High Profile Sexual Assault Crimes Highlight the Scope of Legal and Legislative Challenges
The enormity of the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State brought attention to a phenomenon that is literally unspeakable—and was, until recently, largely off limits in public conversation. The abuse of eight or more under-age boys by a prominent figure forced the public to face an ugly reality.
As a sexual abuse lawyer for over thirty years, I see that people are now less afraid to come forward and speak about the searing impact of these horrendous offenses—and about the failure of those in positions of power to properly address their needs . Yet, increased openness, while liberating for the victims of sexual abuse, has created new legal and legislative challenges.
There are more than 10,000 victim service agencies in the United States, and victims have rights in all 50 states. Yet, it is clear that laws and regulations with more teeth are required in order to meet the emerging challenges. Private civil attorneys must step forward to close the gaps that have kept victims from being adequately served, so that innocent victims, whose lives have been shattered, can receive the support they need and deserve. And federal, state, and local governments must demonstrate the insight and ingenuity to provide victims with new solutions— and prevent future acts of this nature from taking place.
Despite growing awareness, the problem is as serious as ever. Less than 50 percent of all sexual abuse cases are reported, even today. And, despite the psychological and physiological damage caused by sexual abuse, only a small fraction of its victims receive the help they need. At the very time that public awareness has grown, the agencies that help sexual abuse victims are themselves being victimized by funding cuts. What’s more, sexual abuse cases are on the rise in Pennsylvania.
The trauma of sexual abuse, as well as the the post- traumatic stress that follows it, is unfathomable. It creates a confusing vulnerability that can shatter one’s hopes and dreams, in both an emotional and physical sense, keeping one from moving forward. Oftentimes, sexual abuse victims will engage in self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol, drug abuse, and gambling, and will participate in risky and impulsive activities—not to mention the fact hat they often end up with serious eating disorders and personality disorders.
If you are victim of sexual abuse, it is vitally important to contact an experienced sexual abuse lawyer, to help you deal with the psychological aftershocks, and to hold the perpetrator responsible and accountable for his or her actions.
As a sexual abuse lawyer whose family has experienced the consequences of sexual abuse first hand –and who has helped several victim attain a healthy physical, emotional and legal outcome--I know that victims equipped with proper representation can see the light at the end of the tunnel.