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New York Can’t Lose Sight of the Child Sex Abuse Victims Who Don’t Make the News

The one-year “lookback window” that was part of the 2019 New York Child Victim’s Act is now in our rearview mirror, having expired at midnight, August 14, 2021, following Gov. Cuomo’s one-year extension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York survivors of child sex abuse took the opportunity the law provided them to file over 9,000 lawsuits against their perpetrators or against organizations who employed or otherwise had oversight over their perpetrators.

Across Society’s Spectrum

The lawsuits reflected the unfortunate broad spectrum of child sex abusers, from the high-profile cases involving the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church to alleged abuse by a prince. These are important cases, and particularly with institutions and organizations where large groups of children gather, bringing the perpetrators to justice and holding them and the organizations accountable is important.

But even as the heightened awareness increases the resolve of New York parents to be even more vigilant about sending their children to organized events, New Yorkers can’t let these high-profile newsmakers dim the light that should be shining on other victims and their perpetrators. The truth is, the younger a child is, the more likely their sexual abuser is a family member. Many perpetrators are very good at manipulating both the child and the parents and can even become trusted family friends.

The child sex abuse statistics are sobering and unacceptable. One in every three girls experiences sexual abuse before they are 18. For boys, the number is one in every five. In New York, in particular, we have a lot of work to do; while the 2019 report from New York’s Kids’ Well-being Indicators Clearinghouse (NYKWIC) counts all types of abuse in its reporting, it’s worth noting that our state’s rate of child abuse is nearly double that of the United States as a whole.

Know the Signs

As New Yorkers, we must work collectively to help ensure that our children’s childhoods aren’t being cruelly taken from them. One way to do that is to educate ourselves on the signs of child sexual abuse so that we can help our children and stop the abuse. Remember, very young children are many times not even able to discern what is happening to them or able to vocalize it, so it’s up to parents and caregivers to be observant.

Children who experience sexual abuse may display physical, emotional, and behavioral signs. Physical signs could include a urinary tract infection or blood on undergarments or bedding. While you should be watchful for any signs of trauma such as bruising, seek immediate help if you notice any in the genital area or if they seem to suddenly have problems walking or sitting.

They may also complain of other physical symptoms, like headaches or stomach aches, that seem to happen suddenly or more frequently, and that may coincide with specific activities, like going to daycare, sports practice, or church.

Behavioral and emotional signs may include:

  • Sudden or heightened anxiety, depression, or aggression
  • Sudden fear of being left alone or not wanting to be with specific individuals
  • Regressing into certain behaviors, such as sucking their thumb, wetting the bed, or rocking
  • Age-inappropriate talk about sex or acting sexual
  • Having low self-esteem or a lack of confidence
  • Sudden shyness about removing clothing or bathing and showering
  • Losing interest in friends and activities that they had always looked forward to

In general, take notice of any sudden change in behavior and habits and any unexplained bruises and cuts, which may also indicate that they are trying to physically harm themselves.

It’s also important that you speak to your children, even when they are very young (experts say as early as three years of age), about inappropriate touching and that they can and should say no without fear of getting in trouble. Opening up this dialogue early, and letting them know there are no secrets from you, can increase the chances of them reporting any incidences to you. It also provides them with the words to say for something they may not be able to explain without this early dialogue with you.

Do Your Homework

It’s important to get references for any individual or facility responsible for your child’s care. For individuals that you employ, you can get a criminal history search from the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) for just $95. If your child goes to daycare, ask the administrator what background checks they perform on their staff.

Both New York State and the Department of Justice also host free, searchable sex offender registries.

What’s Your Recourse?

The attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP are parents, too, and nothing keeps us awake at night as much as sex abuse crimes against a child. And that’s what sexual abuse is: a crime. While it is up to the New York District Attorney’s office to pursue criminal charges against child sex abusers, our experienced New York child sex abuse legal team can help you pursue justice and accountability through a civil lawsuit.

A civil lawsuit will not send the child sex abuser to jail. That is the job of the state’s criminal justice system. However, if successful, a civil suit provides another avenue to accountability. What an experienced New York child sex abuse attorney will seek is financial compensation to help your child get the help they need with any physical or emotional issues.

If the perpetrator is an individual with limited or zero financial resources, the legal team at Hach & Rose, LLP will examine the likelihood of success of a lawsuit filed against any other defendants, such as the perpetrator’s employer, or an organization that allowed the perpetrator to volunteer there so they could be around children. Once we have determined any probable liability and whether there are financial assets, we may be able to negotiate a settlement or seek to go to trial.

Let’s Do This Together

New York’s Child Victim Act and the “lookback window” were important steps in highlighting the tragedies that child sex abuse imposes on our children for years, even decades. If you know or suspect your child was sexually abused, give us a call today at (212) 779-0057, or set up a free consultation through our website.

Our compassionate and discreet legal team will treat your situation with the sensitivity it deserves, and if we pursue it with you, it will be with the passion and energy that New York’s children deserve – whether they make the news or not.

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