Child Sex Abuse: Identifying the Signs and Taking the Right Steps

Child Sex Abuse: Identifying the Signs and Taking the Right Steps

Child sexual abuse occurs at alarming numbers. About one in ten children will be sexually abused before the age of 18[1]. Child sexual abuse typically occurs by a person that the child knows—approximately 90% of children personally know their abuser. About 60% of children who are sexually abused are abused by individuals the family trusts.[2] [3] This can include friends, family or people that work or volunteer in schools, churches, and youth sports leagues.

Unfortunately, many incidents of sexual abuse go unreported. Studies show that it is rare for a child who is sexually abused to immediately disclose the abuse. Approximately 55% to 70% of adults who were abused as children report that they did not tell anyone during childhood.[4] Of child sex offenses that are reported to authorities—due to several factors including lack of evidence, children not wanting to testify, and statute of limitations—child sexual abuse cases frequently go unprosecuted. It is estimated that less than 1% of child sex offenses will result in the imprisonment of the offender.[5]


Signs that a child is being sexually abused:

  • Child sex abuse victims often exhibit indirect physical signs, such as anxiety, chronic stomach pain, and headaches.
  • Emotional and behavioral signals are common among sexually abused children. Some of these are withdrawal, fear, depression, unexplained anger and rebellion.
  • Some common consequences of trauma include nightmares, bedwetting, falling grades, cruelty to animals, bullying, being bullied, fire setting, runaway, and self-harm of any kind.
  • Sexual behavior and language that is not age-appropriate.
  • Use of alcohol or drugs at an early age.

Steps to take if you think your child is being sexually abuse:

  1. Speak to your child right away. Get as many details as possible
  2. Contact the school officials and school board immediately
  3. Familiarize yourself with the school’s policies and regulations regarding teacher conduct.
  4. Inquire whether the school district had other incidents of student sexual abuse.
  5. Request that the school conducts an investigation of the incident. (Ask for a formal written investigation of the findings).
  6. Make a formal report with local authorities and/ or make a report to the state’s child protective services agency.
  7. Contact a local attorney. Charles Boyk Law Offices has handled many sexual abuse cases including those of children victims. We are licensed in both Michigan and Ohio and can help you and your family navigate this difficult time.

Besides criminal prosecution, a civil lawsuit is a way to hold a child sex offender accountable for their actions. However, there is a limited amount of time that the victim can come forward with a claim. Ohio civil statute of limitations only allows a civil claim for childhood sexual abuse to be brought within twelve years after the child reaches the age of majority.  This time limit acts as a barrier against justice for the victims. Even as an adult, many victims hold onto childhood beliefs which prevent them from coming forward. Some beliefs that prevent a victim from coming forward are as follows: fear for the victim’s safety, fear of not being believed or even blamed for the abuse, shame, self-blame, loss of family stability, concern for the perpetrator. For many victims, years of psychological work needs to be completed before the survivor is able to get past these childhood beliefs and possibly confront the abuse.[6] Based on this information it is in society’s best interest to reform Ohio’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases and to give victims unlimited time to come forward to hold offenders accountable.

[1] Townsend, C., & Rheingold, A.A., (2013). Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for practitioners: studies. Charleston Darkness to Light.

[2] Finkelhor, D. (2012). Characteristics of crimes against juveniles. Durham, NH: Crimes against Children Research Center.

[3] Whealin, J. (2007-05-22). Child sexual abuse”. National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, US Department of Veterans Affairs.

[4] London, Bruck, Ceci, & Shuman, 2005; London, Bruck, Wright, & Ceci, 2008.

[5] Department of Justice, 2017; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2017; Department of Justice 2013; Russell, (1984).

[6] Vanino, Sheri, PsyD (2020). The Need For Statute of Limitations Reform In Cases of Child Sexual Abuse.

Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC