If you are a victim of sexual abuse or assault at school, you may be able to file a lawsuit. This article discusses the legal requirements for filing a lawsuit and how to go about it.
What Is the Difference Between Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault?
When a person in a position of authority or power in a community, organization, or relationship takes advantage of another person’s trust and respect in order to force them into sexual behavior, this is known as sexual abuse. Because of the power imbalance between adult and kid, authoritative figure and minor, sexual abuse often includes a minor victim. Adults, too, may be victims of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse may be a one-time event or a series of occurrences spread out over months or years.
Any unwelcome and nonconsensual sexual approach, conduct, or act on a person against their will is referred to as sexual assault. Rape, unwanted fondling or caressing, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual abuse are all examples of this kind of sexual violence. Sexual assault is often a one-time event.
Understanding consent is an essential component of comprehending sexual assault. Consent, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), is an agreement between sexual activity partners. From state to state, the legal meaning of consent may differ. Any sexual action may be deemed nonconsensual if consent is not obtained.
“A kid cannot agree to any kind of sexual activity, period,” RAINN says of minors. As a result, any sexual behavior with a child is considered sexual assault or abuse.
Physical contact between the offender and the kid is not required in child sexual abuse. Exhibitionism, fondling, masturbating in front of a kid, obscene phone calls or messages, child pornography, sex trafficking, and other forms of child sexual abuse are only a few examples.
Sexual assault and abuse are horrific experiences that may leave victims with long-term mental, emotional, and physical consequences. Those who have been abused or raped may feel more wounded or ignored, and therefore alone in their suffering, if offenders are not completely brought to justice.
Sexual Abuse in Public vs. Private Schools
Sexual assault may happen at any school, whether private or public.
Teachers, employees, other students, on-site medical personnel, coaches, and others may all be involved in sexual abuse at public schools.
These individuals, as well as anybody connected with a specific outside institution, such as religious leaders, are all possible perpetrators of sexual abuse in private schools.
Sexual abuse in elementary, middle, and high school settings may inflict substantial damage regardless of the context. Minors who have been affected by this abuse may suffer long-term repercussions.
Stop Sexual Assault in Schools (SSAIS) creator Esther Warkov told NEA Today, “Not only do the survivors’ emotional and psychological wounds last long after the assault, but their social life, schooling, and professional aspirations are destroyed.”
“For others, the pain is overwhelming; a growing number of teenage pupils have committed suicide as a result of gender-based harassment and sexual assault.”
Rather than dismissing instances of sexual harassment as “boys being boys” or failing to implement critical safeguards that might assist protect children, schools and their staff, whether public or private, have a responsibility to do their utmost to prevent sexual assault inside their walls.
Involvement in Sexual Abuse in Public Schools
When children are mistreated in public schools, more entities are likely to be involved than when the abuse occurs in a private school.
Teachers, instructional aides, administrative staff, sports coaches, and other classified workers at all public schools in California, for example, are obliged to report sexual abuse of minors, according to RAINN.
According to the RAINN website, the state of New Jersey merely states that “any individual” is required to report child sexual abuse.
In addition to medical professionals, New York’s mandatory reporting list includes school teachers, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses, administrators, and other school personnel who are required to hold a teaching or administrative license or certificate, or who are required to hold a temporary or professional coaching certificate, as detailed by the state.
As a result, in a sexual abuse case, the offender, other staff members, the school district, the city, and even the state may be held liable for a child’s sexual abuse in public schools if they neglected to report and were therefore negligent.
According to Education Department statistics, reports of sexual assault in public schools rose dramatically between 2015 and 2018, according to the Washington Post. These reports increased by more than 50% from approximately 9,600 in the 2015-2016 school year to over 15,000 in the 2017-2018 school year. The spike in complaints may be linked, at least in part, to heightened awareness of sexual assault, with even school-age survivors being encouraged to come out as a result of the #MeToo movement.
Sexual Abuse in a Daycare Center
Child sexual abuse may occur in a number of contexts, including the home, school, religious institutions, and even childcare. When parents entrust their children to a childcare facility, they want them to get the finest possible care. Regrettably, this is not always the case.
At childcare facilities, children may be subjected to a variety of types of abuse, including sexual abuse. Caretakers, teachers, older playmates, and others may be the perpetrators of this abuse.
Last year, a Pennsylvania man was charged with sexually abusing several children via in-home daycare services that he and his wife provided. One of the victims was allegedly sexually abused when she was just three years old.
