Sex Abuse in Day Care

For most working families, day care is more than a convenience. It is a necessity that allows them to achieve a better standard of living. Sexual abuse of children in day care is relatively rare. But when it does occur, its impact on both parents and children may be felt for many years and be difficult to overcome.

Types of Day Care

Day care settings may be licensed or unlicensed. They may be more formal and institutional, such as preschools, with a trained professional and semi-professional staff. They may also be medium-sized and less formal as to structure and staff training, or small family-run operations in the home. Although day care homes seem to pose a greater risk of sexual abuse than day care centers or preschools, even model programs can turn out to be harmful and unsafe. The common denominator in all day care settings is that, to a greater or lesser degree, adults and adolescents are allowed ready access to children, sometimes for hours on end without much supervision.

Who Are the Abusers?

Day care centers employ a variety of individuals, any one of whom may have the inclination and opportunity to abuse a child in their care. Regular staff may include:

  • Teachers
  • Teacher’s Aides
  • Administrators and Directors
  • Janitors
  • Bus Drivers
  • Volunteers

In family day care, husbands, sons, grandfathers and other relatives, boyfriends and neighbors may have access to children in the home. A most recent case of day care sex abuse involved the teen-aged son of the owner and, in two other instances, the husbands of the primary caretakers who molested children while their wives were either not at home or elsewhere in the house.

One of the most troubling aspects of day care abuse is that it tends to be more severe than sex abuse in other contexts and more often involves physical injury. Some abusers in day care are pedophiles who are motivated by a desire for sexual gratification. Others are sadistic individuals who enjoy hurting children and may engage in physical as well as sexual abuse. At its worst, sex abuse in day care may involve ritual abuse or the use of children in pornography.

Warning Signs

Parents with children in day care should be alert to these possible indicators of abuse:

  • Bedwetting, fear of going to bed, nightmares and other sleep disturbances.
  • Behavioral changes and mood swings.
  • Changes in toilet training habits.
  • Sudden aggressive or rebellious behavior.
  • Sexual acting-out or an unusual interest in sexual matters.
  • Clinging or regressive infantile behavior.
  • Fear of certain people, places or activities.
  • Excessive fear of returning to the day care setting.

Interventions

Parents may be slow to recognize these signals of abuse. They may deny them or attribute them to other causes. For example, a mother who sees persistent redness and irritation in her daughter’s vaginal area may think it’s a hygiene problem. Or, when a child becomes very frightened or reluctant to go to day care, the parent may interpret it as separation anxiety.

Sex abuse in day care victimizes both the parent and the child. Parents may feel terribly guilty at having entrusted the care of their child to abusive strangers. Children may experience long-term trauma. Parent and child victims will need therapeutic intervention and time to heal. With a great deal of emotional support, each of them may succeed in dealing with the after-effects of sexual abuse.

Choosing a Day Care Center

Parents who choose unlicensed family day care settings for their child should be aware that these entities lack formal requirements for screening and training of staff. In licensed day care centers and preschools, parents should make sure that all staff members who come in contact with their children are screened for criminal records, substance abuse and a history of emotional instability.

If your child has been sexually abused in a day care center, contact the attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free initial consultation. For your convenience, we maintain four offices throughout New York City. Call (646) 647-3398 or contact us online.

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Sex Abuse: What’s the Harm?

It is said that sex abuse robs a person of his or her childhood. It disrupts normal emotional and psychological development and results in feelings and knowledge for which a child is unprepared. Children as young as two or three cannot understand that sexual activity with them is wrong. But this kind of abuse can damage a child’s behavior and self-worth and interfere with healthy adult relationships. It can even cause victims to become sexually abusive individuals themselves.

Factors

The ill effects of sex abuse vary in their symptoms and long-term impact. Some children seem to exhibit little psychological distress. They may, however, be fearful of discussing their feelings or may have repressed them as a coping mechanism. Other children experience delayed effects-no apparent short-term harm but serious problems that emerge later in life. In general, the variables that affect the degree of harm suffered by the victim include the child’s age, the duration, frequency and severity of the abuse, the extent to which force was used, and the relationship of the abuser to the child. Often, the abuser is known to the child, causing the victim to be torn between loyalty to the abuser and the sense that what is occurring is very wrong. In such cases, children will be frightened of disclosing the abuse because

  • They are afraid they will be blamed for the abuse and punished for it.
  • They fear their families will not love them anymore.
  • They are afraid they will cause a break-up of the family.
  • The abuser has threatened them with violence.

In general, children who disclose the details of the abuse soon after its occurrence will be less traumatized than those who carry the secret for years.

