Child Sex Crime Survivors in Pennsylvania

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Child Sex Crime Survivors in Pennsylvania

The number of sex crime survivors in Pennsylvania remains unknown, mostly because of the shame and embarrassment victims feel when discussing their traumatic pasts. Sexual abuse can happen at any age, but young children and teens are especially vulnerable to sexual predators. A reported 12.3 percent of female rape victims were 10 years old or younger at the time of the abuse, while more than 25 percent of male victims suffered sexual abuse when they were 10 years old or younger. Sexual predators will put up a facade, only to unveil their abusive ways when gaining the trust of susceptible minors.

Pennsylvania is known as a state that has made considerable strides in helping child sex crime survivors seek justice against abusers. The state was the location for the first successful civil trial against a member of the Catholic clergy, as well as the state that prosecuted Jerry Sandusky for numerous attacks on children while Sandusky worked as an assistant coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team. Pennsylvania is also home to a recent movement to allow child sex crime survivors to seek justice over a two-year period, regardless of when the attacks occurred.

At Morgan and Morgan, we understand the myriad negative emotions that derive from becoming a victim of child sex abuse. Not only do victims have to deal with emotional distress issues such as acute fear and anxiety, but they also have to bear the burden from skeptics not believing victims. Because of the sensitive nature of child sex crimes, the Morgan and Morgan attorneys assigned to child sex crime cases possess the compassion and empathy needed to help victims put aside the negative impacts of traumatic events to seek justice against their attackers. Giving child sex crime survivors an unconditional two-year window to seek justice against their abusers is the right thing to do.

If you are a child sex crime survivor in Pennsylvania, schedule a free case evaluation today with one of the experienced attorneys at Morgan and Morgan. Attorney Alan Borowsky, Esq. has been fighting for victims of childhood sex abuse for over a decade, as both a Special Victims Unit criminal prosecutor and civil litigator, and is ready to help you.

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FAQ

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  • Is There a Window for Child Abuse Survivors in Pennsylvania to Sue Their Attackers?

    During the 2019 Pennsylvania legislative session, legislators removed the criminal statute of limitations for child sex crimes for any new cases introduced in the state criminal justice system. Before the new law took effect in 2019, child sex crime survivors in Pennsylvania had until the age of 30 to file a civil lawsuit that sought monetary damages. The new law allows thousands of child sex crime survivors in Pennsylvania to become eligible to receive compensation for physical injuries, as well as any medical care required to treat emotional distress issues.

    The new law permits child sex crime survivors in PA to take legal action until they reach the age of 55, with a two-year window granted for other victims who lost their right to file a civil lawsuit because their statute of limitations had expired. Although the new age of 55 to take legal action passed both houses, the two-year window granted to all child sex crime survivors in Pennsylvania remains in limbo as of late January 2023.

    Called the Window of Opportunity legislation, the new law, which is supported by Governor Wolf and has passed the house, stalled in the Pennsylvania senate. The promise of bipartisan support after the start of the special session appears to have waned despite Governor Wolf’s order for both chambers of the Pennsylvania legislature to focus on passing a proposed constitutional amendment that provides child sex crime survivors the opportunity to seek justice regardless of age.

    House Speaker Mark Rozzi issued a press release on the day after discussions between Republicans and Democrats failed to resolve differences, most of which appear to be political.

    “This sort of partisan divide is what has plagued Pennsylvanian politics for far too long,” said Rozzi, who is a child sex crime survivor. “Party politics must take a back seat to saving the lives of survivors of childhood sexual assault. Make no mistake: we must pass the Statute of Limitations reform. History will not judge us based on how many Democratic Party wins or Republican Party wins we achieve, but we will be judged based on what we did for the children of this commonwealth.”

  • What Are the Most Common Types of Child Sex Crimes?

    The general definition of a child sex crime is an act that uses force, coercion, and/or manipulation by an adult or adolescent for sexual gratification. Child sex crimes come in many forms, some of which do not involve the use of violence.

    Rape

    Rape represents a violent criminal act in which a perpetrator commits one or more sexual acts without the consent of a victim. Most victims of this type of violent crime do not fight back for fear of the abuser turning even more violent. The lasting emotional distress issues that develop, including the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often last a lifetime.

    Coercion

    Not all sexual assaults involve the use of force. In fact, a substantial number of sexual assaults occur because an abuser implements psychological tactics to control the thought process of a victim. Coercion can range from constant threats of violence to destroying personal property as an act of intimidation.