Read more: How to Protect Your Child at Daycare Centers from Abuse
Cases of Sexual Abuse in Schools
According to ABC10 in Sacramento, the city of Sacramento agreed to pay $12.5 million in a 2019 sexual abuse lawsuit to settle claims that an after-school program supervisor sexually assaulted numerous young female pupils between the ages of 7 and 10.
The offender was convicted of the offenses and sentenced to 150 years in jail, in addition to compensation from the city and the school system.
A high school assistant band instructor in San Diego pled guilty to felony counts of sexual abuse against minors. The drum teacher began working in April 2016 and began grooming victims by referring to them as “the one” and their “star-crossed sweetheart.”
In March 2020, a former Catholic high school teacher in New Jersey was charged with sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
Former teacher and volleyball coach Carlos Franco-Leon allegedly had a sexual connection with one of the victims and sent sexually explicit presents and texts to the other when they were both students at Morris Catholic High School, according to reports.
Franco-Leon is now charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, among other counts.
Continue reading: Why Has Arizona’s School System Failed Students?
Students’ Sexual Assault
In other cases, the perpetrator of sexual assault is another student rather than a teacher.
According to The Associated Press’ examination of government statistics on sexual assaults, about 17,000 cases of sexual assault by students were reported during a four-year period.
Unfortunately, since many sexual assaults go unreported due to fear, humiliation, or compulsion, this number may not accurately reflect the issue.
Sexual assault in the school environment often crosses over into extracurricular sports, as was the case in Gilroy, California in the fall of 2019.
According to NBC News, officials at Gilroy High School opted to postpone the rest of the season after allegations that varsity football players sexually abused a teammate.
The athletes who were accused of sexual battery were issued juvenile citations, and the school administration began an inquiry of its own.
According to the Detroit Free Press, another troubling series of allegations of sexual assault in a school environment surfaced in the autumn of 2019 at Warren De La Salle Collegiate High School in suburban Detroit.
Multiple victims were reportedly exposed to sexually aggressive “hazing” as members of the varsity football team in that instance, according to FOX2 Detroit. Several players were eventually charged with misdemeanor assault and battery.
Sexual Violence in Its Many Forms
According to RAINN, “sexual violence” is an umbrella word that may apply to a number of nonconsensual sexual encounters, including:
- Unwanted sexual contact or conduct, such as rape, unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual activities, and more, is known as sexual assault.
- Sexual harassment is a kind of sexual harassment that is typically verbal or violent. This may include generic, derogatory remarks against a certain group (women, males, etc.).
- Any sexual interaction with a juvenile is considered child sexual abuse, since minors are unable to agree to any kind of sexual contact.
- Intimate relationship sexual violence is when a victim is sexually assaulted, harassed, or abused by a partner, such as a spouse.
- Unwanted sexual intercourse from a family member is referred to as incest.
- Sexual violence perpetrated against a victim who has been intoxicated with alcohol, prescription medications, street drugs, or other substances.
- Stalking is a pattern of unwelcome attention, harassment, or contact that occurs repeatedly. Stalking has the potential to be sexual in character.
- Sexual attack or abuse involving many offenders against the same victim is known as multi-perpetrator sexual assault.
- Elder abuse refers to sexual abuse of elderly people in nursing homes, medical settings, and other situations where an elderly person is exploited.
- Prisoner rape occurs when a person is sexually assaulted or abused while incarcerated. Abuse from jail guards or other prisoners is one example.
- Sexual abuse or assault that occurs when a person is serving in the military is known as military sexual trauma.
These are just a few examples of the many types of sexual abuse that individuals may encounter. Even if the circumstance is not represented in the list above, the experience of individuals who have been exposed to nonconsensual sexual assault is genuine.
Responsibilities of the states and the Department of Education
The Department of Education (DOE) is in charge of investigating student sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. Employees, classmates, and third parties are banned from sexually abusing students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Unfortunately, not all emerging instances are always made known to the DOE.
According to the New York Post, the DOE failed to investigate numerous allegations of rape at a New York school merely because school workers neglected to elevate the complaints.
Several incidents of rape were rejected by the school instead of being reported to the DOE and investigated, according to a federal complaint filed on behalf of four females aged 11 to 18.
When it came to required reporting obligations when child sexual abuse allegations surfaced, their carelessness was in clear violation of New York state law.
In response to the complaint, Department of Education spokesman Doug Cohen stated, “Our schools must be safe and inclusive places, and there is absolutely zero tolerance for any sexual misbehavior.”
“Any accusation must be reported, investigated, and handled, and all DOE employees share accountability for this work.”
Those who have been abused or attacked may be able to pursue legal action against administrators if they fail to follow rules and safeguard sexual abuse victims.