Now, more than ever before, we are hearing about children and even adults being subjected to institutional sexual abuse. Although cases of this type of abuse are being reported more often, it is a form of abuse that has been happening in our state and across the country for decades.
The term “institutional sexual abuse” is used to describe sexual contact between two specific parties who have a specific relationship. Many laws interpret this act as abuse performed by a person who has a role of authority against someone who depends on them.
This can include:
Residential care facilities
Private or boarding schools
Foster care homes
Home school groups
People who are abused in these situations often feel like they have no way out. Being abused by someone who is in control or in a superior position can leave victims feeling vulnerable. In many instances, victims are threatened by their abusers.
Figures of authority often threaten victims to keep quiet about what is happening, which can be emotionally devastating to deal with. This is one of the leading reasons why so many instances of abuse go unreported.
What is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse can involve any type of violation of privacy. It can include various types of penetrative or non-penetrative abuse. Some of the most common types of sexual abuse reported by institutional sexual abuse victims include:
Touching or fondling
Witnessing sexual abuse or other children
Any type of penetration
Exposure to pornographic materials
Involving children in sexually exploitation materials or the production of such materials
Child grooming is another type of sexual abuse that is increasingly common. Grooming is a term that is used to describe various strategies used by perpetrators to establish some type of emotional connection with the child.
Adults perpetrators often use subtle grooming techniques in person and online. These techniques allow abusers to lower a child’s inhibitions about the intended abuse that they are being targeted for.
It is important to understand that not all child sexual abuse involves grooming. There are also instances where abusers use physical violence as a tactic. They choose violence to overcome any initial resistance when they are facilitating the abuse, and then they will use further acts of violence to silence the victim.
Some types of abuse that are perpetrated by abusers toward their victims include:
Threats (either toward the victim or their family or friends)
Many female victims report that their abusers used elements of emotional abuse toward them. This type of abuse was often accompanied by some form of physical violence or mistreatment. Many female victims also report that they were sexually abused on multiple occasions. In some instances, the abuse continued for years before it was discovered or reported.
By using emotional and physical abuse, children can be manipulated into believing that what they are going through is normal or that they are personally responsible for what is happening to them.
No child is responsible for being a victim of sexual abuse. Adults are aware of what they are doing, and they are the responsible party.
The unfortunate truth is that sexual abuse is all too common. In many instances, this type of abuse happens in places that are supposed to be safe for children. Not only are children often targeted by sexual abusers, but adults can be victimized too.
There are various locations where people are more likely to be targeted. It is important to understand type types of locations and situations that leave people more vulnerable.
Likely Victims of Institutional Sexual Abuse
The majority of people are dependent upon others at some time during their life. In this type of relationship, people who are dependent upon others can be vulnerable to abuse.
This is especially true in cases where background checks are not performed on staff and/or those in charge do not receive adequate training. There are also situations where there is little to no supervision and open communication is not encouraged. This type of environment can result in instances of abuse thriving. Abuse can be a one-time occurrence or something that occurs continuously.
Some people who are at risk of institutional sexual abuse include:
People who live with disabilities and are residents in care facilities
People with disabilities who have in-home caregivers
Athletes that rely on certain coaches or staff members
Suspects who are detained by the police
Inmates in prisons and jails
Children who have disabilities and/or are enrolled in special care programs
Children who take part in community groups or homeschool groups
Schoolchildren who attend private or boarding schools
Children who are involved in churches and church youth groups
Children in the foster care system
Elders who live in residential care facilities
Elderly individuals who have home caregivers
Regrettably, other people in other groups are also vulnerable to being harmed by others. There are countless institutions that people rely on from day to day or during dire situations. Unfortunately, abuse is not always an isolated problem.
Long-Term Effects of Sexual Abuse
Although child sexual abuse victims experience immediate consequences, they are often forced to suffer for a long time before the abuse is discovered. Given the recent high-profile nature of cases surrounding institutional sexual abuse in Catholic Churches in Massachusetts and across the United States, the number of victims who experienced child sexual abuse continues to rise as more and more victims come forward.
Regrettably, many children suffer long-term effects from being sexually abused as children. The consequences can be mental, physical, and emotional.
