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Southern Baptist Convention Takes First Steps In Sexual Abuse Reform

For the first time in its history, America's largest Protestant denomination is addressing the growing epidemic of sexual abuse in churches across the country. At the group's annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, leaders for the Southern Baptist Convention have voted through two reforms designed to target churches in which sexual abuse occurs.

To continue learning about sex abuse cases, see what our child sex abuse lawyers have provided for you here.

SBC Officially Addresses Sexual Abuse For First Time

Prominent Southern Baptist Convention leaders have resisted change for decades, choosing to ignore the tide of sexual abuse allegations emerging from churches throughout the nation. But in a major reversal, the SBC opened its annual meeting this week with a commitment to addressing the problem in public. Hundreds of survivors have accused Southern Baptist preachers and volunteers of sexual abuse over the years, but this marks the first time the issue will be taken up by leadership.

Woman Praying Over Bible

"Protecting God's children is the mission of the church," said J.D. Greear, president of the denomination, in addressing the meeting on Tuesday morning. "We have to deal with this definitively and decisively." In a vote on new reforms, SBC pastors chose to enact two reforms aimed at tackling the problem, which has long bedeviled the church, but so far led to no action. A series of reports from the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News revealed widespread sexual abuse within the denomination, including numerous allegations of child molestation on the part of SBC pastors.

New Reforms Seek To Punish Churches For Sex Abuse Coverup

First, the pastors greenlit a measure to create a centralized committee tasked with investigating churches that mishandle sexual abuse cases. "They also approved an amendment to their constitution that would allow such churches to be expelled from the conviction if allegations are substantiated," the New York Times reports. Delegates gathered from churches across the country to attend the meeting, including pastors representing over 47,000 churches.

Protestors Call For Strict Measures

Outside the auditorium, protestors, including many survivors and their families, gathered together to challenge what they consider inadequate measures. Wielding signs that read "Jesus Never Shamed Women" and "No Second Chances for Abusers," the protestors called for tougher sanctions on abusive priests and more accountability among churches. "This is about so many victims who have been pushed to the sidelines and ignored, not only by their home churches but by the convention themselves," said Jules Woodson, a sexual abuse survivor in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Victim Advocates Say Resistance Is Still High

Victims' advocates say a culture of resistance is still entrenched in the SBC's leadership. "The heartshift is what we really need to see," according to Rachael Denhollander, an abuse survivor who serves on the Church's sexual abuse study group. "There has also been a significant effort by some factions of the SBC to undermine even some of the good things that are underway." For decades, the Church has resisted calls for reform, including a proposal to create a central database of abusive clergy members. To date, the denomination has no explicit procedures in place to address sexual abuse cases or coverups.

Denhollander says more needs to be done for the Southern Baptist Convention to own up to its problems. Earlier this year, the denomination's president, Mr. Greear, took what many saw as the first step, calling for 10 churches to be investigated on how they handled sexual misconduct allegations. But Southern Baptist leaders cleared seven of the churches within a matter of days. "Either these officials were ignorant or they were intentionally undermining efforts for reform," Denhollander says.

SBC President Urges Pastors To Change

In the meeting, Greear urged pastors to set aside concerns over reputational harm in order to foreground efforts for change. "You've got to make this a priority," he said. "The credibility of what we actually believe about the gospel is at stake."

"May this world know that the Southern Baptist Convention stands against all forms of sexual abuse," said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee. Both Floyd and Greear called the vote on new reforms a "defining moment" in the Church's history.

Continue reading: Parents File Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Against NewSpring Church

A new civil lawsuit filed in North Charleston, South Carolina accuses NewSpring Church of failing to prevent the widespread sexual abuse of children. NewSpring now faces two civil lawsuits linked to the alleged sexual abuse of Jacop Hazlett, a 28-year-old who volunteered for the megachurch's child care program.

To find a child sexual abuse attorney near me, visit our dedicated article.

