Attorney for Victims of Institutional Sexual Assault + Abuse
Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts
Our team has provided legal representation to victims in the case of Coach Sandusky of Penn State, successfully representing them in a civil case against the university. The troubling cases stemming from the sexual assault of multiple victims has led to major changes in Pennsylvania law with the intent to prevent the incidence of institutional sexual assault.
Our lawyers know first-hand how to work with victims of abuse in these cases where witnesses are reliving experiences and traumas that go many years back and where there has been great indifference to the emotional pain and loss of victims. If there is anything that can be learned from the Sandusky case is that even the most revered and longstanding official is capable of engaging in unlawful abuse and that other persons in positions of trust who stay quiet can be held accountable in both criminal and civil courts.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of institutional sexual assault, you can call The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586. We have effectively pursued these cases and will fight tirelessly to defend the legal rights of our clients.
What Happens If I File Charges for Institutional Sexual Assault?
The perpetrator of sexual assault can be held responsible in both criminal court and civil court. If another party or organization had the power to prevent the abuse from occurring, that party may also be held accountable in both courts. This includes any facility serving children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups such as facilities serving the disabled and mentally ill.
Officials who engage in calculated acts intended to hide the sexual abuse from the authorities can be held liable in both criminal and civil proceedings. In the Sandusky case, there were high ranking school officials who knew there was a pattern of abuse; they failed to take active measures to dismiss the sexual predator or keep the predator away from minors. These officials were charged in criminal court and pled guilty to child endangerment.
What is Institutional Sexual Assault?
Institutional sexual assault involves the failure by an agent of the institution to report sexual abuse incidents. The common denominator has been that leadership within the institution will not report these criminal acts. These cases have also shown the hallmarks of a conspiracy in that concerted efforts are made within the institution to impede reporting of sexual assault.
The US Department of Education has reported that in the past 70 years about 5-7% of public school teachers engaged in sexually abusive behavior with their students. According to Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation (SESAME), sexual abuse in schools is on the rise nationwide with just under 500 educators arrested in 2015.
Where Does Institutional Sexual Abuse Commonly Occur?
When there is a significant power imbalance between abuser and victim, and when an abuser is supported by an institution that fails to protect the victim, institutional sexual abuse might occur. Unfortunately, this happens in places where victims initially expect to get help and support, from churches to mental health facilities. While it may be upsetting to learn, it is important to understand where instances of institutional sexual abuse most commonly occur.
Infamously, one of the largest focal points of institutional sexual abuse in recent years has been the Catholic Church. In the last decade or so, more and more stories from victims have surfaced, recounting their experience of sexual abuse as children involved with the Church. One of the critical elements of institutional sexual abuse is that a system, or an institution, permits or ignores predatory behavior, allowing for it to continue. The environment does not support victims coming forward, which in turn permits sexual abusers to continue harming victims, often children. The stories of survivors regarding the actions of priests and others within the Church have illuminated just how pervasive this issue has been in such a powerful institution.
Institutional sexual assault, unfortunately, occurs in other places as well. Certain institutions where an authority figure has extreme power over a victim, such as correctional facilities and juvenile detention facilities, are often locations of institutional sexual assault. Unfortunately, this appalling abuse occurs in nursing homes and mental health facilities against vulnerable victims.
If you were sexually assaulted and are unsure whether or not an institution’s negligence contributed to your abuse, reach out to a lawyer. An experienced attorney for victims of institutional sexual assault and abuse can help you identify all responsible parties that allowed your abuse to occur and continue.
Have You Been Sexually Abused?
Sexual abuse occurs when a person is engaged in sexual activities without consent. Children cannot give consent. Sexual abuse includes a spectrum of activities that range from rape to physically intrusive sexual abuse. Physical abuse is also encompassed as a proscribed behavior.
The most common pattern of abuse occurs when agents of the institution allow the predator to continue to engage in sexually abusive behavior against other vulnerable victims. There have been instances where officials have engaged in crafty cover-ups that can range from secretive out-of-court settlements to working under the misguided notion of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Recent scandals of institutional sexual abuse have brought to the fore the common problems and barriers institutions can impose in the reporting channels. The Sandusky case in Pennsylvania brought to the fore serious problems within Penn State. The FBI report on this case, known as the “Freeh Report,” contained 120 recommendations of areas that needed improvement for the reporting of situations were at risk.
Unfortunately, many abusers rely on the fact that victims are often unable to identify abuse and speak out about an assault without support. If you believe you have been sexually assaulted and need help, reach out to our attorneys for victims of institutional sexual assault and abuse right away.
Hiring a Lawyer as a Child Victim of Institutional Sexual Assault and Abuse
Unfortunately, minors are often victims of institutional sexual assault. Certain institutions, like churches, programs, and schools, have insufficient oversight and hiring processes that allow abusers to come in contact with children. If you or your child were a victim of institutional sexual assault as a minor, there are several things to do.
