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Sexual abuse is a traumatic event. Reporting abuse is also a serious and difficult process. Many individuals are overcome with guilt, shame, and blame. When abuse occurs in churches, schools, or other facilities that care for children, the individuals in charge have a duty to protect those in their care. Any allegation of sexual abuse must be taken seriously, even if parents do not want to believe it. Many adults are also the victims of abuse or realize that they were abused as children. Andrew Shubin is an attorney for institutional sexual abuse victims in Texas. Below, Andrew discusses how to report sexual abuse.
Reporting Sexual Abuse in Texas
If you live in Texas and suspect that a child is a victim of sexual abuse, you have a legal obligation to report your concerns. Failure to report a case of suspected sexual abuse is a criminal offense.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is charged with investigating suspected allegations of child sexual abuse when the abuse involves a person who has the care, welfare, or custody of the child. In cases of alleged abuse by household members, Child Protective Services (CPS), a division of DFPS, will conduct the investigation. In addition to either of these two agencies, you might want to report the suspected sexual abuse to your local law enforcement. If you or a child are in imminent danger, then you should call 9-1-1 immediately. Local Texas law enforcement is responsible for conducting criminal investigations surrounding reported sexual abuse. Any investigation undertaken by DFPS is civil and focuses on the wellbeing of the child and family.
Under Texas law, you are protected from liability if you make a good faith report regarding suspected sexual abuse. However, the law does not provide this protection if you report your own abuse of a child or intentionally file a false report against another person. In each situation, you could be held both civilly and criminally liable.
DFPS has a 24-hour, toll-free sexual abuse hotline at 1-800-252-5400 that you can use to report suspected abuse. When you call you should give all the information and details you have. While anonymous calls are accepted, if you leave your name, you will be issued an ID number to use later if you wish to report additional information regarding the case. All calls are confidential.
Additional Resources to Report Sexual Abuse in Texas
You have a legal obligation to report suspect sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities in Texas. However, you may also want to report the abuse to other individuals or institutions. For example, if you believe a coach at their school abused your child, you will want to report the incident or your suspicions to the principal, athletic director, or school district. Likewise, if the suspected abuser was a clergy member, you would want to report the incident to the local archdioceses or other religious governing body. Our attorney for victims of sexual abuse by a coach or other abuser can assist you in reporting your allegations to the proper authorities in Texas.
Filing a Civil Lawsuit for Sexual Assault in Texas
When you report sexual abuse to DFPS or your local law enforcement, the victim will be treated for the abuse they endured and a possible criminal charge will be filed against the abuser. However, victims of sexual abuse in Texas could be entitled to file a civil lawsuit against the abuser or the institution that allowed the abuse to occur.
Often, victims of sexual abuse do not achieve any closure through a criminal conviction. In most criminal procedures, the victim plays little to no role other than providing physical evidence of the abuse. In civil litigation, a victim has the option to actively participate, often providing a sense of justice they did not feel through the criminal process.
Furthermore, through a civil lawsuit, the victim can pursue monetary compensation for their medical expenses and their physical and emotional pain associated with the sexual abuse. Many sexual abuse victims require years of therapy or find themselves in a depressed mental state that impacts their ability to work or succeed. Money will not take away the harm that abuse causes but it can help a victim heal and move forward. Our experienced lawyer for sexual abuse victims of the Catholic Church in Texas will assist you in filing a lawsuit to hold the responsible party or parties accountable.
Liable Parties in a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit in Texas
Determining who should be held responsible for the abuse you suffered is not always straightforward. In some situations, especially if the abuse occurred years ago, it is challenging to find the individual who hurt you. Additionally, it is often possible to hold more than one party accountable. For instance, if an institution such as a church, school, or youth athletic association failed to protect the children in their care or allowed suspected abuse to continue, it could be held liable.
While a criminal conviction is helpful, it is not required to prevail in a civil lawsuit. Because the burden of proof in a civil case is substantially less than a criminal proceeding, it is not impossible to win a civil claim if an alleged abuser escapes criminal penalties. Our experienced Texas lawyer for sexual abuse victims at camp can help you determine what parties should be held liable and gather evidence to support your claim.
Call Our Texas Sexual Abuse Victim Lawyers for a Free Consultation
One of the first steps in finding justice after being sexually abused is reporting the incident. Furthermore, if you suspect a child is being sexually abused, you have a legal obligation to report it to the proper authorities. The Law Office of Andrew Shubin assists victims and their families in Texas in reporting the abuse. Our office is also dedicated to fighting for their legal rights and compensation. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call (814) 826-3586.