Pennsylvania Lawsuits for Sexual Assault of the Intellectually Impaired

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

People with intellectual impairments can be easy targets of sexual assault. Studies show that people with disabilities are generally at a higher risk of sexual assault. However, the risk tends to be significantly higher for individuals with intellectual disabilities. This higher level of risk has been linked to the communication barriers, proneness to manipulation, and lack of sexual violence education. It may not only be difficult for these individuals to communicate the assault, but also saying “no” isn’t always easy for them. Also, the illegal nature of the act may not be apparent, especially if the perpetrator is a known and trusted person. Moreover, questioning and doubting credibility can be a common byproduct associated with the impairment. Legal representation in these cases requires experience in the intricacies of evidentiary rules and constitutional rights at stake. An attorney skilled in representing people with intellectual impairments will understand how to apply these rules and the ways in which the legal representation will safeguard constitutional protections.

If you suspect someone you know or a loved one who is intellectually impaired has been sexually assaulted, you should contact an attorney who is prepared to advocate for this vulnerable victim or victims. Research suggests that abusers are usually someone the victim trusts—including family members and acquaintances. These victims need a fearless voice to come forward and seek accountability for these cruel and inhumane acts. Andrew Shubin has developed a reputation for his courage, as he takes on severe cases and gives a voice to victims of sexual assault. Call (814) 826-3586 to schedule a consultation today.

Sexual Assault Risk Factors for People With Intellectual Impairments

Sexual assault is a crime. It’s also a violation of constitutional law in certain instances where the abuse occurs in an institution. Sexual assault may be any unwanted sexual contact or attention achieved by force, threats, bribes, manipulation, pressure, tricks or violence. Sexual assault relates to a single incident. In contrast, sexual abuse that involves a pattern. Acts of sexual assault include rape, attempted rape, incest, child molestation, and sexual harassment. It also encompasses fondling, exhibitionism, oral sex, exposure to pornography, and the use of inappropriate sexual remarks or language. Risk factors include:

  • Feeling of powerlessness
  • Communication deficits
  • Lack of instruction on sexual assault
  • Lack of guidance to develop an intuition to detect unsafe situations
  • Caretaker failure to report abuse

Failure to Report Sexual Assault and Title IX Violations

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. Failure to report sexual assault in an institution is a violation of Title IX.

NPR reports that sexual assault of the intellectually impaired goes mostly unrecognized, unprosecuted and unpunished. Abusers are free to abuse again if nothing is done to stop them. While most people can comprehend a moral duty to report these crimes, these crimes are not always reported, and there are no consequences for this failure. However, when the incident occurs in an institution that receives federal funding, then all personnel has an obligation to report the event–even if there is no tangible proof and/or if the report is made by a non-witness. Most people assume that the federal funds have to be specifically related to the activity involving the victim or for intellectually impaired programs. But this is not true. Federal funds allocated to the institution can be used for other purposes.

The signs of sexual violence are recognizable to caretakers. There are psychological and emotional harms that caretakers can notice. There are also visible physical signs that don’t happen without sexual contact, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • A sexually transmitted disease
  • Bruises and laceration in sensitive parts the body

An experienced constitutional law attorney can provide guidance if you’re concerned reports have been dismissed and what legal venues are available. If you or someone you know made reports of sexual assault that have gone ignored by superiors, then legal action may be necessary to correct the sexual violence.

Sexual Assault in Institutional Settings

Preventing sexual assault among people who live in institutional settings can be very difficult. An institution can be a care center, a hospital, schools, and treatment facilities.

The legal system has been slow in recognizing patterns of abuse in institutional settings. Pennsylvania courts have played an essential role in breakthrough cases that begin to address this problem. The 1982 landmark ruling of Pennhurst v. Halderman was a historic decision that came after a long legal battle regarding inhuman conditions and reports of all sorts in an asylum for the intellectually impaired. The Supreme Court held that constitutional rights of the mentally retarded at a state-operated institution had been violated due to inadequate care. Moreover, it’s widely known that residents of Pennhurst State School and Hospital suffered systematic abuses, including sexual assaults and sexual violence that went on ignored or unnoticed for many years.

Another case of significance–also involving a Pennhurst patient– is Youngberg v. Romeo who complained about constitutional violations due to cruel and unusual punishments and failure to prevent known physical attacks on the disabled patients. The decision didn’t go into details about the physical attacks but stressed that the “courts must show deference to the judgment exercised by a qualified professional.” This means that caretakers in institutions for the intellectually impaired can receive too much consideration. This can be a problem in institutions where sexual assaults of the intellectually impaired are part of the status quo.

Speaking to an attorney who specializes in lawsuits for sexual assault of the intellectually impaired can help to understand the process and how it’s possible to report the abuse without having to worry about potential liabilities. If you feel someone you know, or a loved one is sexually assaulted at an institution, even if you suspect the perpetrator is a family member or a close acquaintance, you should report it. These institutions have to protect these vulnerable victims from anyone who may be hurting them.

Call Attorney Andrew Shubin for Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Lawsuits for the Intellectually Impaired

The Law Office of Andrew Shubin has a team of dedicated professionals who will not shy away from these cases. Constitutional violations may be ongoing, unpunished and seriously affecting the health of the intellectually impaired who need voices to advocate for them, especially if the leaders and caretakers of an institution intentionally ignore sexual assaults or appear to wear fake blinders to pretend these acts are not occurring. Call (814) 826-3586 to schedule a consultation today.


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