Abuse by Boy Scout Leader Leads to $18.4 Million Punitive Damages Award

Over the last few years, reports of sexual abuse among the clergy have reached a startling high, but other groups are not immune to this type of tragedy. The Boy Scouts of America has been successfully sued for ignoring claims of sexual abuse and allowing the behavior of one of its former scout leaders to continue.

The man who sued the Boy Scouts claims that he was sexually abused by Timur Dykes, who was reportedly allowed to continue supervising Scout functions even after the allegations surfaced. Eventually, Dykes was arrested and convicted of sexual abuse and is currently a registered sex offender in the state of Oregon.

The jury in the sex abuse lawsuit awarded the complainant $1.4 million in compensation, and has awarded an additional $18.4 million in punitive damages. This case may pave the way for other sexual abuse lawsuits across the country, both against the Boy Scouts of America and against other organizations that are accused of turning a blind eye toward the abuse of their members.

Injury Suffered Due to Sexual Abuse in New York

In New York, as well as in other states, the burden of proof is different for civil litigation than it is in a criminal trial. Defendants responding to criminal charges must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, while a lawsuit requires evidence to suggest that the defendant is guilty by a preponderance of the evidence.

There are also different laws regarding the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases in New York. Criminal trials require that charges be brought within five years of the day when the victim reaches the age of majority. In civil cases, however, the victim can bring a lawsuit against a group or organization for negligence as long as it occurs within three years of the incident.

A Lawyer Can Help

Parents place their trust in an organization, such as the Boy Scouts of America, to protect their children while in their care. If an organization turns a blind eye to reports of child abuse, it is not only morally wrong, but it is something for which the group may be held legally accountable. If your child has been injured, speak to a personal injury attorney to discuss your situation and assist you in determining your best legal options.

Read More

Sex Abuse in Schools: An All Too Common Occurrence

Recently, the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has been the focus of much media attention. But as shocking and disturbing as this problem is, it is not nearly as widespread as sex abuse in our nation’s schools. One university researcher has concluded that sexual abuse of students at school is 100 times more likely than sex abuse by a priest. In the U.S., many more children are enrolled in public schools than religious schools and too many students are at risk of school sex abuse.

Troubling Statistics

In general, nearly a third of all forcible rapes in America occur against children younger than 11. An estimated 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys are victimized by unwanted sexual contact. It is very difficult to pinpoint how often school sex abuse occurs. Many instances go unreported because children are too frightened or embarrassed to speak out. A Department of Education report suggests that 6 to 10 percent of all public school students will suffer sex abuse before they graduate. Another study estimates that 10 percent of U.S. students will experience unwanted sexual contact at school, acts which may include exposure to pornography, lewd comments, peeping in locker rooms, and sexual touching and groping. At this rate, millions of students currently enrolled in grades K-12 will suffer some form of sexual misconduct by an educator.

Private Schools Too

In Los Angeles, the Miramonte public elementary school grabbed recent headlines when a teacher was accused of sex acts with more than 20 students, including blindfolding and photographing them. Two other workers at the school were also allegedly involved. The Los Angeles school superintendent was so outraged by the school’s culture of silence on student sex abuse that he removed and transferred the entire staff-teachers, administrators, janitors and cafeteria workers-so that the matter could be properly investigated. But school sex abuse also occurs at some of the country’s most elite institutions. At the exclusive Horace Mann School in Riverdale, N.Y., students were sexually abused by faculty members from the 1970s to the mid-1990s. More than 25 victims, men now in their 40s and 50s, came forward in 2012 to accuse 12 suspected abusers. Although the cases were investigated, the Bronx District Attorney’s office was unable to prosecute because the statute of limitations (see below) had expired. At the Groton School, whose alumni include admirals, generals, senators and former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one student reported numerous instances of sex abuse by other students. School administrators responded to his report by questioning his credibility and downplaying his accusations. The student has filed a lawsuit against the Groton School for failing to provide him with a safe environment.

Statute of Limitations

Under New York’s statute of limitations, child victims of sex abuse must commence a lawsuit or pursue criminal charges within 5 years after their 18th birthday. A new bill has been proposed in the New York State legislature to eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex abuse.

Disclosure Equals Prevention

There are more than 3 million teachers in America. The great majority of them are dedicated, caring professionals who are repelled by child sex abuse. At the same time, unless school sex abuse victims come forward and tell their stories, it is impossible to identify and keep track of abusers, making sure they stay away from schools and children. Keeping quiet about school sex abuse is one of the surest ways to expose other students to the risk of harm.

Prompt reporting of school sex abuse is the best way to preserve evidence, seek treatment, and comply with the statute of limitations. The attorneys at the Orlow firm understand that child sex abuse is a delicate matter and that victims often hesitate to speak out. If you or a loved one has been a victim of school sex abuse, our knowledgeable and sensitive attorneys are available to assist you.

Read More

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.

Read More

Sex Abuse in Foster Care: Why Does It Happen?

One in five children in the U.S. is a victim of sex abuse. Children in foster care face an even higher probability of being sexually abused. In fact, in some states, the rate of sex abuse in foster care may be as much as 28 times higher than in the general population. With nearly a third of all foster children experiencing some type of abuse or neglect, many experts question whether removing children from their own homes actually protects them. Unfortunately, even with intense services and close supervision, some of these homes are still unsafe. It is a sad fact that a child already victimized by sex abuse when he or she enters foster care is all too likely to be targeted again.