Church Volunteer Charged For Child Sexual Abuse

Jacop Hazlett already faces criminal charges for his alleged misconduct. He has been charged with 14 counts of first- and third-degree child sexual abuse by prosecutors working with the North Charleston Police Department, including nine counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

Candles In Church

And the evidence against Hazlett and the church is mounting. Officials say they are in possession of video tapes, taken from NewSpring's surveillance system, that show Hazlett molesting at least 14 children between September and November of 2018.

Security Camera Captures Evidence Of Misconduct

Hazlett had been volunteering at the church, and working closely with children, since March 2018, but NewSpring representatives say the church's security cameras only store footage for 90 days. Thus he may have abused many other children, but there is no video evidence of misconduct going back to before September.

He was initially turned in after a parent reported to NewSpring Church on November 26, 2018 that her 3-year-old son told her he was molested in the bathroom of the children's ministry, which is referred to as "the Tree House." Staff from the church reviewed surveillance footage of the area and saw Hazlett molesting multiple children after he escorted them to the bathroom. He can also be seen recording some of the incidents with his cellphone.

Hazlett Admits To Molestation

Police officials say Hazlett has now admitted to his crimes. According to police, the man confessed to knowing that what he was doing was wrong, but having an uncontrollable sexual attraction to male children.

Civil Lawsuits Accuse NewSpring Church Of Negligence

Why didn't NewSpring catch Jacop Hazlett in the act? That is the central question raised by two new civil lawsuits, including a claim filed in Dorchester County court in November of 2018. In court documents, parents from two families affected by the scandal accuse NewSpring of failing to out Hazlett as a child molester, despite extensive surveillance video footage of his crimes. "Although the church defendants had live video feeds from the surveillance cameras in the video room, the security team either failed to monitor the live feeds or ignored the abuse that played out on the screens," plaintiffs write.

Police officials say Hazlett videotaped several of his assaults, hence the sexual exploitation of a minor charges he faces. There is also evidence that Hazlett has a past history of child sexual abuse. While NewSpring says Hazlett passed a background check, it's unclear how the check missed a 2007 conviction for felony assault.

Offender's History Of Sexual Abuse

Court documents obtained by ABC News 4 show that, in 2007, Hazlett, then 17, was charged for molesting a 13-year-old boy. He was charged as a juvenile delinquent, and prosecutors agreed to drop the sex crime charges in exchange for a guilty plea to attempted felony assault. He served 21 days in jail. And police officials in North Carolina say Hazlett is a person of interest in an abuse case involving a 7-year-old boy, the investigation of which is ongoing.

Somehow, NewSpring's background check missed these warning signs, even though the process includes "verification of Social Security number, address history, National Criminal Database Search, National Sex Offender Search and re-verification of no records of criminal convictions or use of aliases."

NewSpring spokesperson Suzanne Swift says it's not the church's fault. "The background check we performed on Hazlett was returned to us with no records found," the spokeswoman told ABC News 4. "We had no knowledge of Hazlett's sealed juvenile records."

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A group of New Jersey Catholic Dioceses have announced a new compensation fund for victims of clergy sexual abuse, along with counseling programs for sexual abuse survivors, NBC New York reports. Dioceses around the country are struggling to respond to a wave of sexual abuse allegations against prominent members of the church.

See related articles such as: Parents File Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Against NewSpring Church

New Jersey Church To Compensate Abuse Victims

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the Archbishop of Newark, said on Monday, November 19, 2018 that the Archdiocese of Newark would be joined by the Dioceses of Camden, Trenton, Paterson and Metuchen in establishing their Victim Compensation and Counseling Program.

Candles In Catholic Church

The compensation fund is designed to offer financial damages to survivors of sexual abuse whose civil claims would be barred by the state's statute of limitations, a law that limits the amount of time survivors have to file suit.

Amidst a national sexual abuse scandal, which has unearthed thousands of sexual abuse claims dating back decades, many survivors have found their pathway to the courts barred by a statute of limitations, which is set at the state level.

New York, Pennsylvania Clamor For Change In Statute Of Limitations

Advocates and lawmakers in Pennsylvania and New York are currently working to overturn their own statutes and open "windows of justice," which would allow survivors with historical claims to come forward and pursue justice in court.

Similar efforts have not been reported in New Jersey. According to Patricia Teffenhart, writing at, the state has long stood against progressive reform for the statute of limitations, putting it out of step with the nation as a whole.

Pennsylvania Compensation Fund Open For Applications

A similar compensation program operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia opened for applications on November 13, 2018, as the Archdiocese sent informational pamphlets about the fund to 342 sexual abuse survivors who had previously reported their claims. While no details on the fund's size have been released, archdiocese officials say claim amounts will not be capped. The fund is truly independent; church officials have no say over payout amounts or eligibility requirements. There is no appeals process.

Applications can be submitted until July 31, 2019. The fund is open to survivors abused within the Philadelphia area, along with Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. Similar compensation programs are expected from Pennsylvania's seven other Catholic dioceses in the coming months. The diocese of Altoona-Johnstown already has one, having created a compensation fund for sexual abuse survivors in 1999.

New Jersey AG Subpoenas Church Records

The announcement of a new compensation program in New Jersey comes on the heels of news last month that the Catholic Church in New Jersey had been subpoenaed by the state's attorney general, in a considerable ramp-up of the state's criminal investigation.

On November 15, 2018, it was reported that the Archdiocese of Newark had been ordered to turn over internal files and reports on the clergy sexual abuse crisis. New Jersey's four other dioceses - Camden, Trenton, Paterson and Metuchen - are also expected to cooperate with the investigation, but have not confirmed receiving subpoenas.

No Details Yet Announced

Details on the program have not been made public, but once they are finalized, New Jersey dioceses officials say they will be published. No word yet on how much money will be devoted to the fund, but we do know that the dioceses will set aside a certain amount to finance counseling services to victims. The Catholic Church in New Jersey has already paid out $50 million in settlements to sexual abuse survivors.

"This will give victims a formal voice and allow them to be heard by an independent panel," the Archdiocese writes in a press statement. Reports suggest that details for the program have not yet been set. Church officials say they will meet with various stakeholders - including victims' advocates - in the coming weeks to nail down the particulars.

New Jersey Church Will Name Names

Also announced Monday was an effort to review internal diocese documents to create a comprehensive list of priests and deacons who have become the subject of credible sexual abuse allegations. Similar lists have filtered out of dioceses across the country, as Catholic officials struggle to manage the fallout of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that named over 300 priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Archdiocese of Newark representatives say their list will be ready for publication by early 2019, and that the process will be completed in collaboration with the state's Task Force investigating clergy sexual abuse. "It is hoped that these steps will aid in the process of healing for victims, who are deserving of our support and prayers," the Archdiocese says.

At present, the Church's inquiry into historical abuse claims will only cover diocesan priests, rather than priests who belong to religious orders, which operate outside diocese control.

Find more stories on sexual abuse and assault lawsuits:

A disgraced neurologist who was convicted of sexually assaulting seven women in Pennsylvania has been charged by New York prosecutors for raping a former patient.

Dr. Ricardo Cruciani was arraigned on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, pleading not guilty in Manhattan Criminal Court to a number of sexual misconduct charges, including rape. After posting a $1 million bail, the physician was released from custody "and then hid from reporters in the lobby of the Manhattan district attorney's office," the New York Daily News writes.

For more related stories, visit: Rape Victim Files Negligent Security Lawsuit & Wins $10 Million

New York Neurologist Faces Wave Of Rape Accusations

The new charges stem from a report made to the Manhattan district attorney's office sexual assault hotline. Hillary Tullin, whose name has been released with her permission, says Dr. Cruciani raped her repeatedly over the course of seven years, between 2005 and 2012.

Doctor Monitors MRI

Prosecutors believe that Cruciani assaulted at least five other women during his tenure at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, though legal experts say there may be other victims who have yet to come forward.

Cruciani Pleaded Guilty To Assault In Philadelphia

The charges come less than one year after Cruciani, who became renowned for his treatment of complex pain disorders, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting seven patients in Philadelphia. The neurologist served as chair for Drexel University's neurology department, losing his job after an internal investigation. He lost his medical license, was sentenced to seven years of probation and registered as a sex offender.

Dr. Cruciani, who lives in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, worked at Mount Sinai, one of New York's preeminent medical facilities, for years, before moving to a medical center in New Jersey.

Rape & Misconduct Allegations In Three States

Throughout his career, the Associated Press says, Cruciani has become the subject of at least 17 assault complaints. In police reports and civil lawsuits, former patients accuse the neurologist of groping, unwanted kissing, forcing them to touch his genitals and even rape.

Most of the women say Cruciani exploited his prestige as a medical talent to trap them in abusive doctor-patient relationships. The physician came to prominence for accepting patients who other doctors had given up on. "I felt so trapped," a New York woman told the Associated Press. "This was a man who really knew about a rare condition that I had. I couldn't find anyone else with his level of knowledge or understanding, and he had my health and my medications over my head. I did what I did to survive."

Civil Suits Mount Against Cruciani's Former Employers

A number of civil sex assaults lawsuits have now been filed against Dr. Cruciani, but plaintiffs are also attempting to hold the doctor's former employers responsible.

In their complaints, women say that Cruciani's alleged sexual misconduct was an "open secret" in New York's medical community. One plaintiff describes a conversation she had with her primary care physician. When she disclosed to her doctor that Cruciani had touched her inappropriately and tried to kiss her, the physician said, "well, you know, I've heard that he can be a little handsy. Just watch yourself."

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It’s always a good day when a serial rapist is put behind bars. Not only does it keep other victims safe but it also provides their victims with a sense of relief and that justice has been served. However, even a criminal sentence can’t provide the victims with the financial help they need to move forward. That's where our experienced New York sexual assault lawyers can step in and help.

Student Sues University For Poor Security

In 2013, a student was spending the evening in her apartment complex when her life changed forever. She was attacked, held at gunpoint, forced to perform oral sex, and then raped. Throughout the entire ordeal, she hoped that someone would walk by so that she could get help but no one ever did - including campus security even though security cameras caught the entire incident.building without property security at a university

What was later discovered is that her rapist had been on campus for over 30 minutes stalking his victim - all seen from campus security cameras.

After the attack, the school switched her to a different room and gave her a cell phone so that she would feel safer since her attacker had not yet been caught, but they did nothing to change campus security so that others students have better protection than she did that evening.

She chose to file a lawsuit against the school, alleging that her attack would have never have happened if the proper security measures had been in place. In response, the school took away the cell phone they had given her. But she was prepared for her day in court and at the end of the trial, the jury awarded her $10 million for what she had endured.

How did school officials respond to the verdict? They called her “juvenile”.

The plaintiff maintains that aside from switching her rooms (and still charging her full room and board) and giving her a phone for a short period of time, no one from the school ever offered her help or even a simple “we are sorry this happened to you”.

Rapist Behind Bars

Although it took several years to finally catch him, the man who raped the plaintiff is now behind bars. He was found guilty of her rape, the rape of another student, the kidnapping and rape of a woman from a nearby hospital, and the rape and murder of a fourth woman in 2014. He was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences.

Premises Liability Laws

class with rape victims in attendance

Anyone who owns a property, whether big or small, owes a duty of care to those who may visit that property. This means that they must do everything that would be considered reasonable within their power to provide a safe space for visitors.

When it comes to college campuses, where a shocking number of students are sexually assaulted, schools should focus on security. This may include security cameras which are being monitored, guards making regular rounds, and alarms spaced throughout campus. If the school fails to implement a reasonable program and someone is hurt as a result, they may find themselves being named as the defendants in a lawsuit.

What Can A Negligent Security Lawsuit Provide A Plaintiff With?

A negligent security lawsuit can provide a plaintiff with compensation. This compensation is referred to as “damages”.

Damages are meant to restore the plaintiff, as best as possible, to the state they were in before they were harmed. Although nothing can change the past or physical damage, compensation can help to pay for:

The total amount awarded in each case will vary and depends on the actual losses sustained by a particular plaintiff.

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In the United States, the hotel industry makes billions of dollars every year by providing travelers with a place to stay. That being said, almost everyone has stayed at a hotel at least once where the service, cleanliness, or safety of the hotel was sub-par. While many people are able to simply shrug it off and move on, vowing never to return, others suffer the consequences and are left with physical pain and horrific memories, including a woman who chose to file a lawsuit against a hotel after she was raped.

If you're looking for a sexual assault law firm near me, see:

Hotel Gives Key To Rapist

In 2014, the plaintiff and her boyfriend were traveling and chose to stay at a Holiday Inn Express. At some point during their trip, she was spotted by a man and without their knowledge, he began to track her. He identified the sad womanroom she was staying in and in the evening when her boyfriend was out, he approached the front desk, claiming to be her boyfriend.

The attendant behind the desk didn’t request that he show any sort of identification and just handed over a key to the room.

He used that key to enter the room and raped the woman inside. He was caught on a security camera leaving the room with his pants around his ankles. Since he was staying in the same hotel, police quickly identified him and arrested him. But by then it was too late for his victim.

Rape Victim Sues Her Attacker & Hotel

Although the police pressed charges against her assailant and he was sentenced to three years in prison, this did nothing to obtain monetary compensation for the plaintiff.

She chose to pursue legal action against her rapist and she also sued the hotel, claiming that they had been negligent for failing to ask for the man’s ID and simply handing over the key to her room.

In an attempt to offer a defense, the legal team for the plaintiff argued that there was no way of knowing that a rape would occur and so they shouldn’t be held responsible.

The case went to trial and a jury determined that the hotel was 60% at fault and that the convicted rapist was 40% at fault. After the trial, the parties agreed to a $2 million settlement.

Plaintiff Remained Anonymous

Each year, anywhere between 60% and 80% of all rapes go unreported, making it the most underreported crime. There are many reasons for this, including:

Victims do have the option of remaining anonymous. Then, throughout the lawsuit, they will simply be referred to as “Doe”.

How Much Can A Rape Victim Expect To Obtain?

This is the question that Banville Law’s legal team is asked the most and it is also the most difficult to answer because the answer is unknown. Until a case is reviewed, a lawyer is unable to give an estimate and even then, the final amounts obtained vary widely from case to case.

How Long Will The Lawsuit Take?

hotel hallwayThere are many factors that can impact how long a case will take, but the reality is that it will take several months at a minimum and some will go on for more than a year. But these time periods shouldn’t deter a victim from contacting us for their free consultation.

The majority of this time is spent during the discovery phase. This is when our law firm dives into our client’s case, looking to obtain evidence and researching the law. We leave no stone unturned. Then, if a settlement can’t be negotiated, the case must wait until the court schedules a date.

Is It Better To Accept A Settlement Or Go To Trial?

Again, this is a difficult question to answer. Every case is different just like every client is unique and ultimately, they must decide what is best. There are benefits to accepting a settlement - the amount obtained in known and typically received within 30 days, not to mention the fact that the settlement isn’t bound to a court date. But not all offers are worthwhile and sometimes, no offer is made.

