abuse in a child may be harder. The presence of one sign doesn’t necessarily mean a child has been sexually abused but the presence of several suggests that you should begin asking questions and exploring ways to seek professional help.

Typical Signs of Sexual Abuse in Younger Children

  • Regressive behavior such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking
  • Has new words for private parts
  • Mimics adult-like sexual behaviors with stuffed animals or toys
  • Resists removing clothes during appropriate times such as bath time or bedtime
  • Has nightmares or problems sleeping

Typical Signs of Sexual Abuse in Adolescents

  • Self-injury
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Fear of intimacy or closeness
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Drug and/or alcohol use

Oftentimes, these signs of sexual abuse don’t emerge in children until other stressful events take place such as a divorce, death of a family member or pet, or problems at school or with a friend. Regardless of when the signs emerge, justice for sexual abuse can be sought—in some cases—at any time.

Can I Sue for Sexual Abuse Years Later?  

The statute of limitations is a deadline for pressing criminal charges or filing a civil lawsuit. It’s important to keep in mind that criminal and civil proceedings are treated differently by law and different timelines apply. But in either case, statute of limitations deadlines are put into place to ensure a case goes to trial with the best evidence possible.

It can take years for child sex abuse survivors to summon the courage to come forward against their abusers, especially if these individuals were well known to them. In some instances, they may have been too young to fully comprehend what was happening to them at the time, or they may have suppressed what happened until painful memories, nightmares, and debilitating fears take hold well into adulthood.

Even if the statute of limitations has run out in your case, there is still hope in civil court. California law allows for delayed discovery. This means plaintiffs can file suit within three years from the date they discover or reasonably should have discovered that an injury or illness resulted from an act, attempted act, or assault. Seeking financial compensation through the civil court system can help pay for the necessary therapy, rehabilitation, and medication if necessary.

Chronic Emotional and Physical Pain Linked to Sexual Abuse

Research has found that two-thirds of sexual abuse survivors bear no initial physical injuries but eventually, the emotional pain suffered can lead to physical pain. For many survivors, it can take decades of self-management before the symptoms become unbearable. Most of the damage suffered as a result of sexual abuse is typically psychological; among the emotional trauma are:  

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Cognitive distortions
  • Emotional distress
  • Lack of sexual satisfaction
  • An impaired sense of self
  • Avoidance
  • High-risk behaviors such as eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse, and promiscuity
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Interpersonal problems

Differences in the response to abuse vary from asymptomatic to deeply traumatized, and everything in between. Researchers find the most severe reactions tend to occur in cases where the abuser was known and trusted, where some type of penetration was involved, and where there are multiple cases of abuse over time.

Many of these symptoms may lie dormant until triggered by a heavily emotional event. Triggers for adult sexual abuse survivors may include:

  • intimate partner breakup or divorce
  • experiencing another sexual assault
  • nightmares that cause them to relive the trauma
  • encountering sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or places associated with the abuser
  • news cycles featuring similar stories of sexual abuse

Many of these psychological ailments can manifest into physical pain. For those experiencing physical and emotional pain as a result of sexual abuse, California sexual abuse attorneys can help.

How to Seek Help for Sexual Abuse

If you can relate to any of these signs of sexual abuse, seeking legal help from an experienced attorney should be among your next steps. You should seek to retain an attorney who has substantial experience and knows how to measure harm in sexual abuse cases. It’s important to have an attorney who can foresee what damages can reasonably be gained, given your unique circumstances.

Working with a California attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases is about more than legal advice and paperwork. Lawyers can also point you in the right direction for seeking medical attention, connecting with crisis social workers and counselors, dealing with insurance issues, and getting your life back in the wake of disturbing events that were beyond your control.

The civil attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn will provide knowledgeable counsel, investigative muscle, and expert legal services. Our expertise lies in making a substantial case for recovery, even with challenges that may arise such as the statute of limitations. It will cost you nothing to learn about your legal options and pursue a civil lawsuit with our team. You can rest assured that your emotional health remains our utmost concern as we provide counsel and proceed with the pursuit of justice.

At Lewis & Llewellyn, we seek to effect real change in the lives of those impacted by abuse, as well as society as a whole, by strategically bringing civil proceedings that shine a spotlight on the individuals and entities that condone, cover up, or turn a blind eye to sexual abuse and harassment.

You deserve to have a compassionate advocate who believes you and will navigate the many and nuanced physical and emotional damages you have suffered as a result of your abuse. We can’t promise you’ll receive a specific amount of money, but we can guarantee the best legal remedy from our team of experienced California sex abuse lawyers. Contact us today, or call +1 (415) 800-0590 to set up a free initial consultation.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this blog or on this website should be construed as legal advice from Lewis & Llewellyn LLP. Neither your receipt of information from this website, nor your use of this website to contact Lewis & Llewellyn LLP creates an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm or any of its lawyers. No reader of this website should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this website without seeking the appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction.