The frequency of child sexual abuse in the U.S. is difficult to quantify because often it goes unreported, but statistics – even if the underlying data is underreported – remain staggering. In 2017, of the more than 1.1 million children under the age of 18 living in Louisiana, nearly one in every 2,000 of those children was a victim of sexual abuse.
Sexual Abuse: An Enduring Scourge
Sexual abuse can be physical, involving contact to or with a minor in the form of rape, oral sex, or fondling, kissing, or touching of a sexual nature. It can also include other non-contact acts of a sexual nature, such as showing explicit images to a child, revealing oneself sexually to a child, asking the child to reveal themselves sexually, or sexually exploiting a child for commercial purposes.
According to data compiled by the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LaFASA), one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually victimized by their 18th birthday. Nearly 70 percent of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under; approximately 35 percent of the victims of sexual abuse are age 11 or younger.
In 2017, there were 523 cases of child sexual abuse reported to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. This number is a marked improvement from the 876 cases reported in 2011, and, promisingly, child sexual abuse cases have declined fairly steadily over that period (notwithstanding a minor increase in 2015). However, the overall child abuse rate remains high; child sexual abuse constituted 5.4 percent of reported child maltreatment incidents in Louisiana in 2017.
The Numbers Behind Religious Abuse Scandals in New Orleans
In October 2108, the Catholic church released the names of 57 men who served as priests or deacons in the Archdiocese of New Orleans in connection with sexual abuse allegations against them. Archbishop Gregory Aymond made the information public because he believed “it is the right thing to do in order to foster the healing of victims in a spirit of transparency, and in the presence of justice.” The church also provided the results of its extensive investigation to the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office.
In December 2018, the Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province released its own list of credible sexual abuse accusations against 42 of its members; in January 2019, the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux released yet another list of 14 priests that it believed were “credibly accused” of sexual abuse.
In February 2019, the results of a six-month investigation by the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle reported the names of 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and workers who were accused of sexual misconduct since 1998, including four from Louisiana. In total, these accused church personnel are alleged to have abused more than 700 victims over the course of twenty years.
In many of these cases of alleged abuse, the statutes of limitations have expired for criminal prosecution; plus, many of the alleged abusers have passed away. However, civil actions against surviving offenders and their accomplices—including, potentially, the churches or church leaders—may still be possible, depending on the individual circumstances.
Human Trafficking Prevention: A Rising Priority
Because of its location and prominence as an international shipping port, New Orleans and the entire state of Louisiana have a significant human trafficking problem. A 2018 DCFS report to state lawmakers said Louisiana identified 681 confirmed or prospective victims of human trafficking that year. More than half – 356 – were juveniles. Seventy-two were 12 years old or younger. Young people are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking, whether as runaways or as a victim of a participating family member or caregiver.
To combat these issues, state and local law enforcement, lawmakers, and victims’ services groups are working together and developing anti-trafficking initiatives. Louisiana held a series of nine regional symposiums from November 2017 through March 2018 to help those workers identify warning signs, address causes, and implement concrete action plans to combat the problem. In January 2019, the state was awarded a $1.2 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime to help improve the outcomes for child victims of human trafficking.
Are You a Survivor of Abuse?
If you are a survivor of clergy abuse or other victimization, you may be able to recover compensation for physical and emotional damages. We have experience pursuing civil sexual abuse lawsuits, and we can evaluate your case and help you pursue claims for compensation.