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A woman who pursued a civil lawsuit against an ex-boyfriend after he sexually assaulted her has been awarded $40 million by a jury, an award which also included punitive damages.New York Child Sex Abuse Lawyer

Continue reading another sexual abuse lawsuit here:

Her Nightmare

"It was monstrous. It was absolutely monstrous what he did to me. Things on the level of serial killers or psychopaths.'' the victim stated at the end of her trial.

Her ordeal began when she returned home one evening. Little did she know, her ex-boyfriend was waiting for her outside. He attacked her right outside of her home hitting her with a lamp, pummeling her with his fists, sexually assaulting her, and stabbing her with a knife - over 40 times. After more than 30 surgeries which ultimately lead to the placement of not just one, but two, metal plates in the plaintiff’s head, it’s a miracle that she is still alive.

At the end of the trial, the jury awarded $13.5 million for her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, and $27.1 million in punitive damages.

Prior to this case, criminal charges were brought against the defendant. In his criminal case, he was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to 28-years in prison for his crime. His lawyer has stated that since he was found guilty of the criminal charges, it was almost impossible to stop the jury from awarding damages to the plaintiff in the civil case.

What Is The Difference Between Criminal And Civil Cases?

A criminal case is filed by the local, state, or federal government after they believe enough evidence has shown that a law has been broken. In these cases, fines and/or jail time is sought as a punishment for that alleged crime.

Civil cases are filed by an individual or group. The plaintiffs in these cases are seeking monetary compensation for losses they sustained due to the actions or decisions of the defendant.

It is not uncommon for a defendant to face both criminal and civil complaints if they harmed someone else while breaking the law.

Can Sexual Assault Victims Always File A Lawsuit?

In the majority of cases, it is possible for the victim of sexual assault to file a civil lawsuit against their attacker. By doing so, they may be able to regain compensation for:

Medical Expenses

Both past and expected future medical expenses may be awarded to the plaintiff for the medical treatments they have required after the attack.

Physical Pain and Suffering

If the plaintiff has been left with constant physical pain or scarring it may be possible to obtain compensation to cover this non-monetary loss.

Emotional Trauma

It’s no secret that sexual assault can leave a victim with anxiety, depression, and flashbacks. While money can’t make those conditions go away, it can help provide the plaintiff with the means to get the support and treatment they need.

Lost Wages

If the plaintiff needs to take time off of work after their ordeal, the amount of money they lost in expected earnings may be covered in the award.

It’s OK To Be Afraid

It has been estimated that 68% of all sexual assaults go unreported. Unfortunately, a culture of fear and silence has been created in the United States which has led many victims to believe that they should be ashamed about what happened to them or that they won’t be believed. At Banville Law, we work hard to make sure that sexual assault victims feel safe and that their identities are protected.

It’s OK to be afraid, but remember, you aren’t alone. Many victims have reported that by pursuing legal action against their attacker they finally felt a sense of relief and that justice was being done.

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A man who was convicted of multiple accounts of child sexual abuse has been sued by his victims.

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Randall Fergus Hutton plead guilty to his first offense in 1995. At that time, he was charged with a third-degree sex offense, charges that had been brought against him after he allegedly molested a 12-year-old.

Years later, in 2009, he was convicted of seven counts of child molestation and was sentenced to 65 years in prison. He also faced further allegations from three victims, ages 13 to 14, who claimed he sexually abused them. The girls claimed that Hutton repeatedly sexually assaulted them while they worked on his farm and threatened to hurt them, as well as their loved ones, if they reported it to anyone.

In their civil lawsuit, the plaintiffs, who chose to remain anonymous and filed under the name “Doe”, claimed they were owed damages for assault, battery, and the emotional trauma he inflicted on them. They stated that on top of the physical abuse they had also suffered psychological harm. When the case went to trial, the jury awarded the plaintiffs just under $8 million in damages.