Increased Risk

Children do not have the psychological maturity to cope with sexual stimulation. When they are exposed to sex too early in their lives, children may develop certain behaviors that make them vulnerable to further sexual abuse. Although this may sound like blaming the victim, it does seem that children hurt by sex abuse can be easy prey for abusive foster parents as well as for other children in the home. Some of the factors that increase a victim’s risk of further sex abuse are:

  • Sex abuse conditions children to behave in ways that are often interpreted as inviting sexual activity.
  • Sexually abused children might expect adults to behave sexually with them.
  • Victims of child sex abuse may develop an early sexual awareness. As a result, physical pleasure may be associated with sex.
  • Sexually abused children may lack age-appropriate socialization skills, exposing them to rejection or victimization by their peers.
  • Abused and neglected children placed in foster care may have been subjected to serious emotional deprivation. These unmet needs may cause them to seek affection in inappropriate ways.

Foster Parent Abusers

A foster parent who sexually abuses one child in the home may repeat the behavior with other children. Risk factors for sex abuse by foster parents include:

  • Foster parents with no history of abusing their own children may feel less inhibited about sexual activity with non-biological children. Removal of the “incest taboo” may create an opportunity for sexual abuse.
  • Foster parents are in close, intimate contact with the children in their care, bathing and dressing them, disciplining them, and putting them to bed. This intimacy may stimulate sexual arousal in those who would not normally act on these feelings with their own children.
  • Foster fathers who resent their wives’ devotion to the children in their care may sexually abuse a child out of anger or for emotional and sexual gratification.
  • A foster parent may rationalize taking advantage of a sexually abused child by saying that the child has already had sex with at least one adult. These foster parents may convince themselves that further sexual activity will not harm the child.

Preventing Further Abuse

Many cases of sex abuse in foster care go unreported and uninvestigated, making prevention difficult. There are, however, certain measures that may help to curb further victimization of sexually abused children:

  • Thorough background checks and screening of foster parent applicants.
  • Special foster parent training in child sex abuse focusing on
  1. Normal childhood gender and sexual development.
  2. Behavior of sexually abused children.
  3. Causes of child sexual abuse.
  4. Management of sexual behaviors in children.

One of the long-term effects of sexual abuse in children is the risk of repeated abuse. But foster parents and the agencies that recruit, train and supervise them, still have a duty to keep these children safe from further harm.

If you or a loved one has been sexually abused in foster care, 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.

Read More

Sex Abuse and the Clergy

Sex abuse by members of the Catholic clergy has, by now, become impossible to ignore and increasingly difficult to conceal. That the scope of the problem is enormous is illustrated by the following statistics:

  • Since 1950, there have been 17,000 victims of clergy sex abuse.
  • Nearly 7,000 priests have been accused of sex abuse since 1950.
  • Sex abuse by clergy has affected more than 95 percent of the dioceses and 60 percent of religious communities.
  • Settlements of clergy sex abuse cases from 1950 to 2007 total as much as $3 billion.
  • The Los Angeles Archdiocese alone accounts for more than 500 victims of clergy abuse and $660 million in settlements.

The Abused

It has taken decades to uncover information about those who suffered abuse by members of the Catholic Church. Some of the facts that have come to light regarding the victims of clergy sex abuse are:

  • The overwhelming majority of victims, 81 percent, were males.
  • Among the most vulnerable were boys between the ages of 11 and 14. Most victims were post-pubescent adolescents, although a small percentage of priests were accused of molesting children who had not yet reached puberty.
  • The majority of the allegations involved touching, either over or under clothing.
  • In 27 percent of cases, a cleric was alleged to have performed oral sex. Another 25 percent were accused of penile penetration or attempted penile penetration.

The Abusers

Characteristics of the abusing clergy members have also been shrouded in secrecy and include the following:

  • Many of the accused clerics engaged in a variety of sexual offenses with minor victims.
  • Most often, the context for the abuse was a social event. In fact, many of the accused priests socialized with families of the victims.
  • The residence of the priest frequently served as the location for the abuse.
  • About one-third of the accused priests had a history of substance abuse as well as behavioral problems that made their fitness for the ministry questionable.
  • Almost 7 percent of abusing clerics reported having been abused as children.
  • About 3 percent of accused clerics have been criminally convicted, with about 2 percent receiving prison sentences.

The Cover-Up

In the 1950s, the founder of a religious order that treats Roman Catholic priests accused of molesting children concluded that abusers were not likely to change. He further urged that offenders not be returned to the ministry. These concerns were related to several bishops as well as Pope Paul VI, who served until 1978. Still, even after the clergy sex abuse scandal became public knowledge, abusing priests were allowed to remain in settings where they had contact with children. The Church claimed this was not so, but it was not until 2001 that it began requiring the reporting of sex abuse cases to the Vatican. Attitudes in the Church have been slow to change. As late as 2006, a prominent member of the Church who counseled troubled priests declared that most of the clergy’s victims had brought the abuse upon themselves. He also recommended that sexually abusive priests not be jailed for a first offense. Pope Francis, stating his intentions to protect minors and restore credibility to the Catholic Church, has instructed the Vatican to act quickly and decisively in punishing pedophile priests. Advocates for the Church’s many abuse victims are not yet convinced that the Pope’s actions will speak as loudly as his words.

It’s Not Just the Catholics

Although the Catholic clergy has been the most visible target of sex abuse allegations, this problem affects other religious communities too. In Brooklyn, home to the largest ultra-Orthodox population outside of Israel, District Attorney Charles Hynes seeks to require rabbis and other religious leaders to report allegations of sex abuse to the authorities. Protestant churches receive 260 reports a year of minors being sexually abused by clergy, congregants, church staff members, and volunteers. Because Protestant establishments are often independent and not as centralized as the Catholic Church, reporting sex abuse allegations is a much more difficult process.

If you or a loved one has been sexually abused by a member of the clergy, 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.

 

Read More