Institutionalized Sexual Abuse: A New Personal Injury Law Frontier

sexual molestationYou may hear it referred to as the “troubled teen industry litigation” or “institutionalized sexual abuse litigation,” but it all amounts to the same thing: for decades, vulnerable young men and women have been exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation at the hands of predators who have assumed roles in various institutions and organizations that place them in a position of power over their victims. Institutionalized sexual abuse lawyers are turning their sights on changing this through civil personal injury lawsuits.

What is institutionalized sexual abuse?

Institutionalized sexual abuse is when the abuser uses a position of power over the victim to employ physical and/or psychological abuse to coerce the victim into performing sexual acts. Coercion may come in the form of threats, promises, discipline, shaming, degradation, and/or physical violence.

What are some examples of institutionalized sexual abuse?

Some very recent examples of institutionalized sexual abuse include the lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America alleging sexual abuse by scout leaders and people in power, Clergy abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church alleging molestation, and lawsuits over the California women’s prisons in Chowchilla and Dublin where as many as 71% of female inmates report being sexually abused by prison guards. Now evidence has made it abundantly clear that the troubled teen industry is also a haven of institutionalized sexual abuse that has largely escaped scrutiny and been dismissed as unfound complaints made by disgruntled patients.

What is the troubled teen industry?

For years treatment facilities aimed at dealing with troubled teens have been a billion-dollar industry in the United States. This industry includes psychiatric treatment facilities for teens with both voluntary and involuntary residencies, therapeutic boarding schools, religious boarding schools, boot camps, wilderness programs drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and other similar facilities. The privacy of these facilities and intervention-style treatment has provided a perfect shield from outside eyes so that abuse goes unnoticed and unchecked. Complaints by the residents have been too often squelched by claims that the victim is delusional, on drugs, and/or simply lying as a means of escape.

Has the statute of limitations run out on institutionalized sexual abuse claims?

Not in many cases. A number of states have recently recognized that sexual abuse is often repressed and may not manifest itself for years. Additionally, due to the coercion involved, people may not be mentally ready to come forward for years. As a result, several states, have enacted lookback laws extending the statute of limitations for cases moving forward and opening a grace period for filing past claims for which the statute of limitations has otherwise run.  The Louisiana lookback law opens the door for past claims to be brought on or before August 1, 2024. In New York, there is a lookback period created for New York adult survivors of sexual abuse opening the door for past not-previously-brought claims to be filed up until August 1, 2024.

What should I do if I am a victim of institutionalized sexual abuse?

If you are a victim of institutionalized sexual abuse or someone you love was killed as a result of institutionalized sexual abuse, you should 1) call the police and report the abuse immediately and 2) talk to a civil personal injury lawyer to determine whether you have a case that falls within the extended statutes of limitations.  Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., Injury and Accident Lawyers is a personal injury law firm that has been speaking up for the injured since 1979. If we cannot help you directly, we will help you find someone who can when possible.