Children in Foster Care Report Higher Rates of Sexual Abuse

A carefree childhood should not be considered a luxury. Children should not have to live their life in fear of their caregivers, which is unfortunately what sometimes occurs when children are placed in foster care.

Generally, studies find that children do best when they are raised by their natural parents, but this ideal arrangement is not possible when neglected or abused children are removed from their homes and enter the foster care system. Unfortunately for these already mistreated children, foster care often perpetuates their dreadful treatment – as recent studies have found a higher prevalence of sexual abuse when children reside in foster care.

A Baltimore study concluded that children in foster care suffered four times higher rates of sexual abuse than the general population. Another study, conducted in Indiana, found three times more physical abuse and twice the rate of sexual abuse in foster homes when compared with the general population. On further examination of the higher rates of abuse in foster care, it was discovered that often times it is the children themselves that are abusing each other.

Unreported Abuse

Even though child abuse is now discussed more openly than in the past, with more child victims and adults who were abused as children coming forward, there is still a large number of victims who never report these crimes. Child abuse is a hidden and deeply rooted problem. Children often suffer quietly, allowing abusers to continue to victimize other children with impunity.

Children and adults are often hesitant to report sexual assaults that occur during their childhood. The reluctance to disclose abuse may be caused by the shame an older child might feel. Also, many children are terrified the abuser will hurt them if they disclose the abuse. Moreover, a child might also fear they will lose the love of someone special or be forced to leave their family or move to a different foster home.

Problems with Delayed Sexual Abuse Reporting

If you were a victim of sexual abuse as a child, you have the right to bring a civil lawsuit against the person who committed the abuse and anyone who could have prevented the abuse. But you only have a certain amount of time to bring a lawsuit. In New York, victims have five years to bring a sexual abuse claim. If you were abused as a child, you can bring a lawsuit until the age of 23 (the five year limitations period begins when you turn 18).

Recent legislation seeks to change the limitations period. According to the proposed changes, the five year limitations period would start at the age of 23 instead of 18. This would allow a victim until the age of 28 to file a sexual abuse lawsuit. Passage, however, of this legislation, is very problematic.

If you were abused as a child, you need to consult with an experienced attorney. Discussing past abuse is sensitive and an attorney will be able to help you by advising you as to your rights and options.