Schools are meant to be places where children learn and improve their lives. When parents take their children to school, they expect them to be safe. Sexual abuse in schools is a tragic event that unfortunately occurs unbeknownst to the public. In California, any sexual contact with a minor is considered abuse. Most schools keep these tragic matters hidden to protect their image, and by the time the allegations surface, the statute of limitations on the act has passed.
Fortunately, a new law allows survivors of school sexual abuse to recover compensation by filing civil suits. If your child is a victim of sexual abuse in school, you can file a claim against the perpetrator and other liable parties. Discussing sexual abuse can be very traumatizing for the victim. Therefore, you will have some legal insight if you wish to pursue a lawsuit and hold the liable parties accountable for their actions. At Sex Crime Attorney, we work hard to ensure the best outcome in your claim. We serve clients requiring legal guidance for a sex abuse lawsuit in Los Angeles, CA.
Overview of Sexual Abuse in Schools
Since minors cannot legally consent, any sexual act involving this group of individuals is considered abuse. Sexual abuse can be a traumatic event that we do not expect in school. When sexual abuse occurs in a school setting that is supposed to be a safe space, it represents the institution's failure to protect the children effectively. The national statistics on sexual abuse in schools are alarming, and the experts associate it with factors like the ease of access to the internet.
If your child is a victim of sexual abuse in school, you need to seek available help for them to move past the situation. Additionally, you can file a civil claim against the abuser and the school for their negligence. In California, sexual abuse can be either:
The definition of sexual assault encompasses a wide range of horrific acts such as:
- Penetration with fingers or other objects
- Forcing a minor to engage in a sexual activity
- Having sexual relations with a student
- Inappropriate touching
- Sexual intercourse involving a minor
- Masturbating in the presence of a minor
Sexual exploitation of a minor could include depicting images of minors engaging in acts defined as sexual assault. Also, it can include adults who persuade, use or coerce children to participate in live sexual performance. The law forbids coercing children and their guardians to allow a child's participation. Some of the forms of sexual exploitation may include:
- Forcing a minor to masturbate
- Taking photos or videos of a child engaging in sexual activity
- Exposing genitals to a child
- Exposing a minor to sexual activity
Commercial sexual exploitation may include sex trafficking or shelter food or money to coerce a minor into sexual acts. In California, school sexual abuse is clarified. According to the sex equity law, each student has a right to be in an environment free from sexual violence, abuse, or harassment.
How Does Sexual Abuse in Schools Occur?
In most cases, sexual abuse happens gradually. For example, a teacher who becomes friendly to a student and tries to build trust and confidence may be viewed as part of the grooming process. The process of sexual abuse in schools begins with identifying the potential victim and breaking down their defenses by creating a relationship of trust with them.
Often these tactics are used on vulnerable minors.
Grooming for potential sexual abuse allows the offender to access the victim and set a relationship based on confidentiality. Like other forms of sexual assault, the relationships of abuse in schools are built on fear and power over the victim. Some of the manifestations of sexual abuse in the school setting include:
- Inappropriate communication, including emails or texts between a teacher or school employee and a student
- Harassment which could include discrimination and gender bias
- Online attacks and leaving offensive comments about the student
- Threats of physical injury in the case where the abuse is disclosed
- Sexual hazing
Since not all instances of sexual abuse are physical, you can still seek justice and file a claim against the perpetrators even when there is no physical evidence. In most cases, sexual abuse in schools is perpetrated by:
- School teachers
- Sports coaches
- Bus drivers
- Volunteers at the school
- Other students
- School counselors
- School administrators
- Staff members
School employees are often popular among the students. It is easy for these individuals to build trust with the children. Abuse in schools is traumatic for the victim and their family and friends.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Not all signs of sexual abuse in children are apparent. Some of the behaviors that could indicate that your child is a victim of sexual abuse include:
- Sudden anxiety and instances of panic attacks
- Withdrawn behavior such as isolation and increased secrecy
- Change in grooming habits
- An excessive amount of time spent online
- Destructive behavior such as the use of drugs
- The desire for clear boundary lines
- Fear of adult interactions
- Worsening grades
- Advanced sexual behavior for a child's age
- Self-destructive behavior
- STD or pregnancy
Sexual Abuse in Different Types of Schools
These heinous acts are within the school environment, and the can children can be easily accessed by the predators. Regardless of the type of school your child attends, instances of sexual abuse should be reported, and you can file a lawsuit. Sexual abuse could occur in any school:
- Private schools. Whether it is a non-denominational or religious school, parents expect their children to be safe when paying extra money to take them to private schools. Unfortunately, paying extra tuition fees will not necessarily guarantee extra safety for your child. If your child is a victim of sexual abuse at a private school, you can file a lawsuit against the perpetrator of the abuse and the school.
