Oct 7, 2020
Sexual abuse is always traumatic, but when it happens in school, a supposed safe place, it represents an institutional failure to protect children. The national statistics concerning school sex abuse are disturbing. In 2015, 3.5 million students in 8th-11th grade reported sexual contact with an adult.
Experts attribute the increase to several factors, including the ease of internet access. Children of all ages now have smartphones, often spending hours online, unsupervised.
If an adult or another student at school sexually abuses your child, you and your family have legal rights. In addition to consulting a compassionate and seasoned Dordulian Law Group lawyer, you should make efforts to access any available support resources for your child and yourself.
Because they cannot legally consent, California law considers any sexual act involving minors to be abuse. Sexual abuse can include sexual assault or exploitation.
The legal definition of sexual assault encompasses a range of horrific acts, such as rape, incest, oral sex, and sodomy. Penetration with objects, fingers, or genitals, sexual contact between genitals or the mouth of one person and genitals of another, intentional touching of genitals or intimate areas, and masturbation in the presence of a child are all included under the umbrella of sexual assault.
Sexual exploitation of children can include depicting a minor engaged in acts defined as sexual assault. It also includes adults who promote, use, coerce, or persuade a child to participate in or help others with nude modeling, prostitution, or a live sexual performance. The law also forbids coercing a child’s guardian to allow the child’s participation.
Commercial exploitation includes sexual trafficking or using the offer of shelter, money, or food to persuade a child to participate in sexual acts.
If your child tells you about any type of sexual assault or harassment, contact a therapist and a lawyer who specializes in sexual assault cases immediately. Even if the details pertaining to your specific case differ from those above, you might be able to file a lawsuit.
In California, sexual abuse in schools also receives clarification in the sex equity law, which states that all students have a right to an educational environment free from discrimination. The updated law now includes the right to an environment free form sexual harassment and violence.
Schools must do their best to prevent situations where sexual abuse can occur, or they can be held accountable and sued for negligence.
Children are more likely to experience abuse at the hands of a familiar adult. Perpetrators can often include parental figures, teachers, coaches, clergy, and Boy Scout leaders.
Because the perpetrator is typically a trusted authority figure, children might not feel safe revealing the abuse. Many abusers also threaten children with violence (either directly or towards families) to maintain silence.
Unfortunately, these factors all indicate the unlikelihood that a child will directly report sexual abuse immediately after the crime occurs. However, according to the Child Abuse Prevention Center, there are several warning signs that can alert parents or guardians to possible abuse.
The signs can change as children age. In young children, it’s recommended to monitor for the following warning signs:
Older children and teens often exhibit the following traits after abuse:
Some traits are common among the majority of child victims of sexual abuse. However, a single trait doesn’t definitively imply sexual abuse. Scheduling a therapy appointment for your child may be advisable if you notice several of the following traits develop over a short span of time:
Learning that your child has experienced sexual abuse is devastating. In addition to ensuring your child receives therapy and medical care, it’s important to ensure you are attending to your personal mental health needs.
You can also seek justice for your child by taking legal action. Survivors are less likely to report sexual assault for many reasons, one of which is police inaction. After speaking with police, contact a lawyer to discuss all available options for pursuing legal action against your child’s abuser.
Often, sexual assault and abuse cases fail in criminal court. In addition to criminal charges, California survivors of school sexual abuse are able to pursue civil lawsuits to recover financial damages. Dordulian Law Group is an advocate for all victims of sexual abuse. We believe children should be protected, and the perpetrators should pay for their crimes.
In January 2020, California Law AB 218 came into effect. AB 218 expands the statute of limitations, meaning more victims are now eligible to file school sexual abuse lawsuits. During an introductory meeting, your lawyer will determine if your case falls within the current statute of limitations, which is significantly more likely under the new law. Because of AB 218, many older abuse victims are now eligible to file lawsuits.
The passage of AB 218 dramatically changed sexual abuse lawsuits in California and made it possible for many more child sexual abuse survivors to pursue justice. Under the new law, any survivor of child sex abuse can file a claim within the limited three-year “lookback window” period.
AB 218’s lookback window, which is valid from January 1, 2020, means that any claims previously barred due to the statute of limitations may be resubmitted for consideration by the court for the next three years – until December 31, 2022. This represents an unprecedented opportunity for thousands of survivors who, prior to the passage of AB 218, would have been unable to bring a lawsuit and recover financial damages for a childhood sex crime that occurred many years ago. Please note, however, that the lookback window option within AB 218 is only available for a limited time, and after January 1, 2023, many survivors who do not file a timely claim will be left without legal recourse.
Once the three-year lookback window closes, survivors who were not barred by the statute of limitations prior to the passage of AB 218 may still be eligible to file a claim in some cases, but the law becomes more complex and open to interpretation. For example, the new law increases the maximum age to file a claim from 26 to 40. However, for survivors who were older than 26 prior to AB 218 taking effect, this aspect of the bill would not apply and you would still have to file a claim within the three-year lookback window. Only survivors who were younger than 26 prior to January 1, 2020 would now be eligible to file a claim until their 40th birthday.
The law also allows for a five-year statute of limitations (increased from the previous three-year deadline) on the discovery of an adulthood psychological injury resulting from childhood sexual abuse such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you discovered a psychological illness after AB 218 taking effect on January 1, 2020, you would now have five years to file a claim.
