By Osborne & Francis
October 21, 2022

Signs a Loved One May be Experiencing Sexual Abuse

No one wants to consider the possibility that someone they loved is being sexually abused, especially by someone entrusted with their care. However, it is important to be aware of the signs of sexual abuse so that you can better protect your loved ones.

In recent years, institutions like churches, schools, and healthcare facilities have been the focus of sexual abuse allegations. 

In a personal injury lawsuit, you may be able to hold the abuser and the institution they represent accountable for damages like medical bills, emotional distress, and lost wages. The skilled sexual abuse lawyers of Osborne & Francis can offer guidance and support for you and your loved one as we investigate your legal options. To schedule a more detailed discussion of your case, call us at 561-293-2600 or contact our Orlando or Boca Raton office online.

Sexual Abuse Can be Accompanied by New or Worsening Depression

Understandably, survivors of past or ongoing sexual abuse often develop mental health issues. Depression is commonly associated with people recovering from sexual abuse, even if there is a delay between the abuse and the onset of the depression. Experiencing sexual abuse can lead survivors to isolate themselves, abuse substances, and even self-harm. These behaviors are also indicative of depression. Sexual abuse survivors experiencing depression may also have issues with hygiene or sleeping. If your loved one is exhibiting concerning or unusual behavior, it is often worth a closer look. 

Bruises or Other New Injuries May Indicate Sexual Abuse

One of the most obvious outward signs of sexual abuse is the presence of physical injuries. This can range from bruising and lacerations to more serious injuries like broken bones. Caregivers should pay extra attention to bruising around the wrists indicating the victim was restrained or bruising near the upper thighs and genitals. 

Survivors may attempt to conceal their injuries, for a variety of reasons. In some cases, they feel a misplaced sense of shame. It is also possible that they fear retaliation for peers, authority figures, or caregivers if they decide to speak up about the abuse. If your loved one has sustained injuries that lack a clear or reasonable explanation, that may be an indication that they are being sexually abused. Please note that in many cases, survivors have no outward physical injuries. A lack of bruising or other injuries does not preclude the possibility that sexual assault occurred.

Survivors May Lie to Conceal Sexual Abuse

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for survivors of sexual abuse to try to hide that the abuse is happening. They may blame themselves, feel angry that they have not stopped the abuse on their own, fear repercussions from others, or simply want to keep the matter private. If your loved one offers inconsistent reasons for their behavior or appears cagey with information on their whereabouts, they may be attempting to keep their sexual abuse a secret.

Visible Discomfort in Talking about a Person, Place, or Event

If someone is experiencing sexual abuse, they may show signs of physical discomfort when the perpetrator or the place of the abuse is mentioned. Survivors may have difficulty maintaining eye contact, fidget extensively, attempt to change the subject quickly, and exhibit a strong desire to avoid a particular person or place without being able to offer a reason. For them, it is a reminder of the abuse that took place. For example, if your child used to love attending soccer camp with their friends, but now they grimace and wring their hands when the coach or camp is mentioned, that may be cause for concern. 

Survivors of Sexual Abuse Often Experience Triggers

Emotional triggers can take many forms. Anything from a particular scent, to a specific person’s name, or even a song can induce an involuntary reaction in a survivor of sexual abuse. They may appear visibly distressed, lash out in anger, or retreat from friends and family. In their mind, the sensory input is linked to the traumatic event they experienced. For example, a child who was sexually abused in a church might find a particular hymn upsetting if it is connected to their trauma. A trigger’s connection to a traumatic experience may not always be apparent to you as the caregiver, or even to the survivor. That does not make their reaction any less legitimate. Many survivors find that professional therapy is beneficial in reducing the impact of their triggers.

Discomfort Around a Specific Person May be Related to Sexual Abuse

Although exhibiting discomfort around a certain person is by no means always indicative of sexual abuse, it can be a warning sign that your loved one feels unsafe around this person. For example, an elderly nursing home patient who constantly shies away from being given a shower by a certain staff member should be a red flag for their family. Oftentimes, you will need to watch a loved one’s body language in addition to listening to what they say. Elderly patients and children may not be able to vocalize what is happening to them, so it may fall to you to notice their signs of discomfort and take action.

How to Approach the Topic of Sexual Abuse with a Loved One

Sexual abuse is a delicate topic to broach with anyone, regardless of age or your relationship to them. For the purposes of this article, we assume that you are a caretaker such as a parent of a child or the child of an elderly parent. When attempting to discuss suspected sexual abuse, establish a safe environment, use non-confrontational language, and affirm that you believe their story. Please be aware that they may not be ready to offer details or file formal charges- now or ever. 

The priority should be removing them from the situation where the abuse occurred, whether that be a nursing home, church, school, sports team, or other organization. Keep records of any interactions your loved one may have had with the individual or institution perpetrating or allowing the abuse. You can also request additional support from organizations like RAINN. If you decide to pursue legal action on behalf of your loved one against the negligent party, we recommend involving a sexual abuse attorney as soon as possible. 

Why Should I Choose Osborne & Francis to Represent Me?

When taking on a powerful and established individual or institution, it’s a wise idea to have a trustworthy sexual abuse attorney on your side. At Osborne & Francis, we have proven our merit as Florida sexual abuse lawyers by securing multi-million dollar settlements for injured survivors. Our capable team pledges to be thorough, sensitive, and relentless as we pursue damages on your behalf.

As your personal injury lawyers, we will help you calculate the cost of your damages and ensure that your rights are protected. This form of legal help is accessible to you, as personal injury lawyers operate using a contingency fee. That means that you won’t be responsible for any upfront costs, and if your sexual abuse lawyer is unable to settle your claim you don’t owe us anything.

Contact Osborne & Francis if Your Loved One Wants to Take Action

The CDC estimates that the average cost for survivors of sexual abuse is $122,461 for medical expenses, therapy, lost wages, and other costs. Your family and your loved one should not have to shoulder this burden alone. Our team of personal injury lawyers are the ones you want on your side to confront a sexual predator and the institution that enabled them. 

Our team has spent many years fighting for injured Floridians. We are relentless negotiators who also have trial experience, which can be beneficial if the liable party refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer. 

If you have reason to believe that your loved one is experiencing sexual abuse at the hands of another, we encourage you to reach out to our team of empathetic Florida sexual abuse attorneys. You can call us at 561-293-2600 or contact us online at our Orlando or Boca Raton offices.

We can help protect your right to seek compensation and hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence. 

E. Holland

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