Due to busy schedules, as a parent, you cannot be around your child consistently and are forced to depend on daycare services. Unfortunately, most children continue to be sexually abused by their caretakers. When daycares fail to protect minors from sexual abuse or molestation, the alleged victims suffer devastating and long-lasting emotional, physical, and psychological consequences. At Sex Crime Attorney, our skilled legal team has many years of experience representing clients in sexual abuse-related civil lawsuits throughout Los Angeles. We can assist both you and your child receive your deserved compensation and justice by filing a claim against the defendant.

Daycare Sexual Abuse Statistics

Many people think that child abuse involves either physical abuse or physical violence. Nevertheless, child abuse can also refer to the sexual abuse suffered by minor children. The American Society for the Positive Care of Children reports that about 8.3% of juveniles are sexually abused.

The above statistics on child sexual abuse apply to general abuse, not daycare sexual abuse. The Office of Child Abuse and Neglect (U.S. Health and Human Services) reports that less than 1% is reported to have happened in child care facilities. However, there were about 5,321 reported child neglect or abuse cases in daycare facilities across 39 states in 2019. Of these, 22% involved sexual abuse, approximately 1,171 cases.

The McMartin Preschool Trial

In 1983, the Los Angeles District Attorney prosecuted the McMartin Preschool and held McMartin family members accountable for repeated child sexual assault conduct in the facility.

The first allegation involved a two-year-old boy sodomized by Ray Buckey, a teacher. Most children initially denied being molested. Then the police told them that other minors had given up the school secrets and were pushed to do the same. Over the years, at least 350 pre-school-aged children and former students accused the facility's provider of sexually abusing children in rituals that involved acts like infant sacrifice, cannibalism, and blood drinking. As a result, most daycare facility workers were arrested for sexual abuse and tried.

This case remains the most expensive and lengthy criminal trial ever held in the U.S. However, the defendants were never convicted in California due to insufficient evidence, and their case was dropped.

Defining Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is engaging in or attempting to engage in sexual conduct with a minor. Sexual abuse in a daycare center can take different forms, including:

  • Touching a juvenile's body for sexual purposes or causing a minor to touch themselves or somebody else for sexual purposes

  • Performing oral copulation with a child (contact between one person's mouth and the anus or sexual organ of another)

  • Rape

  • Sodomy

  • Child pornography

Please note that sexual abuse goes beyond physical acts. It can also include:

  • Sending obscene or explicit material to a child

  • A person exposing themselves to a minor

  • Masturbating in the presence of a child

  • Psychological pressure to engage in sexual behavior

Sexual abuse involves sexual acts with a minor where consent cannot or is not given. It consists of sexual contact between a minor child and an adult, whether trickery exists or the juvenile understands the sexual act's nature.

How to Tell Your Child Is/Was Sexual Abused in a Daycare Center

More often than not, signs of child sexual abuse are present but can be indistinguishable from signs of distress, trauma, or child stress. Understanding what to look for as a parent can help.

These signs can be either emotional or physical, with physical signs being rare. Emotional signs range from being too perfect to unexplained anger, depression, and withdrawal.

It is also essential to note that some minors do not show any signs. Fortunately, there are red flags you can recognize during the grooming process.

Emotional Signs

They include:

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Avoiding relationships and low self-esteem

  • Change in body perception or self-mutilation such as thinking of body or self as dirty

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Abnormal sexual conduct or knowing advanced sexual behaviors and language

  • Overly compliant or too "perfect" conduct

  • Regression to outgrown conduct like thumb sucking or bedwetting

  • Sleep disturbances like night terrors or nightmares

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Changes in attitude towards academic performance or school, lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, sports, or friends

  • Withdrawal or rebellion

  • Frequent or unexplained health conditions

  • Unusual fear of being alone or of specific places or people

Physical Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

While direct physical signs are rare, when present, they include bleeding, bumps, redness, scabs, or bruising around the anus, mouth, or genital. Other warning signs are sexually transmitted disease, abnormal penile or vaginal discharge, or urinary tract infection,

Whereas indirect physical signs can include:

  • Recurring or persistent pain during bowel movements or urination

  • Soiling or wetting accidents unassociated with toilet training

  • Headache

  • Severe stomach pain

How to Tell an Adult Daycare Employee is Taking A Lot of Interest in Your Son/Daughter

Grooming is an intentional process where an offender gradually initiates and maintains a sexual relationship with the victim in secrecy. On the surface, grooming a juvenile looks like a close relationship between the offender, the victim, and the parent/caregiver. Here are red flags acts to take note of:

  • Gift giving

  • Special preference/attention to your child

  • Sympathetic listener

  • Hugging or touching your child

  • Gaining access through the internet

  • Offers to assist your family

  • Insisting on spending time with the child, without interruptions

  • Refusing to permit the child enough privacy or to make their own decisions about personal issues

  • Frequently walk in on your child in the bathroom

Child Sexual Abuse Effects

Child sexual abuse is a traumatic experience with lasting and immediate effects (emotional, physical, and psychological). Understanding the impact of the abuse can help you as a parent seek assistance in your child's recovery journey.

