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Social media becomes last resort for some child sex abuse victims

Earlier this month, we wrote about the troubling way that social media is being used to mitigate liability in civil lawsuits. It is well understood that Facebook and similar sites are full of carefully cultivated pictures and posts meant to portray an idealized self-image of each user. Sadly, defense attorneys in civil lawsuits are increasingly using social media "evidence" to disprove claims of emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life and other allegations.

But in the end, social media is just a tool, and it can be put to both positive and negative use. As just one example, Facebook and other social media sites are sometimes being used by now-grown victims of child sexual abuse after the allegations they make privately have been ignored.

A recent article in Fortune magazine tells the story of a man named Matt. While growing up in a small town in Maine, Matt was sexually abused by a local man and then sexually abused again by a police officer sent to investigate. Matt held the secret for years until it nearly drove him to suicide.

He contacted the state police, who were slow to respond and essentially tried to pass his case around to different agencies. He was getting nowhere. In frustration, he posted about what happened to him on Facebook.

Matt was soon overwhelmed with messages of support, as well as personal stories from other sex abuse victims. He was eventually contacted by other adults who said they were sexually abused by the same police officer as children. Matt also got the attention of the media and of Maine's governor.

To be clear, sharing one's story on social media is not an option for every victim; nor is it necessarily a wise move in all cases. Sex abuse victims should be able to pursue justice (both criminal and civil) while maintaining their privacy and public anonymity. In certain cases, however, statutes of limitation make it nearly impossible for some victims to get any help at all unless they leverage the power of public pressure through social media.

If you have been the victim of sexual abuse (whether recently or a long time ago), please know that you are not alone and that you have options for support and healing. Before turning to social media and other very public measures, you may want to first contact an experienced and compassionate sex-abuse victims' attorney.

Source: Fortune, "Childhood sex abuse victims seek justice via Facebook," Dan Primack, April 30, 2015

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