Attorneys face challenges in securing justice and fair compensation for their clients in any type of case. Although statute of limitations laws and a higher burden of proof often deny victims the right to pursue criminal charges against pedophiles, civil litigation can still be pursued. However, attorneys representing victims of sexual abuse as children face unique obstacles. Recent revelations of widespread child sexual abuse in religious, public, and private institutions have taken the fight far beyond the pursuit of individual sexual predators. When institutions are challenged, attorneys in sexual abuse cases must face powerful adversaries who often have high standing in the community.
What are the unique challenges in sexual abuse cases?
Testimony by witnesses in sexual abuse trials is often limited to the victim and the accused. Pedophiles thrive in secrecy, and victims are carefully isolated when assaults occur, either by force or coercion. Traumatic events that happened to victims as children must be recounted in detail by adults, before an audience in a courtroom. Offenders, who often pursue occupations that offer positions of power or trust, are more likely to be believed in a courtroom.
Attorneys experienced in child sexual abuse cases realize that single victims may not be found credible. However, they also know that pedophiles regularly abuse multiple victims, especially in an institutional setting such as a church or school. Attorneys will often seek out other victims before pursuing their case, and take on both the individual perpetrator and the institution where the abuse occurred.
Facing religious institutions in court requires attorneys to persuade jurors that the institutions or religions themselves are not being accused. This also applies to the victims themselves, who often must face abandonment by families and friends who are loyal to the church. Attorneys must make a clear distinction between the religious organization and those in the organization who perpetrated the acts or concealed them to avoid scandal.
Experts in child sexual abuse are brought in to explain how sexual predators will seek positions where they will be trusted with children, and the church is the ultimate location. Religious leaders in a church are considered moral and in some cases infallible.
Psychologists are used to counsel victims that feel humiliated and abandoned to help them to be able to testify. Once a single victim can come forward, other victims can come out of the shadows without shame or fear. Justice will then finally come to long suffering victims.
If you are facing a similar situation, contact an experienced attorney like Lynn Jackson Shultz & Lebrun PC for help with your case.