Sep 29, 2021
A sexual abuse lawsuit filed against Sana Ana Unified School District has reportedly been settled for over $1 million. The exact figure has not been disclosed, according to a report from the Mercury News.
The lawsuit, filed under California AB 218’s three-year lookback window, alleged that a 16-year-old Valley High School student was sexually abused by her sociology teacher nearly four decades ago. That student, Tenisha Steen, became pregnant after having underage sex with then-teacher, Gary Satrappe, who reportedly began grooming her for sexual abuse in 1983 when she was in the 10th grade. Steen’s daughter from that relationship is now 38 years old.
In a public news release, Steen, now 53, said she will always have to live with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.
“The emotional and mental scars of sexual assault never fade,” Steen said. “Even after so many years, I struggle to deal with the pain and damage done. I wish I could have finished school like my friends. I wish I could have finished my education and had more life experience before becoming a mother so that I could have given my children a better life. And I wish I could form healthy relationships. I have spent decades trying to rebuild the life and joy I lost when I was repeatedly assaulted at the age of 16. By filing this lawsuit, I am taking another step to rebuild my life.”
Filed last year, the lawsuit describes teacher Gary Satrappe’s sexual abuse as initiated through forceful unwanted hugs and kisses when the two were alone in the classroom. As the abuse progressed, court documents allege Satrappe took Steen to a motel on multiple occasions where he plied her with alcohol and the two engaged in sex.
Court documents indicate that “Satrappe began routinely demanding that (Steen) meet him at various locations on and off the school grounds” where the teacher “forcefully engaged” in at least 13 instances of sex.
Furthermore, court documents show that the school principal at the time was aware of the sexual abuse endured by Steen but failed to either take action against Satrappe or report the relationship to police.
Court documents also allege that after Steen had the baby, the principal and an unidentified school employee engaged in intimidation tactics in an effort to silence her. According to the complaint, the principal and school employee went to Steen’s house and threatened that she would “go to jail” and “likely have her child taken away” if she disclosed that Satrappe was the father of her child.
Satrappe resigned from his teaching position in 1985 and died in 2004 at the age of 60. The Mercury News reported that he was never prosecuted for a sexual relationship with a minor. The principal named in the complaint died in 2015.
The Mercury News reported that as a teenager, Steen was told “no one would believe her should she choose to speak out, in part because of her race, and because Satrappe was a well-respected teacher within the Santa Ana community.” As the media outlet noted, Steen is black and Satrappe was white.
The more-than $1 million undisclosed settlement obtained by Steen comes following a successful civil lawsuit against the teacher in 1990. Following a four-day trial, that lawsuit resulted in a $275,000 damages award, with the jury finding that Satrappe’s relationship with his student was “so vile, base, contemptible, miserable, wretched or loathsome that it would be looked down upon and despised by ordinary decent people.”
But under California AB 218, the recent law which allows all survivors of childhood sexual abuse the opportunity to file claims against their perpetrators (regardless of how long ago the crimes occurred and whether an individual or institution was involved), Steen was able to sue Santa Ana Unified Schools last year for their liability.
The Mercury News reported that a Santa Ana Unified spokesman declined to comment on either the case or the settlement.
The undisclosed settlement obtained by Steen is not the first payment made by Santa Ana Unified Schools resulting from a sexual abuse lawsuit. In March, an Orange County Register report confirmed a $950,000 payout in 2019 to a former student who had a sexual relationship with a basketball coach while she was in high school.
Additionally, the Orange County Register confirmed a separate multi-million dollar sexual abuse settlement involving Santa Ana Unified Schools that was reached in April 2020. The district paid $2.175 million to the families of six former students in October of that year. However, as the Orange County Register noted, the sexual abuse settlement was issued without any kind of public announcement.
California AB 218 is an unprecedented opportunity for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to obtain justice that is, in many cases, long overdue. AB 218’s three-year lookback window means any survivor of childhood sexual abuse is eligible to file a claim seeking maximum financial compensation against an individual or institution. But the limited lookback window is only in effect through the end of 2022. On January 1, 2023, the lookback window will officially expire and the standard statute of limitations will resume.
Accordingly, survivors who did not file claims before the deadline will likely be left without any legal recourse. This is particularly true if your crime occurred several years ago and outside of the standard statute of limitations. Don’t let this limited opportunity at justice pass without taking action.
Dordulian Law Group (DLG) can help you file a claim and fight to ensure you recover maximum financial compensation. In addition to the three-year lookback window, AB 218 includes a treble damages clause which provides the courts with latitude to issue triple settlement or verdict awards in cases where a cover-up occurred.
Sadly, many school sexual abuse cases involve cover-ups. In such cases where a cover-up can be proven, the survivor could be awarded three times the final damages amount (in other words, a $10 million settlement would ultimately result in a $30 million payout for an AB 218 case where a cover-up was proven). At DLG, we pursue treble damages in all applicable AB 218 cases.
DLG was founded by Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney who successfully obtained countless life sentences against some of our community’s most dangerous sexual predators. Today, Dordulian fights for sexual abuse survivors in civil court, helping them recover maximum financial compensation for their claims.
If you have a childhood or school sexual abuse claim and are interested in pursuing justice, contact the experienced and proven attorneys at DLG. Our unparalleled experience and proven results are why sexual abuse survivors throughout the nation consistently choose DLG to handle their claims, obtain justice, and recover maximum financial compensation on their behalf:
With DLG, survivors have access to a four-tiered support network offering added resources and advantages that extend beyond the very best legal expertise available. Known as the SAJE Team (Sexual Abuse Justice Experts), DLG’s support network of dedicated professionals provides survivors with access to critical resources throughout the legal proceedings:
With DLG, you don’t simply have individual representation – you have an entire team of dedicated professionals available to you 24/7.
Contact us today to discuss your sexual abuse case at 818-322-4056. We’re here to listen, to believe you, and to fight to secure justice on your behalf. DLG has successfully helped countless sexual abuse survivors recover maximum financial damages awards and obtain the justice they deserve so they may move forward on their own terms.
All cases are accepted on a contingency fee agreement, which means survivors never have to worry about upfront costs or out-of-pocket expenses when securing the very best legal representation around. Our No Win/No Fee Guarantee means you will not pay a penny until we recover maximum financial compensation for your sexual abuse claim.
Contact us today for a free, no obligation, and confidential consultation with our of our SAJE Team members. When you’re ready to pursue justice for your sexual abuse claim, we’re here to fight as your dedicated legal advocates.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.