What is Sexual Abuse?

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) defines child sexual abuse as [A]ny interaction between a child and an adult (or another child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or an observer.  Sexual abuse can include both touching and non-touching behaviors. Non-touching behaviors can include voyeurism (trying to look at a child’s naked body), exhibitionism, or exposing the child to pornography.  Children of all ages, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds may experience sexual abuse.  Child sexual abuse affects both girls and boys in all kinds of neighborhoods and communities.

How Common is Child Sexual Abuse?

It is hard to tell how frequent child sexual abuse occurs, given that some child victims never disclose their abuse (1). Studies show that while 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult (2), only about 38% of child victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused (3).

What is the Impact and Harm of Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse can have life-long effects on a person’s mental health.  Victims are more likely than non-victims to experience the following mental health challenges (4):

  • About 4 times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse
  • About 4 times more likely to experience PTSD as adults
  • About 3 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults

Who Qualifies to File a Lawsuit?

Between August 14, 2019 and August 14, 2020, anyone, regardless of age, in the state of New York, can file a lawsuit under the Child Victims Act as long as:

  • An event of child sexual abuse, molestation, assault or other similar misdeed occurred when the victim was under the age of 18
  • The victim has physical or psychological injuries or conditions as a result of the abuse
  • The victim or their families file their lawsuit before August 14, 2020.
  • While the new statute gives victims and their families a year to file their claim, it is important that those who qualify not wait to contact us to learn about their rights.  The New York Child Victim’s Act will only revive past claims until August 14, 2020 and waiting until the last moment could impact your rights.  The more time we have, the more prepared we will be to give you the best possible outcome.

Is There a Change in the Law for Children Who Become Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Future?

Yes. Starting February 14, 2019, 2007, the statute of limitations for a minor victim of sexual abuse can bring a claim against perpetrators of sexual abuse and the public and private institutions and organizations responsible for allowing the abuse to continue until the victim reaches the age of 55.

The New Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse Applies to the Following Charges:

  • Rape
  • Statutory sexual assault
  • Indecent exposure
  • Incest
  • Endangering the welfare of children
  • Corruption of minors
  • Sexual abuse of children
  • Sexual exploitation of children

What Responsibility Do Public and Private Institutions Have in Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse?

Decades of investigations into the treatment of child sexual abuse allegations has established that child sex offenders act in a predatory manner seeking out institutions and organizations that will provide access to future victims.  This type of “institutional sexual abuse” can take place in a wide variety of settings where individuals are in a position of power and trust in relation to children (5).

Predators who victimize children in institutional settings often times rely on organizations to deny accusations of abuse as a means of protecting the organization as a whole.  Complaints are ignored or minimized.  Victims are doubted and witnesses are intimidated.  In effect, the institution’s denials and secrecy provide sexual abuse offenders with a built in defense system that allows the abuse to continue (6). As a result of the institution’s failure to protect victims, the predator has the means of continuing this abuse on victim after victim.


  1. (Broman-Fulks, J. J., Ruggiero, K. J., Hanson, R. F., Smith, D. W., Resnick, H. S., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Saunders, B. E. (2007). Sexual assault disclosure in relation to adolescent mental health: Results from the National Survey of Adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 36, 260 – 266.) (Smith, D. W., Letourneau, E. J., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S., & Best, C.L. (2000).  Delay in disclosure of childhood rape.  Results from a national survey. Child Abuse and Neglect, 24, 273-287.)
  2. [David Finkelhor, Anne Shattuck, Heather A. Turner, & Sherry L. Hamby, The Lifetime Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Assessed in Late Adolescence, 55 Journal of Adolescent Health 329, 329-333 (2014)]
  3. ( London, K., Bruck, M., Ceci, S., & Shuman, D. (2003) Disclosure of child sexual abuse: What does the research tell us about the ways that children tell? Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11(1), 194-226.) (Ullman, S. E. (2007). Relationship to perpetrator, disclosure, social reactions, and PTSD symptoms in child sexual abuse survivors. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 16(1), 19-36.)
  4. [H.M Zinzow, H.S. Resnick, J.L. McCauley, A.B. Amstadter, K.J. Ruggiero, & D.G. Kilpatrick, Prevalence and risk of psychiatric disorders as a function of variant rape histories: results from a national survey of women. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 47(6), 893-902 (2012).]
  5. (https://www.csacentre.org.uk/research-publications/key-messages/institutional-csa/)
  6. (https://www.csacentre.org.uk/research-publications/key-messages/institutional-csa/)