Survivor Resources: Taking Action After Sexual Abuse

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a wide array of options and resources.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

For the great majority of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, the path forward is an extremely personal one. If you feel it might be time to take a first step, small or big, toward getting help and understanding your options, there is a wide spectrum of resources available.

Survivor Assistance and Anti-Abuse Organizations

A number of organizations are dedicated to providing immediate help to survivors, from simply sharing stories in a safe environment, to formulating the right path forward. Here's a look at a few.

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, operating the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) along with over 1,000 local partners across the country. RAINN also "carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice."
  • Darkness to Light is a non-profit whose work is focused on empowering adults to "prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse through awareness, education, and stigma reduction."
  • The National Sexual Violence Resource Center bills itself as "the leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence."
  • Wings Foundation is a comprehensive resource whose mission is to "connect survivors, loved ones, providers and communities with the resources they need to speak about, heal from and thrive beyond childhood sexual abuse trauma, to live their fullest, healthiest lives."
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network's Sexual Abuse portal includes information for survivors and supporters, including details on treatment options and a vast array of resources.
  • Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse is an international non-profit dedicated to exposing and stopping child sexual abuse, and helping survivors heal.
  • SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) is a peer network working to "support survivors, protect children and the vulnerable, heal the wounded, and expose the truth."

The above-listed organizations and others can provide a bridge to mental health services in your community, which can mean one-on-one counseling with a professional who has experience helping abuse survivors, or group therapy/support group options, where survivors can help one another heal on common ground, and through shared experiences.

Getting Help From the Criminal and Civil Justice Systems

Reporting abuse to law enforcement authorities may also be possible, since criminal charges might be brought against an abuser (and perhaps others) even decades after the abuse occurred. Learn more about pressing charges for a criminal act (from the Nolo network).

Finally, you might feel ready to pursue a civil lawsuit against the abuse perpetrator, an institution (like a church, school district, or youth organization) and anyone else who failed to prevent the abuse, took steps to cover it up, or who may otherwise be liable for causing or contributing to your harm.

If you're ready to learn more about your options for seeking justice over childhood sexual abuse, it might make sense to discuss the specifics of your situation with an attorney. Having an experienced and trusted ally on your side can make a world of difference as you decide on the best way forward. An initial consultation is usually free, and everything you and the attorney discuss is (and remains) confidential, regardless of whether you end up working together. You can connect with an attorney using the chat feature and other tools right on this page. You can also learn more about finding the right attorney for you, and how a lawyer can help.

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