Most parents enroll their children in summer camp or extracurricular activities to help improve their social skills and encourage active bodies and minds. Most of the time, children benefit greatly from having unique and engaging experiences at sleepaway camp or training their bodies for the rigors of competitive sports.

Unfortunately, when the wrong kind of person obtains a job working as a camp counselor, sports coach or even a sports medicine provider, the impact of these activities can end up being a negative for your child and your whole family.

It can be difficult to pursue criminal charges against an abuser. Many times, the only evidence that exists is a child’s word, which will get weighed against the word of an adult by the courts. Without physical evidence, records of inappropriate emails, letters or texts or another witness, obtaining a conviction of a sexual abuser can feel impossible. A child or teen victim could also feel that the process of getting questioned by police and in court is traumatizing. That’s why many families choose to pursue a civil sexual abuse complaint instead of criminal charges.

Sexual abuse takes a number of forms

Just because a counselor or coach didn’t coerce or force a child to have sex or perform a sexual act doesn’t mean it wasn’t sexual abuse. Sexual abuse can look like a lot of different behaviors, including:

  • exhibitionism
  • forcing or “teaching” someone to masturbate
  • fondling or touching, over or under clothing
  • making obscene or suggestive phone calls, emails or messages
  • taking or sharing sexually explicit, nude or suggestive pictures
  • sexual acts, ranging from digital penetration to oral, anal or vaginal sex
  • any other sexual behavior that emotionally or socially damages the victim

If your child comes to you to tell you that someone has abused him or her, you should always believe it. Your child will need you to be an advocate and protector. That can mean removing your child from an unsafe situation or even seeking administrative penalties against the abuser. Schools and sports programs should have a grievance process in place, allowing you to report the abuse and ask for an investigation.

The impact of childhood and adolescent sexual abuse can last for years or become lifelong. Your child will likely require social support, including therapy, to work through the trauma. Self-esteem issues, depression and even severe anxiety can all result from sexual abuse. That’s why a civil suit is often a good decision. It can help your family recoup the expenses incurred as a result of abuse without requiring a potentially traumatizing criminal trial and investigation.