Impact of Sex Abuse on Children

The effects of sex abuse on child and adolescent victims include, but are not limited to:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of trust in adults
  • Sleep disturbances and nightmares
  • Unusual interest in things of a sexual nature
  • Seductive or sexually-acting out behavior
  • A feeling that their bodies are dirty or damaged
  • Withdrawal from friends or family
  • Return to infantile behaviors such as thumb-sucking or bedwetting
  • Unusual aggressiveness
  • Extreme fear or anxiety
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Delinquent behavior

Impact of Sex Abuse on Later Behavior

As adults, people who were sexually abused as children may experience

  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug Abuse

Recovery

Victims of child sex abuse respond to different treatment methods. Those with higher self-worth and strong family support fare better. Some seek out spiritual guidance or educate themselves about sex abuse through reading, conferences and workshops. Others benefit from psychotherapy. Generally, victims who can let go of guilt and self-blame are more likely to overcome the effects of abuse. Often, it is the passage of time that promotes healing.

Filing a lawsuit against a sex abuser cannot undo the harm. But it can provide financial compensation for damages and perhaps prevent the abuser from harming others. If you or a loved one has been sexually abused as a child, contact the attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free initial consultation. For your convenience, we maintain four offices throughout New York City. Call (646) 647-3398 or contact us online.

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Tragic Case of Abuse Serves as Reminder to be Vigilant

Nursing home abuse often sounds like a scene from a movie or a tale of folklore, but for many families it is a sad reality. A shocking case of suspected abuse recently captured on video serves as a reminder for us all that nursing home abuse is an issue against which we need remain vigilant.

On the video, a nurse appears to jerk a wheelchair out from underneath an elderly patient. The 85-year-old patient who suffers from dementia was tossed from the wheelchair, suffering a broken hip. Worse yet, the nurse appears to walk away from the injured patient, not once, but twice, as the patient lays on the ground in pain.

After a couple of minutes the video shows another employee approach the injured patient. However, this employee appears to wait another minute before helping the injured patient. Having the whole incident caught on camera will allow the nursing home to discipline those involved, if in fact they are found guilty of abuse.

The nursing home has a video system in place for the protection of the patients and staff. The administrator of the nursing home where this incident occurred stated: “Our video system, which is in place throughout our center, assists us in providing our patients the best treatment and care available.”

Unfortunately, the video system was not able to protect the injured patient in this instance. Hopefully the recording of this event may be used to protect the safety of the other patients — prompting other facilities to install surveillance cameras for everyone’s protection.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

While this shocking case of suspected abuse was captured on videotape, it may be more difficult to discover if a loved one is experiencing abuse. A loved one may not reveal abuse when it is present. A patient may fear retaliation or increased abuse, or may be physically unable to report the abuse due to illness or mental limitations.

Abuse and neglect can manifest in many forms, including physical, emotional and psychological abuse. Even if you do not suspect your loved one is currently being abused by a care facility, it is always important to be aware of the signs of abuse.

The Elder Abuse Foundation suggests looking for the following signs of abuse:

  • Bed sores
  • Frozen joints
  • Unexplained injuries, including bruises, fractures, burns or sprains
  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Missing possessions
  • Change in banking practices or unexplained large withdrawals
  • Sudden change in will
  • Staff refusing or delaying visits or not allowing visitors to be alone with resident

If it is suspected that a loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home or other care facility, take action immediately. For questions concerning abuse, neglect or nursing home safety, speak with a personal injury attorney experienced in nursing home and elder abuse.

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Vatican Revises Procedures for Handling Sexual Abuse in Wake of Scandals

As a result of the seemingly endless tales of child sexual abuse coming out of the Catholic Church, the Vatican has finally taken action, revising the church laws governing sexual abuse.

Under the new laws, the statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit within a church tribunal is extended from 10 to 20 years, and in certain cases it may be waived entirely. The modifications also make it clear that the penalties for sexual abuse of minors apply not only to priests, but also to cardinals, bishops and other church officials.

Laypeople may now serve as judges and lawyers in church sex abuse cases, and there is no longer a requirement that judges have a doctorate in canon law. The scope of crimes related to sexual abuse has also been expanded; acquiring, possessing or distributing child pornography is now a “grave crime” under church law.

Additionally, the process of “laicization,” or formal removal from the priesthood, has become faster.

The Worldwide Scandals

These revisions come in the wake of incredible worldwide scandal, the full extent of which remains unknown. Most recently, reports have focused on Germany, where Bishop Walter Mixa resigned as the bishop of Augsburg because of church scandals. A Jesuit investigation earlier this year revealed decades of systemic abuse and attempts at hiding this abuse in Germany.

Earlier this year, Pope Benedict apologized to the victims of child sexual abuse by members of the Irish clergy. This apology arrived after two separate groups released reports indicating that priests abused Irish children in Catholic-run institutions for decades and Church authorities attempted to cover up these incidents until the mid-90s.

In Belgium, the bishop of Bruges resigned earlier this year after admitting that he had sexually abused a young boy more than 20 years ago.