Common effects include:

  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy

  • Chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity

  • Physical injuries

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Cognitive impairment

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts, unsafe sexual conduct, substance abuse, self-harm

  • Low self-esteem

  • Relationship challenges

  • Eating disorders

Also, persons who experienced child sexual abuse are twice at risk of non-sexual intimate partner violence compared to those who have never been abused.

How to Prevent Daycare Sexual Abuse

There are numerous ways to protect your child from abuse at a daycare facility. The initial step involves carefully vetting and electing the center. Visit all prospective daycares and ask the employees questions while observing how they interact with other children.

Next, inquire about their supervision and hiring policies. Choose a center that prioritizes your son/daughter's needs and appears happy and relaxed around children. Also, contact the department of social services and the police department to see if any reports are brought against the service provider.

Ensure you choose a licensed and certified center that runs criminal background checks on its staff. An effective way to understand how the facility operates is involving yourself in the daycare's activities, such as volunteering to help in special events or field trips.

You should also instruct your child to say no to anyone who requires them to engage in anything embarrassing, wrong, or painful. Advise them on what to do in potentially hazardous situations to stop the sexual abuse from occurring.

Can You File a Civil Lawsuit?

On January 1, 2020, Assembly Bill 218 law became effective. The law increases the statute of limitations (SOL), allowing more victims of sexual abuse to file their claims. SOL is the timeframe in which an alleged victim should file their claim. Generally, the statute of limitation starts running from the date of the occurrence. The state enacts the SOL and can reduce or extend the time limit based on case facts.

Your skilled lawyer should determine whether your claim is within the existing SOL during your initial consultation. AB 218 allows most older abuse survivors and victims to seek justice. Any child sexual abuse survivor can bring their claim within a limited three-year look-back duration.

The look-back window, valid from January 2020, means any claim previously barred because of elapsed SOL can be resubmitted in court for consideration until December 31, 2022. It presents an opportunity for hundreds of victims who would have been unable to file their claim to receive compensation for sexual wrongdoing that happened a long time ago. Nevertheless, this look-back window under Assembly Bill 218 exists for a limited duration, and survivors who fail to bring their claim timely will not receive compensation after January 2023.

After the look-back timeframe closes, a victim who the SOL did not bar before AB 218 was passed still can qualify to file their case.

Also, the law increases the maximum age to bring a sexual abuse lawsuit from twenty-six to forty. Nevertheless, if you were above 26 when AB 218 became effective, the bill will not apply, and you should bring your claim within the look-back window. Only victims under 26 years of age before January 2020 are eligible to bring their claim until they are forty years.

Additionally, the law allows an SOL of five years (an increase from three years) after discovering that your adulthood psychological injuries, such as PTSD, result from your daycare child sexual abuse. That means if you learned of your psychological disease after the bill became effective, you have five (5) years to bring your claim.

To establish qualification, you require submitting statements from a certified psychological therapist diagnosing the relationship between your childhood sexual abuse and the mental health condition. Your lawyer should also issue statements supporting the therapy.

AB 218 also addresses cover-ups in all child sex offenses. If the offender or daycare cover-up the abuse, the law treble damages allow the judge to rule the defendant to compensate you three (3) times the damages suffered. That means a 4 million damage award can amount to $12 million per the treble damage cover-up clause.

Reporting Daycare Sexual Child Abuse

When your baby reveals acts of sexual abuse to you or you suspect it, you have the right to bring a complaint with the relevant agencies to investigate the matter.

While school volunteers are not mandated reporters, the law encourages them to have training in identifying and reporting child neglect and abuse. The training is provided online to mandated reporters and is equally accessible by school volunteers.

Responsibilities of a Mandated Reporter

Under California PC 11165.7, the list of professions qualifying to be mandated reporters grows from time to time. It includes school workers, athletic coaches, and administrators. Every person employed in a position considered a mandated reporter is required upon their employee engagement to be issued a statement indicating that they are a mandated reporter and the responsibility to report all suspected child neglect and abuse cases under PC 11166.5.

If a minor shares evidence with you leading you to think that abuse has occurred or reasonably suspect sexual abuse, you should report it. No daycare administrator or supervisor can inhibit or impede the report or even impose sanctions on you. It is not your obligation to determine whether the sex abuse allegation is valid.

Your responsibility is not met by just reporting the matter to the daycare's supervisor. You should contact a county child welfare agency or your local police department. A suitable law enforcement agency can be any of the below:

  • Sheriff's or police department

  • A County Child Protective Service or County Welfare Department

  • A County probation department, if the county has designated it to accept child sexual abuse reports

It would help to report the matter immediately over a phone call and later in writing. Your law enforcement agent has forms that you should fill out. If you cannot make your report straightaway over the phone, you can report via fax or email. You can bring the report simultaneously with the county office of education (COE) or school district. However, COEs and school districts neither investigate allegations nor contact the suspect.

COEs and school districts could have other policies adopted at the local level linked to mandated reporters' responsibilities. Daycare employees should speak with the district to check if they should take further steps.

As a mandated reporter, you should provide your name when making your report. However, the report and your identity are kept confidential. You have immunity from California's civil or criminal liability for reporting.