- Public Schools. Due to the federal funding, they receive from the government, public schools are often free from liability. This means that public schools are completely protected from being sued based on negligence. However, an experienced sexual abuse attorney can help you file a claim against the school if your children suffered sexual abuse under their care.
- Special needs schools. Students with special needs are very vulnerable to sexual abuse. This is because of the difficulty they have communicating and disclosing their experiences. Also, their inability to protect themselves puts them at a higher risk of abuse. Children with special needs require extra care to ensure that they are safe ad predators do not take advantage of their vulnerability. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Every day special needs schools make decisions that are unsafe for their students.
- Sexual abuse in colleges. Many students in college are still underage and could easily fall victim to sexual abuse. Alcohol consumption is one of the contributing factors to the increased risk of sexual abuse in colleges and campuses.
How Does School Failure Contribute to Sexual Abuse?
Often, your child spends most of their day in school. The teachers, coaches, counselors, and school administrators have received the necessary training to identify potential signs of sexual abuse in your child. If your child's sexual abuser is their teacher or staff member at the school, you can hold them and the school liable for their failure to protect your child as expected.
Under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, some individuals are mandated by the law to report incidences of child abuse and maltreatment. Often, these individuals are in constant contact with the children as part of their employment. The school system includes:
- Instructional aids
- School employees
- An administrator of the day camp at private or public schools
- An administrator of a private or public youth center or recreation program
- A head start program teacher
- An employee of the school district security department
- An individual who works in a child abuse prevention program
- An employee, administrator, or licensed community care at a child care facility
Reasons why Educators Fail to Report Sexual Abuse
School administrators, teachers, and other school staff are required by law to report any suspicions of sexual abuse on underage students. Across schools in California, some educators are shrinking their duty and choosing to stay silent rather than ruin the school's reputation and their co-workers. In some cases, educators are found guilty of the failure to report instances of sexual abuse. Even when educators and other employees know about the abuse, they may fail to report to:
- Protect the reputation of a colleague. When an employee is reported as sexual predator, they risk losing their jobs and suffering severe legal consequences.
- Protect the school's reputation. When we take our children to school, we expect the school to protect our children from traumatic experiences like sexual abuse. If such an instance occurs in school, the school could be liable for the abuse.
- Fear of legal repercussions. Some employees fail to report instances of sexual abuse for fear of being involved in the legal process. Other people fear liability for the monetary damages involved in the case.
- Lack of knowledge of the rules. Although many schools have policies regarding the responsibility of educators and other informants to report instances of abuse, many employees may be unaware of these rules.
Protecting Your Child from Potential Sexual Abuse in School
Many people believe that strangers do sexual abuse. Unfortunately, facts show that most children are abused by people they know. As much as it is difficult to accept, sexual abuse in schools happens all the time. Whether or not your child has been an eviction of these heinous acts, there are some steps that you can take to protect them from future instances of sexual abuse:
- Talk to the child. Children often want privacy, and speaking with them about sexual abuse could be uncomfortable. However, this is something that you need to do to help keep them safe. By having an insight into their day-to-day activities at school, you can detect the signs of abuse and protect them from it.
- Talk to the educators. No one wants to be labeled the helicopter "parent." However, checking in with your child's teachers is a great way to have an open dialogue if a problem arises. Sometimes, teachers often notice problems that a parent may not do.
- Block harmful content. Introduction and familiarity with the internet among schoolchildren have contributed significantly to instances of sexual abuse. You can take advantage of programs that disallow harmful content on your child's phone or tablet.
- End problematic relationships. Your child does not need to be building intimate relationships with teachers, coaches, or other older individuals around the school. If your child's relations with a particular person, you should talk to the child and keep clear boundaries.
In addition to the steps parents could take to protect their children from sexual abuse in schools and school districts, they must take the necessary steps to create a safe student environment. The policies to discourage sexual misconduct between educator's employees and students should be different from other school policies. Some of the steps that schools could take to ensure that all students are safe are:
- Having a standard requirement for all potential employees if the school
- Developing a policy that requires all employees to provide their personal information to their supervisors.
- Requirement for all employees to fully disclose their criminal record. This could help identify sex offenders and keep them away from the students.
- Conduct a criminal and federal background on all potential employees
Compensation for School Sexual Abuse Claims
Child sexual abuse can take a toll on survivors. Victims of school sexual abuse may face physical and emotional damage that lasts a lifetime. Sometimes, survivors could feel like justice is very far since the incidences happened a long time back. However, the California Child Victims Act empowers survivors to demand accountability in financial compensation from the individuals responsible for the abuse.