To prove eligibility, a statement from an independent psychological therapist diagnosing the recently discovered connection between any mental health issues and childhood abuse will be required. Your attorney will also need to submit a statement supporting the mental health professional. Although these stipulations within AB 218 may seem complex and confusing, Dordulian Law Group is here to help with your school sex abuse or childhood sexual abuse case. We can answer any questions you have and ensure the legal process is as simplified, seamless, and stress-free as possible.
The law also addresses the epidemic of cover-ups in child sex crimes. If your abusers or an institution covered up your abuse, AB 218’s treble damages clause can allow the court to rule that the individual or institution responsible for the abuse pay you three times the determined damages (e.g. a $5 million damages award would actually amount to $15 million under the treble damages cover-up clause). DLG pursues treble damages awards for all applicable school sexual abuse and child sex crime cases involving cover-ups.
The inclusion of sexual harassment in the bill also expands the overall definition of what is considered sexual abuse under the law, thereby increasing the number of survivors with eligible claims.
Every sexual abuse case is unique. The lawyers at Dordulian Law Group can discreetly and clearly walk you through the details of your case and determine if you or your child can file a claim.
You do not need to file a criminal report to pursue damages in civil court. However, a criminal guilty verdict supports a civil case. Even if the charges don’t result in a judgment, criminal investigations can also result in useful information that your lawyer can use in your civil case.
The burden of proof is lower in civil court, meaning you can still proceed with a claim even if a criminal case stalls. In criminal court, you need to prove that the accused committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and all 12 jurors need to agree.
Civil court only requires proof that the defendant “more than likely” committed the crime, and 9 of 12 jurors must agree.
Working with an experienced DLG school sexual abuse attorney will help ensure your case proceeds smoothly and prevails in court. Disclosing your sexual abuse can be traumatic. Instead of adding stress, working with a DLG attorney means we handle the extensive paperwork and legwork involved in filing a case. You can then focus on your own well-being and preparing emotionally and mentally for the trial.
California allows a sexual abuse survivor to hold more than one person accountable. In addition to suing your abuser, you can also hold adults or institutions accountable who failed to uphold their duty of care. For example, your DLG lawyer could argue that your school was negligent, resulting in a situation that allowed the abuse to occur.
Failure to complete background checks or thoroughly investigate complaints can both result in claims of negligence.
Because you can include organizations in your school sex abuse lawsuit, you can typically request additional compensation. Your compensation can help recover damages relative to:
Criminal cases, if successful, usually result in low compensation. If you have suffered from significant expenses because of your abuse, civil court can help you recoup some of your losses.
California has a higher average rate of sexual abuse and harassment in schools when compared to other areas of the nation. In recent years, several Los Angeles school sexual abuse scandals have rocked the city and the state.
In January 2020, the Los Angeles Board of Education agreed to settle sexual abuse and misconduct lawsuits with a $25 million payout. Many of the settlements were a result of sexual abuse at De La Torre and Telfaire Elementary Schools. Several teachers went to jail, and some survivors received up to $2 million in individual settlement awards.
Several years ago, Mark Bendt, a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School, received a lengthy jail sentence related to his sexual abuse of students. The LA Board of Education paid out nearly $88 million in settlements following Bendt’s case.
These infamous cases have brought forward new safeguards for children at schools. They have also given hope to survivors that their stories will be heard and believed. Legally, they have shown that schools can be held negligent for failing to protect their students.
If you are a survivor of school sexual abuse, please take advantage of the resources available. Remember that you are not alone, the abuse was not your fault, and you do have options for pursuing justice.
Some recommended resources for sexual abuse survivors include:
RAINN (The Rape and Incest National Network) 24/7 hotline and website. They have a wide range of information about reporting suspected abuse, finding therapists, and supporting a survivor. RAINN also has an online chat if you don’t feel comfortable speaking about your abuse or are concerned about privacy.
S.E.S.A.M.E. is a national organization devoted to revealing and preventing abuse by educators. If you or your child suffered abuse at school or daycare, their resources and information can help you through a trying time. Call 1-800-4-A-Child (800-422-4453) any time to receive advice about any child abuse issue.
If you want to pursue legal action, research your lawyer carefully. Sexual abuse cases are delicate, and you should only work with experienced and thoughtful lawyers who believe and support you.
Although you can go through the civil court process without legal representation, your case is far more likely to succeed with an experienced DLG lawyer fighting for you from day one.
DLG is the leading sexual abuse law firm representing survivors in the Los Angeles-area and throughout California, with over two decades of experience. The team has successfully helped countless sexual abuse victims in LA, with over $100 million recovered for clients.
Samuel Dordulian founded DLG after serving as a sex crimes prosecutor and LA County Deputy District Attorney. He has gathered a team of Sexual Assault Justice Experts (SAJE), which includes:
Using this team, Dordulian has created a 4-tiered approach to ensure clients’ comfort and the success of their case.
Castillo researches your case extensively, gathering evidence to prove the abuse occurred.
Dordulian works as the case lead, using his years of experience as a LA District Attorney in presenting your case to the court and recovering the compensation you deserve.
The therapist and victim advocates are here to support you and provide mental health evaluations to the court.
Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.
DLG understands the struggles facing sexual abuse survivors. We know it can be scary and challenging to come forward with your story. For this reason, we pledge to believe your story and fight for your right to receive justice while also providing the resources and support you require. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of confidentiality, sensitivity, and discretion.
With a 99% success rate in sexual abuse trials, DLG is experienced, dedicated, and ready to win your school sex crime case.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.