Marsh Law Firm Blog

When a Child Discloses Abuse

You are a teacher, a child care worker, a program administrator, or any other person who has contact with children. One day, you observe a child engaged in highly abnormal sexual play, for example, putting a doll’s head close to the child’s genital area, or “humping” another child. You know from experience working with children that this is unusual. Perhaps a child hints that they may have been physically or sexually abused. What should you do?

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Sexting, Schools, and Law Enforcement: Where Does Child Protective Services Fit In?

Sexting. You won’t find the word in any 20th century dictionary. A combination of “sex” and “texting,” sexting is the exchange of explicit pictures via cell phone. Sometimes the photographs are shared voluntarily. Often, an element of coercion is present. In either case, once the photographs are sent, they can subsequently be used to embarrass, intimidate, or bully.

CPS employees, in conjunction with law enforcement and school officials, are the key officials making tough legal and ethical calls. And, as we know very well, citizen, legislative, and legal oversight is, and should be, omnipresent. Particularly from a legal perspective, making the right call on a consistent basis is a matter of understanding, training, and attention to detail.

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The Legal Contours of Child Endangerment

Adults who care for children have a legal obligation to ensure those children avoid unreasonably dangerous situations. Failing to adequately protect a child may result in the caregiver being charged with “child endangerment” or “endangering the welfare of a child.”

Examples of child endangerment may include:

  • Driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle
  • Leaving a child alone and unsupervised with available dangerous weapons
  • Leaving a child unattended in an unsafe area or vehicle
  • Hiring a person with a known history of sexual offenses to supervise a child
  • Leaving a young child unsupervised or in the care of another young child
  • Providing drugs or alcohol to an underage driver
  • Opting for spiritual healing rather than conventional medicine when a child’s life is in danger
  • Failing to report suspected child abuse
  • Domestic violence episodes that take place in front of children

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Sexual abuse by a cousin is incest

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One area of sexual abuse remains secretive, private, and unprosecuted – incest between family members other than a parent or a sibling. A number of studies regarding incest have been done. To our knowledge, none have specifically included cousins as perpetrators or victims.

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Litigation Strategies for Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

In most claims for personal injury there are time limits by which the claim must be brought. There are various exceptions, including sexual abuse that took place many years ago when the claimant was a minor. In all lawsuits, the credibility of facts and witnesses is crucial. Abuse allegations, by their nature, are infrequently able to be independently, conclusively verified. Further, litigation is inherently an endeavor in which witnesses may have a stake in a particular explanation of past events.

Assuming there is no statute of limitations concern, what are some of the unique challenges and “tricks of the trade” of filing or defending against this type of civil lawsuit? We asked a number of experienced attorneys to share their insights about handling a sexual abuse case when the alleged abuse happened many years ago. The following are their observations.

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James R. Marsh Appointed to Blue Ribbon Commission Examining the Larry Nassar Scandal

CHILD USA, the University of Pennsylvania-based think tank focused on child abuse and neglect, with $300,000 in funding from the Foundation for Global Sports Development (GSD), today announced the establishment of an independent Blue Ribbon Commission to examine the institutional responses to sexual abuse by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. The announcement came at the Athletes and Abuse Symposium hosted at the University of Pennsylvania, where leading national experts on sports, law enforcement, child sexual abuse, and child development convened to examine the repeated abuse of athletes across the spectrum of sports and ages.

“Game Over: Commission to Protect Youth Athletes” led by Marci Hamilton, CEO of CHILD USA and Fox Professor of Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, will have 16 members, and will immediately engage in a fact-finding exercise, before conducting public hearings to bring greater light to what happened and what went wrong in reporting. The commission expects to release a full, public report, in the beginning of 2020 with the goal of preventing abuse in the future.

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Marsh Law Firm – Supporting Child Pornography Victims

Our firm co-sponsored this first-ever gathering of child pornography survivors who created this mandala of hope and resilience. Calling themselves the ‘Phoenix Ten,’ survivors shared their lifelong experiences and organized as a powerful force demanding change.

Survivors banded together to share experiences and create a force to challenge the inadequate responses to the prevalence of child sex abuse images on the Internet. One outcome of the retreat was the establishment of an action group focusing on bringing the collective voice of these victims to the international stage.

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Towards a Global Indicator on Unidentified Victims in Child Sexual Exploitation Material

Ground-breaking research released by INTERPOL and ECPAT International into the online sexual exploitation of children suggests that when online images or videos of child sexual abuse depict boys or very young children, the abuse is more likely to be severe. Other messages from the study:

  • Law enforcement officials face multiple challenges in identifying victims and offenders, even with powerful tools such as the ICSE Database;
  • A significant proportion (61 percent) of analysed series contained images and videos that were both abusive and exploitative in character, and in the vast majority of the analysed series from child modelling sites, both abusive and exploitative material was visible;
  • Accurate determination of core characteristics of victims such as age is a challenge, particularly across ethnic groups;
  • Even though most offenders were male, there are some females involved in the abuse and exploitation of children – and more needs to be understood about this phenomenon; and
  • The phenomenon of ‘youth-produced sexual imagery’ appears to present a challenge to international law enforcement, both in terms of the detection and integration of this imagery with international image databases, and the identification and classification of its victims.

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Battling the Cover-Up Culture of Child Sexual Abuse in Schools

Too many schools are failing in their responsibility to keep children safe from sexual abuse. The doctrine of in loco parentis demands that schools assume the responsibility of the parent to keep a child safe at school. Often, instead of protecting children, schools have been covering up sexual abuse of children by teachers, failing to investigate and report alleged abuse, and allowing teachers to silently leave. Not surprisingly, this allows them to find employment as teachers elsewhere, free to resume their predatory behavior.

This “passing the trash” policy has been well-publicized regarding sports, religious, and fraternal institutions. Schools are where children leave the protection of their parents to learn in a presumptive safe environment. How, and why, are some failing to adequately protect our children?

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The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in Court

During the 28 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force, it has become the world’s most ratified human rights treaty—with the notable exception of the United States—and a powerful tool for advancing children’s rights. The Convention is the canonical statement of children’s rights, but it is also an enforceable legal instrument being applied around the world to protect children’s rights.

The excellent Child Rights International Network ["CRIN"] launched the CRC in Court case law database in 2009 to highlight important court decisions that quote and discuss the Convention.

This report draws out the ways the CRC has been used around the world to challenge abuses of children’s rights, but also where it has been misunderstood and misapplied by national courts. It addresses the use of the Convention in general, and features more detailed analysis of three of the most cited rights under the Convention and the divergent ways they have been applied and interpreted.

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