Physical Effects of Sexual Abuse
Some of the physical effects that children suffer long-term after experiencing sexual abuse include:
Physical injuries to the sexual organs and other bodily injuries
Unwanted and unplanned pregnancy
Chronic health conditions
Psychological Effects of Sexual Abuse
Various studies have found that the longer-term physical effects of sexual abuse on children show that victims may suffer a variety of psychological consequences as well. These include suffering from:
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Increased risk of engaging in unsafe sexual behaviors
Increased risk of self-harm or suicide
Relationship problems/intimacy issues
Low self-esteem or self-image problems
Increased risk of substance abuse
Increased Likelihood of Repeat Sexual Abuse
People who are subjected to institutional child sexual abuse are at least two times more likely to suffer partner violence later in life. The abuse and victimization that young children are forced to endure may return repeatedly throughout their adult lives.
It has also been suggested that victims of child sexual abuse may become desensitized to dangerous situations due to development difficulties. They may believe that domineering sexual behavior is normal.
Although both male and female victims are subjected to institutional child sexual abuse that results in long-term consequences, there are some notable differences between the two genders.
Female Victims of Institutional Sexual Abuse
Girls are generally more likely to be abused during their lifetime when compared to boys. Consequently, most studies of the long-term effects of abuse have focused on the impacts that females experience.
In female victims, the following observations have been made:
Females are more likely to experience abnormal physical developments after being sexually abused
Female child sex abuse victims are more likely to become pregnant during their teen years
Mental health issues, like depression and PTSD, are more likely
Sexual and physical revictimization is common
Females are more likely to engage in high-risk sexual activities
They are less likely to graduate high school
Females are more likely to suffer self-abuse, self-mutilation, and abuse drugs or alcohol
Male Victims of Institutional Sexual Abuse
According to statistics, roughly one in every 13 boys experience child sexual abuse. Male victims often suffer as a result of society’s views on masculinity, which can include feelings of shame, guilt, and inadequacy about their memories and/or the experiences they had.
Some of the most common problems that male victims of sexual abuse experience can include:
Feeling a loss of masculinity
Mental health issues
Feeling uncertain about sexual orientation
Inability to discuss past experiences
Inability to maintain a steady relationship
Unfortunately, children are not the only vulnerable victims who are being targeted in the state of Massachusetts. We see many people sexually assaulted in nursing homes, hospitals, and in care facilities where they depend on others.
What Is Sexual Abuse of Patients?
Caregivers, doctors, and various other healthcare providers are held to a different standard than others who engage in the criminal act of sexual assault. For care providers, sexual abuse of patients occurs when the caregiver engages in various acts, including:
Has sexual contact with a patient
Touches a patient in a sexual manner
Touches the genitals of a patient when it is not required for any legitimate purpose (such as bathing)
Implying sexual interest toward a patient by touching or engaging in other acts
Making sexual remarks to patients about their body
Patients who are sexually assaulted by medical professionals and caregivers can suffer a lifetime of mental, physical, and emotional consequences. There are various signs that a patient may exert when being sexually abused.
Some of the most common signs or symptoms of sexual abuse of patients include:
Unexplained injuries to the patient
Delaying or refusing to seek treatment for injuries
Injuries that have no legitimate explanation
Injuries to their mouth, anal, or genital areas
New bruising along the inner thighs, breasts, anus, or genitalia
Suck marks and/or bite marks
Sexual transmitted infections or diseases
Changes in behavior that indicate they are depressed or afraid
Fear of specific visitors, family members, or caregivers
It is crucial to note that fewer than 10% of victims report being sexually assaulted. In some cases, the abuse can continue for several weeks or even months without intervention.
Looking for these and other signs can help you determine if your loved one is being abused while in the care of another person or while staying in a nursing home or care facility.
Protecting Victims When Institutions Fail To
It is imperative that victims of sexual abuse are aware of the legal options they have moving forward. In fact, one of the most powerful tools a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse can have is a thorough understanding of their legal rights after being harmed. Speaking with a skilled and experienced Massachusetts institutional sexual abuse lawyer as soon as possible is a critical first step when it comes to pursuing justice and holding the person who caused you harm, to account.
For decades, Massachusetts sexual abuse attorney Carmen Durso Durso at the Law Office of Carmen L. Durso has fought to help Massachusetts residents protect their legal rights after being harmed. When it comes to sexual abuse in schools, hospitals, and other facilities, our lawyers take an aggressive approach to identifying all liable parties. We will seek the maximum amount of compensation on your behalf to ensure you are able to move forward after being harmed.
Over the years, our firm has taken legal action on behalf of victims who have been harmed in hospital or care facilities, as well as private, public, religious, and even charter schools. Our law firm will help you move forward and offer caring and sound counsel that you can trust to get you justice.
Although we understand that abuse is extremely difficult for victims to talk about, you can be sure that we are here to listen to you. Contact our Massachusetts sexual abuse law firm today by calling 617-728-9123 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with Attorney Durso to discuss the legal options available for you.