    Child Pornography

    The Internet has rapidly increased the number of child pornography cases. Child pornography represents any display of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Online websites that showcase sexually explicit acts committed by minors have grown in numbers over the past decade. Victims of child pornography experience an incredible amount of shame because of sexual exposure.

    Indecent Exposure

    Indecent exposure involves the lewd act of an abuser exposing genitals to a minor or showing pornographic materials to a child. This type of child sex crime does not involve physical contact, which means the harm done to a child is typically mental and emotional. Lasting memories that haunt victims represent a common outcome.

  • What Are the Negative Outcomes for Victims of Child Sex Crimes?

    Child sex crime survivors in Pennsylvania experience a wide variety of negative emotions that diminish the quality of personal and professional relationships. Acute fear and anxiety lead to a lifetime of mistrusting other people, especially adults. Shame and embarrassment make it difficult to develop strong social bonds, as well as interact with family members. If not addressed immediately after an act or acts of child sex abuse, a victim can develop clinically diagnosed anxiety, eating, and/or personality disorders. PTSD symptoms are particularly prevalent among victims of violent sex crimes.

    Child sex abuse victims also can suffer from physical symptoms that are associated with criminal acts. Physical symptoms, such as pain and cardiopulmonary distress, develop right away after suffering from an act of sexual abuse. Other types of physical symptoms, such as obesity and reproductive issues, can take several months or even years to develop symptoms.

    Child sex crime survivors frequently spend a lifetime addressing the negative consequences of physical and emotional distress issues.

  • What Are the Legal Options for Child Sex Crime Survivors in Pennsylvania?

    No other type of crime generates a feeling of revenge more than a child sex crime. However, justice is best delivered for child sex crime survivors by taking one or more of the following legal actions.

    File a Civil Lawsuit

    The two-year window of opportunity proposed during the current Pennsylvania special legislative session is about allowing previously ineligible child sex crime survivors to take legal action by filing a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages. Victims of child sex abuse have the opportunity to request three types of compensation.

    Economic damages represent the tangible costs associated with physical trauma, such as what a victim of forced rape has to deal with after multiple attacks. Diagnostic tests, treatment programs, and rehabilitation sessions can run medical bills into thousands of dollars. Child sex abusers also might have to pay for future medical bills.

    Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages do not come with a price tag. Instead, the attorney assigned to your case by Morgan and Morgan calculates a reasonable value for the financial losses connected with living with mental and emotional issues. The emotional toll a victim faces after suffering from child sex abuse can prevent the victim from achieving career goals, as well as maintaining close relationships with friends and family members.

    Judges overseeing civil trials involving a child sex abuser have the power to award victims punitive damages. This type of compensation does not pay for economic and non-economic damages. A judge awards punitive damages to punish a defendant for committing acts of child sexual abuse. Because of the nefarious nature of child sex crimes, punitive damages awarded during civil cases often far exceed the combined value of economic and non-economic damages.

    Injunctive Relief

    Punitive damages also act as a deterrent to discourage a sexual predator from committing future sex crimes. However, punitive damages are typically not enough of an incentive to cease committing child sex crimes. A judge ruling on a child sex crime lawsuit can require the plaintiff to complete certain actions that discourage or even prevent future acts of child sex abuse. A common example of injunctive relief for a child sex crime case is to order the defendant to undergo extensive psychological therapy, as well as participate in group therapy sessions that encourage sharing stories about traumatic childhood events

    Injunctive relief also can force an institution to implement improved screening methods for employees and volunteers.

    Criminal Trial

    Criminal trials for child sex crime cases usually take place before civil lawsuits that seek monetary damages. The experienced attorneys at Morgan and Morgan help our clients and other victims of child sex crimes strengthen their cases by gathering physical evidence such as DNA and images. Our attorneys also collect and share the statements made by witnesses, which can provide legal support for the physical evidence collected. Because of our experience and the fact that we assigned properly credentialed investigators to each child sex crime case, Morgan and Morgan provides the level of legal support required to gain a guilty verdict against the defendant.

  • How You Can Take Action

    If you or someone you know is a child sex crime survivor in Pennsylvania, act with a sense of urgency by scheduling a free case evaluation with one of our compassionate team members. 

    In addition to reviewing your case, you can also receive updates on the status of the Window of Opportunity law, currently stalled in the Pennsylvania legislature.

    As a citizen of Pennsylvania, you can also find your representative in the General Assembly, reach out to them, and demand reform and justice for these victims.

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