Every parent’s worst nightmare is that their child reveals that they were sexually abused while in the care of an institution or establishment that a parent trusted to take care of their child. If your child recently came to you with their experience of sexual assault, it is important to remain calm and hire an attorney. While it is certainly understandable to be enraged, confused, and want answers, it is crucial that you consult an attorney for victims of institutional sexual assault and abuse right away. Your lawyer can help you take the necessary steps to remove your child from the dangerous institution’s care, report their abuse, and pursue litigation. Taking the right action will not only protect your child from further abuse but protect other children as well.
If you were a victim of institutional sexual abuse in your youth and are now an adult, you may still have time to get the justice you deserve. When children are sexually assaulted, especially by a trusted authority figure, it can take years, even decades, to come to terms with the truth. Our attorneys for victims of institutional sexual assault and abuse understand that. So, once you are ready to come forward with your experience, give us a call. Our lawyers can provide the safety and support you need to file an institutional sexual abuse lawsuit for the wrongs done to you in your youth.
General Requirements in a Civil Lawsuit of Institutional Abuse
Filing a lawsuit against an institution for sexual assault can be challenging. As a survivor, you know that just as an individual abuser is responsible for the traumas you experienced, so is the greater institution that allowed such abuse to occur. To successfully hold an institution accountable, victims must meet the general requirements to file an institutional sexual abuse lawsuit.
Even if a criminal court fails to prosecute an abuser, that individual can still be held liable in a civil suit. The different standards between a civil and criminal case sometimes make a civil suit a more viable path. Criminal matters require enough evidence to prove that the crime was committed “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that there must be a large amount of concrete evidence to show that the crimes were committed by the alleged abuser. This can be difficult to prove, especially if the crime occurred years or even decades ago – whereas in a civil case, the same amount of evidence is not needed. All you need is a “preponderance of the evidence,” i.e., more than 50 percent of your evidence is accurate.
Types of Notice
Actual Notice – Notice of the sexual abuse incidents is typically required in these cases. While an abuse victim or a guardian or family member may not have notified the institution directly, report of the abuse may have been made by other victims. It is often the case that someone reported the perpetrator before, but the institution simply hid that knowledge or outright moved the perpetrator elsewhere.
Constructive Notice – People affiliated with the institution had knowledge, or should have known, based on the facts and circumstances surrounding an individual, that would put a reasonable person on notice that these activities were improper and that children were being put in danger.
There are no specific hierarchical requirements as to who is responsible for reporting sexual abuse. In Pennsylvania, the Sandusky Law passed in 2014 makes anyone who comes in contact with children responsible for reporting violations.
The cases of sexual abuse within institutions have raised awareness of the important role played by adults in positions of authority in the failure to report these incidents. It further exposed the shame, pain and difficulties faced when accepting that individuals known to the family or persons held a position of trust. When these individuals engage in sexually reprehensible conduct and are reported, supervisors and other personnel have a legal obligation to report the allegation. Individuals with a duty to report do not have to witness the assault to be responsible for reporting the incident.
Some states have reacted to recent events by enacting statutes to ensure compliance by imposing hefty penalties for the failure to report. Other states have amended statutes of failure-to-report laws to include members of the clergy who knowingly failed to report instances of sexual abuse.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Institutional Sexual Abuse Cases?
Holding individual abusers and the institutions that enable them accountable is important. Institutional sexual abuse lawsuits can ultimately lead to safer environments for children and adults in vulnerable states. Perhaps most importantly, a civil lawsuit can provide the closure survivors need to heal after experiencing institutional sexual abuse. In order to succeed and get the justice you deserve, it is crucial to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations.
Depending on the institution in question, you may have more or less time to file an institutional sexual assault lawsuit. For example, if you plan to sue a government entity for institutional sexual abuse, you might have a shorter statute of limitations. Some states have a very short filing deadline for lawsuits against the government. For clarification on how this might impact your case, speak to an attorney for victims of institutional sexual assault and abuse.
The statute of limitations for other cases involving non-governmental defendants will depend on your state. Generally, child victims of institutional sexual abuse have a longer time filing a lawsuit than adult victims. There is no special statute for adult survivors to file a sexual assault lawsuit in many states. Adult victims in these states must abide by the filing deadline for regular personal injury claims, which is often only one to three years.
Knowing the statute of limitations for your case is crucial. If you miss the filing deadline, you may be unable to hold an institution responsible for the traumas you experienced. To ensure that you file in time, hire an attorney for victims of institutional sexual assault and abuse. Your lawyer can inform you of your state’s statute of limitations and help you file a successful claim against the institution that enabled or ignored your abuse.
Institutional Sexual Abuse Lawyers Offering Free Consultations
If you know someone who has been a victim of institutional sexual abuse the experienced attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin can work with you and help you fight and defend your rights. Call (814) 826-3586 for more information or to schedule a free and confidential case evalluation with our attorneys for victims of institutional sexual assault and abuse today.