When people hear about victims being sexually abused by a teacher, priest or even a family member, they are outraged by the perpetrator’s abhorrent behavior. Oftentimes, victims do not come forward until months or even years after the abuse. Some people may wonder why victims do not come forward and why some victims may even protect their abusers. This is often confusing for those looking in, as well as for the victims themselves. Victims often form complex, conflicting emotional bonds with their abusers. As PA sex abuse lawyers, we see this in many crime victims cases. There are reasons why victims do not tell anyone or may even protect their abusers. This article will discuss some of these reasons.
The Abuser is a Family Member
A victim may not tell anyone of the sex abuse because the abuser is a family member. For instance, if the abuser is the minor victim’s father, the child may feel conflicted. The father may be a doting father who is also sexually abusing the child. The father may tell the child this is how people show love. The child may accept that and does not say anything because she loves her father. As the child enters into her adolescent years, she then begins to realize that she was sexually abused by her father. Though she realizes what her father did, she still does not say anything because she loves her father. It is not until she becomes an adult and moves away from home that she seeks help and talks to someone about the abuse.
The Victim Comes from a Broken Home
Children who come from a broken home or a dysfunctional family are often vulnerable. Sexual predators know that these children are vulnerable and use their vulnerability to get close to the children. For instance, a boy’s parents are divorced and he rarely sees his father. He lives with his mother. However, he doesn’t see his mother much because she works a lot to financially support them. Thus, he gets no attention or support at home. A teacher at his Philadelphia elementary school is a sexual predator and sees that the boy is vulnerable. The teacher spends time with the boy after school helping him with homework, takes him to sporting events, takes him out to eat, etc. The boy is finally getting attention that he desperately needs and starts to trust and become very fond of the teacher. When the sexual abuse begins, the child says nothing because he is close with his teacher. The child may not think that the teacher is abusing him because the teacher truly cares for him.
Why Victims Protect Abusers
In some instances, the victims may even protect their abusers. For instance, a 14 year old girl is having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her 25 year old teacher. She believes that the teacher loves her and that they will get married. Another student at the school sees them kissing after class and tells the principal, who immediately takes action. The principal reports the teacher to proper authorities, and the teacher is arrested. When questioned, the girl says that the teacher did nothing wrong and that they are in love.
The Victim is Afraid of the Abuser
Another reason that sexually abused victims do not tell anyone is because they are afraid of their abusers. For instance, a 3 year old boy is being molested by his neighbor who babysits him. The neighbor tells the young boy that if he tells anyone, he will hurt his mom or another family member. Out of fear, the child does not say anything because he wants to protect his mother.
Do Victims Still Have Legal Rights if They Wait Years to Report the Abuse?
It is important for victims to know that even if they come forward about the abuse months or even years after it happened, they may still have legal rights depending on the Statute of Limitations laws, which vary from state to state. The discussion below will only discuss victims’ statute of limitations in civil lawsuits and not criminal lawsuits.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse Cases
Prior to August 2002, victims of sex abuse had 5 years after they turned 18 to file a civil lawsuit against their abusers and/or parties responsible for the abuse. However, that time period was amended after August 2002 when the PA legislature extended it by another 7 years. Thus, sex abuse victims who were under the age of 18 when the abuse occurred have until their 30th birthday (12 year after they turn 18) to file a civil lawsuit.
New Jersey Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse Cases
The Statue of Limitations law in New Jersey, on the other hand, is very different than Pennsylvania’s law. Child sex abuse victims in New Jersey have 2 years to sue their abusers after they discover the injury and its relationship to the sex abuse. For example, a boy was molested by a priest in New Jersey, and the boy blocked out any memory of the abuse. When he was 40, something triggered his memory and he remembered that he was abused by a priest when he was a child. In this case he may file a lawsuit against the priest/church within 2 years from the time he discovered that he suffered damages caused by the abuse.
Help After Being Sexually Abused in PA and NJ
If you were a victim of sex abuse, contact Brian Kent, an experienced sex abuse victims civil lawyer in NJ and PA. Mr. Kent is a “Top” rated personal injury lawyer who has represented numerous victims in teacher sex abuse and priest/clergy abuse cases. Mr. Kent also works with attorneys nationwide and can handle sex abuse matters in other states on a case by case basis. For instance, Mr. Kent is representing a South Carolina woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted while receiving a massage at a local Massage Envy Franchising LLC location in Columbia, South Carolina. FREE consultations. 800.220.7600
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