In Switzerland, the reports of abuse are just beginning to appear; according to the bishops’ conference, between January and May of 2010, the bishops received reports of 104 victims abused at the hands of 72 different perpetrators. This is a significant jump from the year before; in 2009, only 15 victims came forward in the country.

These are just a few of the countries with recent actions on this matter. The full extent of the problem remains unknown – and may never be known. Many victims of sexual abuse remain uncomfortable reporting these abuses, even decades later. Without complete reports, it is difficult to know just how many people have been affected by abuse within the Catholic Church.

The Effects of These Revisions

Not everyone is satisfied with these revisions. According to the National Catholic Reporter, although the Vatican claims that these changes constitute a major contribution toward “rigor and transparency,” critics allege that the changes amount to “mere tweaking.”

Furthermore, these revisions are of little consolation to the children who have suffered abuse as the hands of priests or other members of the clergy. Although the revisions may make it more difficult for priests with a known history of abuse to hide in the church, nothing can remove the damage these priests have inflicted.

Notably, these laws do not replace any civil or criminal actions outside of the church. Priests responsible for the sexual assault of minors can still face criminal prosecution. In New York, the victims of sexual abuse may also pursue civil actions against their abusers. For more information about legal actions arising from child sexual abuse, speak with an experienced attorney in New York.

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Top Causes of Elevator Accidents and Lawsuits

With adequate repair and maintenance, elevators provide a fairly safe means of transport. Accidents do occur however, claiming about 30 lives per year and injuring 17,000. Occasionally, an elevator may stop before reaching the proper level between floors. It may suddenly start, stop, or speed up. Doors may fail to open, or close too quickly. The elevator may fail to arrive, even though its outer doors open. Generator or cable failure may result in elevator malfunction. Or, most deadly of all, people may fall into an open elevator shaft.

Elevator accidents arise from a variety of causes. The major ones are:

Mis-leveling: The most common reason for elevator lawsuits occurs when the elevator fails to come to a stop that is level with the hallway floor. Mis-leveling more often occurs in brake-controlled elevators found in apartment houses built between 1930 and 1960. Hydraulic elevators do not rely on a brake for stopping, although mis-leveling can still occur due to problems with valve leakage or low oil conditions. Successful plaintiffs in a mis-leveling lawsuit must be able to show repeated problems with mis-leveling requiring multiple repairs and possibly violations based on brake or leveling citations.

Defective Sliding Doors: The second most common type of elevator lawsuit results when a passenger is struck and injured by a closing elevator door. This kind of accident more often takes place on elevators with car and hallway doors of the sliding type. Door strikes most commonly occur when door protective devices (electric eyes, safety edges and detector edges) have malfunctioned or or are have defects. In addition, doors improperly adjusted as to closing speed and closing force may strike and injure passengers. In older apartment houses, elevators with swing type outer doors can cause crushing injuries to fingers and hands from doors closing too rapidly.

Over-Speed: In this third most common cause of elevator litigation, passengers may suffer serious injuries to the lumbar or cervical spine, ankles, knees and other body parts. These injuries occur when passengers are thrown to the floor or against the cab wall due to an elevator moving at excessive speed. Counterweights malfunction, or control systems fail to detect and correct over-speed conditions or stop the elevator. In a New York City Penn Plaza building, an elevator traveled from the 46 th floor to the basement, impacting at about 1,000 feet per minute. The passengers sustained high speed impact injuries to their legs and knees, resulting in a $4 million settlement paid by the elevator contractor.

Falls into Shaftways: This category of elevator accident gives rise to the most severe injuries and the greatest number of fatalities. The most common causes of falls into elevator shafts are inoperable or defective door interlocks, passengers exiting elevators stopped more than three feet from a landing, elevator surfing, illegally opening a shaftway door, and removal of passengers from a stalled elevator by untrained personnel. These cases require a careful determination as to whether the accident arose from mechanical malfunction or whether the actions of the victim and other parties contributed to the injuries sustained.

Other Causes of Elevator Accidents: A more uncommon category of elevator accidents involves electrocution or shock caused by improper wiring performed by either the elevator contractor or an outside electrician. Elevator personnel and building staff may also suffer amputations or crushing injuries while operating in unsafe work areas. Even rarer is drowning or near-drowning when elevators become trapped below street level during a fire (while emergency sprinklers or hoses are operating) or water main break. Finally, multiple failures allowing an elevator to move with its doors open may expose passengers to amputations and decapitations when they attempt to exit a moving elevator.

This list of elevator accident causes is not all-inclusive. You or a loved one may have suffered injury due to a more uncommon type of elevator malfunction or incident. Although elevator accidents are relatively rare, they can cause severe injury and even death. If you have been hurt in an elevator accident, contact the Orlow firm for a thorough assessment of your possible legal remedies.

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