Crime Victim & Sexual Abuse Lawyers PA

According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), there are more than 430,000 victims of sexual assault and abuse every year. Unfortunately, many survivors do not know their rights, especially if they were assaulted or abused by a person close to them or in a position of power.

RAINN statistics show that 1 in 6 women will experience rape in her lifetime, as will 1 in 33 men. Child Protective Services reports that over 60,000 American children are sexually abused each year. Sexual assault and abuse are not rare — but they are extremely serious, and usually have a lasting impact throughout their victims’ lives.

If you or a loved one were the victim of sexual abuse or assault, contact our team of lawyers at McEldrew Young Purtell today to take the first steps toward justice.

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What Is the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Abuse?

Sexual assault hinges on consent, and rape is only its most obvious example. In 2012, the FBI revised its definition of rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” In addition, non-consensual touching, kissing, rubbing, groping and forced touching are also considers assault. 

Sexual abuse usually concerns a minor, and it does not hinge on consent — there can be no legal consent between an adult and a minor below the age of consent, which is 16 in Pennsylvania.

The following list of sexual offenses may be termed sexual assault or abuse, depending on whether consent is given or, in the case of minors, is able to be given at all:

  • Exhibitionism
  • Sex trafficking
  • Masturbation, either forced or in the presence of the victim
  • Taking or sending inappropriate pictures 
  • Exposure to explicit images, sexually charged language or pornography
  • Taking inappropriate photos for personal use or distribution
  • Any sexual conduct that is harmful to the victim’s mental, emotional or physical well-being

How Power Can Play a Part in Abuse

Sexual assault and abuse are rarely crimes of passion. Many perpetrators take advantage of their power over their victim and assert control by acting abusively. This abuse often manifests in a sexual way. 

Power differences in cases of abuse often include:

  • Age: This is among the greatest power differences in cases of abuse where the perpetrator knows the victim. Those who have suffered sexual abuse as a child are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, addictions and personality disorders.
  • Authority: When one party holds a more powerful position in a hierarchy than another, there may be a risk of abuse. Whether it’s a teacher and student or employer/manager and employee, the threat of reprisals may complicate consent.
  • Physical size: Bigger abusers may use violence or the threat of violence to keep their victims silent.
  • Understanding consent: Children and people who are developmentally disabled are especially vulnerable to abuse from their family, caretakers and others in a position of greater power. Often times, those who commit abuse will also stand in the way of reporting.

Signs of Child Abuse

There are signs of sexual abuse that every adult involved in a child’s life has a responsibility to watch for. Health professionals, police, school employees and others have a legal obligation to report any abuse they learn about.

The damage from sexual abuse is rarely only physical, and often shows up in redirected behavior. Signs that a child has been sexually abused may include:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Compromised results at school or work
  • Depression and low self-esteem
  • Sexual promiscuity

Institutional Abuse Cover-Ups

In Pennsylvania as in the rest of the country, there has been an increasing awareness of the roles that institutions may play in facilitating sexual abuse. High-profile cases from recent years have involved prominent figures in the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, the Mormon Church, and at Penn State University. The enormous power differentials involved have helped sexual crimes to go on under a veneer of respectability for decades in some cases.

However, it seems as if the tide is turning, and more victims are stepping forward with their stories. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse in an institutional setting, sharing that story may help to protect the next generation of vulnerable children from similar abuse.

What Should You Do in Cases of Sexual Assault or Abuse?

After a sexual assault or instance of abuse has occurred, the first step you should take is to make sure the victim is physically safe. The National Sexual Assault Hotline — 800-656-HOPE (4673) — can provide guidance on a health facility that can care for survivors of sexual assault. Even if the victim doesn’t think they are in need of medical care, it’s an important step in documenting the incident in case the victim decides to pursue legal action.

After ensuring the victim is safe, the next step should be to contact local law enforcement. For an overview of the process, visit RAINN.

This is the point that you may want an experienced lawyer by your side. Your attorney should be able to provide support and legal guidance through the traumatic and confusing process of finding recovery and justice.


When to Consult with an Experienced Sexual Abuse Attorney

With representation from an experienced attorney, you can fight back. At McEldrew Young Purtell, we help sexual abuse survivors get justice and hold offenders accountable for their actions. We will explain your rights and help you stand up for them. When there are liable parties, we can file a civil suit against them for compensation to cover the past, present and future impact of their crimes.

There are statutes of limitations for filing civil suits in child and adult sexual assault cases. We recommend speaking with an attorney as soon as possible to learn about the deadlines for filing your case. Get a free confidential consultation now by filling out our form or calling us directly at 1-866-333-7715.