Failing to report daycare sexual abuse is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum of $1,000 in fines and a six-month county jail sentence.

Under AB 1432, all local educational agencies (LEA) should train employees annually to identify and respond to child abuse cases. All employees include any person working for/with LEA, such as teacher's aides, teachers, classified workers, and any other person whose obligations bring them into supervision and direct contact with students.

Damages Awarded in Civil Claims

If convicted of child sexual abuse charges result in a criminal prosecution, the predator can face penalties like incarceration, probation, and fines. However, a civil lawsuit is the only means a minor victim can receive compensation for the injuries caused.

The type and amount of compensation available depend on the case facts. Because there is no cause of action known as sexual assault in California civil laws, you should file another legal theory under which you should hold the sexual abuse perpetrator accountable.

If your claim is successful, you will receive compensation for:

  • Non-economic damages that include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of life enjoyment, and mental anguish

  • Economic damages, including the cost of counseling, medical attention, and other services and care made essential by the daycare sexual abuse, lost income, and lost future earnings.

Establishing Your Daycare Sexual Abuse Case in a Civil Court

If the abuse resulted in a criminal charge and the perpetrator was found guilty, you stand to succeed in the civil lawsuit. Collateral estoppel entitles the plaintiff to present evidence that the jury has used to sentence the defendant for the sex crime in a criminal case.

Even when the defendant was not found guilty or the suspect prosecuted, proving the accused sexually abused your child is more effortless. The standard of proof is lower in civil cases than in criminal charges. You only need to prove that it is more likely than not that the accused engaged in the offense (preponderance of the evidence). On the contrary, in criminal cases, the burden of proof needs the prosecutor to verify guilt beyond any reasonable doubt, which is a more challenging standard to satisfy.

Please note that you can file your claim against another person other than the sexual abuse perpetrator. For instance, the defendant's boss could be held responsible:

  • For failing to offer adequate security

  • For failing to safeguard children in the daycare center adequately

  • Under the negligent supervision theory

Compensation and Settlement Funds

Most daycare sexual abuse cases are resolved through out-of-court settlements. It can be via participation in a compensation fund or an agreement.

The settlement agreement requires confidentiality by every party. Also, accepting the settlement means you lose the entitlement to take legal action over your childhood sexual abuse and its effects in the future.

Is Daycare Childhood Sex Abuse Compensation Amount Taxable?

The answer to this question depends on your settlement amount and its compensation purpose. Here are general guidelines applying to compensation awarded to child sexual abuse survivors:

Typically, compensation for a physical injury is neither taxable nor is compensation for emotional distress, pain and suffering, psychological harm, or lost income

If your claim is founded on non-physical injuries (a lawsuit for emotional distress without abuse allegations), any award or settlement will be considered income and hence subject to tax.

Your compensation amount is taxable if you receive punitive damages because of the defendant's outrageous or egregious behavior.

If you claim a deduction in previous years for medical costs linked to sexual abuse or counseling, you can land into taxation trouble when the settlement is designed to cover these costs.

Since tax laws are complicated, only a skilled lawyer can best determine the details of the case.

You Can File Your Daycare Childhood Sexual Abuse Claim Anonymously

The law requires that all plaintiffs be identified by their name. However, some circumstances make it possible for the plaintiff to use a pseudonym or initials.

You should file a motion requesting the judge to file your claim anonymously. Typically, to file the claim anonymously, at least one of the following factors should exist:

  • Revealing your identity can pose you to threat or danger of retaliatory physical harm

  • Your identification can cause severe financial or reputation harm

  • Revealing your identity can lead to significant psychological harm

Steps to Take If Your Child Tells You That They Have Been Sexually Abused

If your son/daughter tells you that they have been sexually abused in their daycare or you reasonably believe they have been abused, you should convey a message of support and care to the child. Here is what you should do:

  • Since you might experience many emotions simultaneously, acknowledge the emotions. It helps you manage them appropriately and focus on supporting the juvenile.

  • Be a safe place for your son/daughter and provide constant reassurance of your protection and love for them.

  • After the child reveals what occurred, thank them for telling it to you and help them understand the perpetrator's conduct was wrong. Reassure the child that it is not their fault.

  • On top of seeking medical attention for any physical injuries, consult with a mental health expert seasoned in childhood sexual abuse.

Many parents try resolving the matter at home without seeking assistance. You can retain a lawyer to protect your rights and help you find resources that can further assist you. Available resources include:

  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

  • The Center for Family Justice

  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline

Find an Experienced Legal Representation Near Me

You cannot underestimate the psychological and physical damage of childhood sexual abuse. When your child suffers molestation in a daycare facility due to another person's intentional conduct, the perpetrator should be held accountable. At Sex Crime Attorney, we recognize that sexual abuse cannot be undone but can seek to assist you and your child move on from the molestation by seeking justice and obtaining financial compensation. If your child has been a victim of daycare sexual abuse in Los Angeles, please get in touch with us at 424-835-9799 to review your case. Our lawyers can listen to your side of the story with compassion, address your concerns, and discuss legal options.