If your child is a victim of sexual abuse, you can file a civil claim against the perpetrator of the act, the school, or other parties involved in the act. A criminal report is not necessary for you to pursue damages in civil court. Even when sexual abuse is not in criminal charges, you can acquire important information in your civil case.
The Burden of proof in civil court is lower than the one required to prove guilt in criminal court. This means even when the criminal case stalls, you can proceed with the civil suit and recover compensation. When you seek compensation for sexual abuse in school, you can hold multiple individuals accountable. In addition to suing the abuser, you can hold the adults and institutions who failed to uphold their duty of care accountable. If you can successfully prove the likelihood of the abuse occurring, you may be able to recover compensation for:
Child sexual abuse occurring in school can leave a survivor wt significant physical damages. Your child may be left to cope with:
- Physical injuries. In most cases, severe cases of sexual abuse like rape may involve the use of force and violence. The victim could be left with serious physical injuries in such an instance.
- Sexually transmitted infections. Your child could be infected with serious sexually transmitted infections after an instance of sexual abuse. This can take a while to treat and drain you financially.
- Chronic pain. Forced sexual contact could result in severe pain to the victim.
When you file a civil suit for sexual abuse in school, you can recover compensation for medical expenses such as therapy, surgeries, and medications.
When your child is a victim of sexual abuse, you may need to stay home and help them nurse their injuries. In this case, you may be unable to work and earn a living. A child sexual abuse treatment will include payment for lost wages and earning capacity.
Pain and Suffering
Instances of sexual abuse in schools would leave the survivors with long-term pain and suffering. In addition to the physical injuries and damages associated with sexual abuse, the minors could experience emotional challenges that could cause those issues in the future. Some of the common emotional damages associated with sexual abuse in school settings include:
- Depression. Depression is a mood disorder that occurs when feelings associated with sadness and hopelessness continue and interrupt regular thought patterns. It is normal for victims of sexual abuse to experience unhappiness, sadness, and hopelessness. If these feelings persist, it may signify that the victim is undergoing depression. When left untreated, depression could affect the victim's life in the years to come.
- Flashbacks. During flashbacks, a person tends to have memories of traumatic events that happened in the past. It is possible for a survivor of sexual abuse in school to feel that the sexual violence is happening again. It cannot be easy to connect to reality during a flashback. Flashbacks of sexual abuse could be triggered by random experiences connected to the ordeal. These traumatic and painful memories could significantly affect everyday life and relationships.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that results from traumatic events. It is normal for survivors of sexual abuse to experience anxiety, fear, or stress. When these feelings last longer, they could interrupt their daily lives. Although survivors of sexual abuse react differently, the symptoms of PTSD mat include re-experiencing the scenario and avoiding situations related to the incidence.
- Eating disorders. Due to the complex and painful emotions associated with sexual abuse.
- Self-harm. Deliberate self-harm occurs when one inflicts injury on themselves without suicidal thoughts. Some survivors of sexual assault try to cope with the painful feelings by inflicting injury on their bodies. Although this is not a direct sign of suicidal thoughts, the extremity of self-harm could be dangerous.
- Panic Attacks. Panic attracts sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear, which happen when there is a dangerous situation. Children who have undergone any form of sexual abuse may experience panic attracts when they are in a situation that triggers the experience.
Although putting a dollar value on pain and suffering can be difficult, a child sexual abuse case settlement may include compensation for these damages.
Loss of Quality of Life
Many child abuse victims often face damage in their quality of life. Emotional distress is one of the most deliberating injuries for a survivor of sexual abuse. Although survivors often work to move forward, it can be challenging to forget the incident and thus affect their quality of life. Although filing a claim and recovering compensation cannot wipe out the effects of the abuse, a sexual abuse claim settlement could include damages for loss of quality of life.
Loss of Consortium
Child sexual abuse affects both the victim and their families. Often the sexual abuse will affect how the child relates with their family. As part of your sexual abuse civil claim, you can recover compensation for the damaged relationships.
Find a Skilled Sex Crime Attorney Near Me
Keeping our children safe is a number one priority for every parent. However, we cannot protect them from everything. In addition to teaching children how to protect themselves, we rely on schools and teachers to do the same. If your child is a victim of sexual abuse in a California school, you can file a civil lawsuit against the abuser, the school, and other related parties. Even when the perpetrator of the sexual abuse is not facing criminal charges, you may be entitled to make a claim.
It can be challenging to have your child be a victim of sexual abuse in a place where you expect them to be safe. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is crucial. At Sex Crime Attorney, we understand the kind of road ahead of you and the challenges you are likely to face when seeking compensation for losses resulting from sexual abuse. Our attorneys will walk you through this process and represent your child to ensure success in the civil lawsuit. We serve clients requiring legal guidance and representation in Los Angeles, CA. Call us today at 424-835-9799 to discuss more details of your situation.