The Child Victims Act of 2023 alters the definition of “sexual abuse” in Maryland, and it does so to make it easier for abuse survivors to take legal action against their abusers. Now, the definition enables them to sue any entity for “allowing or encouraging” the abuse, not just the person who abused them.
The Definition of Sexual Abuse in Maryland
As of 2022, the Md. Family Law Code § 5-701 defines “sexual abuse” to include abusive acts such as:
- Taking pornographic photos or videos
- Sex trafficking
Except for sex trafficking, child sexual abuse charges can be brought against individuals who were in some way responsible for the child’s well-being, including:
- A parent
- Another relative
- A legal guardian
- A clergy member
- A teacher
The Child Victims Act of 2023 changed that definition. Now, an institution—not just an individual—responsible for any portion of a child’s welfare can be held accountable for sexual abuse.
What the New Definition Means If You Are a Child Sexual Abuse Survivor
To explain what the new definition means for your situation, we can use a well-known case: the abuse that members of the Catholic church perpetrated. This did not involve just one member of the clergy exploiting children. Rather, the entire church they are a part of played a role in:
- Protecting abusive clergy members
- Failing to properly investigate abuse allegations
- Ignoring abuse allegations and allowing children in their care to suffer for years, if not decades
Before the Child Victims Act of 2023, it was harder to hold such a large institution responsible, no matter how heinous the crimes it committed. Now, you have a greater right to sue any institution that should have protected vulnerable individuals from sexual abuse.
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Receiving Compensation Under the Child Victims Act of 2023
The Act does not take effect until October 2023, so you still have some time to learn how the Child Victims Act of 2023 alters the definition of “sexual abuse” in Maryland and what your rights are under this new law.
A sexual abuse lawyer could help you explore your options. One option is to file a lawsuit against the institution that enabled your abuse and collect compensation for things like:
- Physical pain and suffering: Sexual abuse can physically injure a child and cause them physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional suffering and trauma: Long after the abuse ends, you could experience anxiety, depression, anger, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health issues.
- Medical expenses: You could ask for compensation for the treatment you needed from your primary care provider, a psychologist, or another medical professional.
- Impaired quality of life: The physical and emotional toll of child sex abuse could make it challenging or impossible for you to live an ordinary life. You might have to give up career goals, have trouble making friends, or get people to help you with tasks that are easy for others.
- Loss of earning capacity: Mental health symptoms could keep you home from work. Also, you might have to take time off to keep doctor’s appointments.
You could qualify for compensation even if the abuse occurred decades ago: the Act eliminates the statute of limitations (the time limit that abuse victims have to file suit) in many cases.
To find out if the law affects your ability to file a lawsuit, you can ask a clergy sex abuse attorney in your area for legal counsel. It might be hard to open up to an outsider about your abuse, but remember:
- Your lawyer wants to help you receive justice.
- Your lawyer will not question or doubt what you say. They will ask questions about what happened, but only so they can better understand your situation, not because they don’t believe you.
- The legal process can be very unfriendly to lay people and survivors of crimes. A lawyer can help you navigate the system as smoothly as possible.
Evidence of Child Sexual Abuse in Maryland
Before receiving compensation, you must build a strong case with evidence that proves the party you are suing abused you and caused you physical, emotional, and financial distress.
A sexual abuse lawyer can establish your case using evidence from various sources, such as:
- Your friends and relatives: Loved ones who knew you before and after the abuse can testify about your change in attitude, your association with the liable parties, and your attempts to receive treatment for the abuse.
- Your medical records: These documents show you received care for mental and/or physical symptoms related to the abuse.
- Witnesses: For example, if the abuse occurred at school, a lawyer could track down former classmates or teachers who may know something about the abusive environment there.
- The institution’s documentation: A sex abuse law firm can request information from the institution. They can comb through that information for evidence that the institution knew about the abuse but did nothing about it.
- Experts: Certain experts study sexual abuse and institutional abuse for a living. Your lawyer can consult one or more of them to offer a professional opinion about your situation or the institution’s record of abuse.
After what you have been through, you deserve help from a legal professional dedicated to helping abuse survivors confront their abusers. The sooner you contact such a professional, the more they can do for you once the Child Victims Act of 2023 takes effect.
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After Sexual Abuse, You Deserve Justice – Call Us for Help
Surviving child sexual abuse is one of the most harrowing things a person will ever endure. You deserve the opportunity to take legal action against your abusers. Because the Child Victims Act of 2023 alters the definition of sexual abuse in Maryland, you may have a new chance to do so. Call Jenner Law for a free consultation today.