In Florida, survivors of institutional sexual abuse may experience emotional and physical trauma. They often face the lingering effects of their experience on their mental health and physical well-being. Medical costs can quickly increase after an assault, causing financial hardship for survivors of abuse.
Florida law allows victims to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser and the institution where the abuse occurred.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault involving an institute and is seeking legal counsel, contact an experienced Florida institutional sexual abuse attorney at Nessler & Associates. We have decades of experience as institutional sexual abuse attorneys in Florida, providing victims of institutional sexual abuse with the legal representation they need to seek justice.
What is Institutional Sexual Abuse?
Institutional sexual abuse occurs when a person in a position of power engages in non-consensual sexual activity with another person within an organization, such as a school, church, or youth organization. In these situations, the offender takes advantage of the victim’s trust.
Clergy abuse is a form of institutional sexual abuse involving a clergy member sexually abusing a minor or another person under their care. It can occur in missions, churches, temples, mosques, and religious settings that many people trust and rely on for spiritual guidance and counseling.
In 2019, about 1 in 10 Americans belonged to a religious institution where a clergy member or another spiritual leader was accused of sexual misconduct. This misconduct included verbal sexual harassment and sexual abuse of a child or an adult.
Institutional Sexual Abuse at School
Sexual misconduct can happen at any level of education, from daycare through colleges and universities. Despite our faith in these institutions, authority figures can abuse their power to sexually assault the children they are entrusted with protecting. 10% of students will face sexual misconduct by a school employee before graduating high school.
Institutional Sexual Abuse in Youth Organizations
Youth organizations can be a target for sexual perpetrators, who see these types of environments as ways to come into contact with unquestioning, vulnerable children.
For example, approximately 250 people in 30 states claimed that coaches, club directors, and volunteers at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America abused them when they were children. Those who volunteered or worked with these organizations may use their positions of power to abuse children in their homes, cars, and in isolated areas.
Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
Residents of nursing homes and other assisted living facilities are at risk of sexual abuse from physicians, nurses, and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). They are vulnerable due to their reliance on these people to help them manage their chronic illnesses, particularly if they have behavior and cognitive issues.
How Does an Abuser Target Their Child Victims?
Grooming is a manipulative technique used by abusers to gain the trust of the victim’s family and access to the victim. These actions may include:
- Special gifts and attention
- Opportunities for one-on-one time
- Taking care of family needs and fulfilling family roles
- Gradual progression into sexual activities
- Maintaining control through secrecy, blame, and threats
Signs of Institutional Sexual Abuse for Children
Several signs may indicate that institutional child sexual abuse is taking place. These can include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Increase in anger
- Inappropriate level of sexual knowledge, language, or behavior for the child
A child can show signs of stress, an increase in withdrawn behavior, and tantrums. They may also have physical symptoms such as bruising or bleeding in the genital area or sexually transmitted infections.
Elderly Sexual Abuse: What are the Warning Signs?
Friends and family can watch out for these signs of sexual abuse when they visit their loved ones at nursing homes and living facilities. These signs include:
- Breast or genital bruising
- Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes
- Symptoms of unexplained vaginal and anal bleeding
- Sexually transmitted infections
If you suspect institutional sexual abuse, you must report it to your local authorities to conduct an investigation. You may also contact a personal injury attorney at Nessler & Associates to help guide you through the intricacies of the legal process, including potential legal action against the institution.
Is Institutional Sexual Abuse Common Among Children and Adults?
Sexual abusers harm everyone of all ages, including adults and children. Adult survivors of institutional sexual abuse may experience the effects of their experiences in the same way that child survivors do:
- Nearly 1 in 3 men and half of all women went through sexual violence, including physical contact, at one point in their lives.
- Almost 8 in 10 male rape survivors say they were forced to penetrate before the age of 25.
- Sexual abuse disproportionally affects young women. Around 80% of rape and sexual assault female victims in college knew their offender.
- Rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault is 4 times more likely among women between the ages of 16 and 19.
These statistics also show how widespread sexual abuse can be among children who place their trust in institutions:
- 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under 18 face sex abuse or assault by an adult.
- 88% of people who sexually abuse children are male.
- 93% of child sex abusers, such as family members and authority figures, are known to the victims.
- Nearly 67% of sexual assaults happen to children under 17.
- Law enforcement agencies reported that 1 in 7 sexual assault victims were under the age of 6.
What Are Some of the Long-Term Effects of Institutional Sexual Abuse?
Trauma for victims of child sexual abuse can affect their educational outcomes and financial resources. Every case of child sexual abuse is estimated to cost $32,648 in healthcare expenses. The costs increase by 36% for women sexually abused as children.
Child sexual abuse can lead to increased post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, increased suicidal ideation and drug abuse. They are more likely to get pregnant as teens and suffer chronic health problems.
They may also have difficulty trusting others and maintaining healthy relationships.
Survivors could suffer from nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts.
What Steps Can Victims Take Against Institutions?
If someone you loved suffers from institutional sexual abuse, they can take these steps:
- Contact the police and file a report. This will allow law enforcement to investigate the allegations and potentially bring charges against the abuser.
- Reach out to a local support group or counseling service to get help dealing with the psychological effects of the abuse.
- Speak with an experienced lawyer to explore your legal options. You may file a civil lawsuit and hold the abuser or institution accountable.
Why Should You Hire an Institutional Sexual Abuse Attorney?
When dealing with a traumatic event such as sexual abuse, having a personal injury lawyer from Nessler & Associates can be beneficial in many ways. They can use resources to obtain evidence, investigate what happened, and strengthen a sexual abuse case against the institution.
Specifically, the attorney can provide the following services:
- Find out if you take civil action under Florida’s statute of limitations for abuse-based intentional torts and sexual battery if you were under the age of 16 at the time of the abuse.
- Identify the defendants, including the abuser and the institution.
- Analyze evidence such as medical records of your injuries and witness testimonies to establish burden of proof.
- Work with expert witnesses who can testify about how the abuse affected your quality of life.
- Prepare all the necessary paperwork for trial and file in court.
- Appear in court on your behalf during depositions and at trial.
- Negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf.
- Handle any appeals that may result from a trial’s outcome.
Consult Our Florida Institutional Sexual Abuse Lawyers Today
The Florida personal injury attorneys at Nessler & Associates can help you if you were a victim of sexual abuse in an institution by an authority figure who was supposed to protect you. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling cases involving institutional sexual abuse. We understand the unique challenges of pursuing legal action against an institution.
We can address your sexual assault case and advise you on your options for pursuing a claim.
Call us today at (800) 727-8010 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys. We will work tirelessly to hold those responsible for your abuse accountable and fight for the compensation you deserve.