New York’s Definition Of Child Abuse

New York legally defines child abuse as “the most serious harms committed against children” including when an adult administers “serious physical injury, creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury, or commits an act of sex abuse.” Neglect and emotional abuse are also recognized as forms of child abuse.

Types Of Child Abuse

There is more than one type of child abuse. Abuse can involve:

Physical Abuse

Any physical harm that is suffered by a child as a result of the actions of an adult. Contact must involve the intent to cause harm to the child.

Emotional Abuse

Bullying, constant humiliation, threats, belittling, and chronically ignoring a child are all forms of emotional abuse.


Children all need to be properly clothed, fed, and given shelter. The law defines neglect as “the failure of a parent or other person with responsibility for the child to provide need food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm.”

Sadly, neglect is one of the most often reported forms of child abuse.

Pursuing Legal Action Against The Abuser

Even if someone is convicted of criminal charges, the sentencing usually does not involve any sort of compensation for the victim or their family. In order to obtain compensation, victims typically need to file a separate civil lawsuit against their abuser.

Even if the defendant isn’t convicted of criminal charges, it is still possible to pursue a civil suit, and it is still possible for the plaintiffs to win.

Who Can File?

Complaints can be filed by both the legal guardians and the child. The legal guardians file for the emotional trauma they have suffered from the knowledge that their child has been abused. The child can file for the physical and emotional trauma that they have already suffered and will continue to suffer as a result of their abuse.

What Should I Do If I Suspect A Child Is Being Abused?

If you believe that any child is being abused in any way, you should contact the police. They will take steps to investigate the matter and press charges against anyone who is responsible for the child’s suffering.

Common signs of child abuse include:

After the authorities have determined that child abuse did, in fact, take place, contacting an attorney who can help the child get the compensation they deserve is the next step legal guardians should take.

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Studies have shown that about 10 percent of students suffer some form of sexual abuse during their time at school. Due to society’s trust in teachers, the culture between teachers and students is hardly scrutinized extensively. Teachers are commonly heralded as educators and curators of the future, a position that is to be respected and trusted. However, this also creates a culture where abuse of students is minimized or hushed.

See more: Southern Baptist Convention Takes First Steps In Sexual Abuse Reform

Teacher-Student Abuse IS Happening

In 2012, Los Angeles police investigated а teacher aide аt Miramonte Elementary School whо allegedly sеnt love letters tо а young student. Тhе student’s parents discovered thе letters іn 2009, but noted that no one heeded requests for a serious investigation by school officials. The case was finally taken seriously when two other teachers were discovered sexually abusing students іn separate cases. This matter may have been averted if the school management had the correct procedures and protocols in place to prevent such child abuse, such as regular background checks and acting on other reports.

child abuse

Requirements for Reporting Need To Be Overhauled

Тhе requirements fоr reporting child sexual abuse іn schools аrе outlined іn stаtе law аnd local policy, but improvements must bе mаdе tо better protect children аnd mаkе whistle blowers feel more confident. You can read New York City’s school related child abuse and neglect prevention information here.

There is a complicated chain of events when a child or teacher reports abuse. А child mау confide іn а teacher thаt аnоthеr educator touched thеm; thаt teacher may take up this incident with the principal; thе principal thеn reports іt tо law enforcement. Like a game of "telephone", elements of the story might change, stifling the investigation. A lot of times, the child might be too distressed to clearly convey what happened after having to do so numerous times during the process.

The best course of action requires thоsе responsible fоr reporting child abuse, like teachers, tо notify the police immediately. Because teachers hаvе іn mаnу instances reported abuse tо principals fіrst, law enforcement shоuld bе а teacher’s fіrst contact. This enables trained professionals to interview abuse victims immediately аnd prevent thе deterioration оf а case, something that occurs often when messages are passed from one department to another inside of a school’s closed ecosystem.

As mentioned, culture wіthіn а school саn prevent teachers frоm stepping up and getting involved іn abuse cases. Many mау bе fearful оf retaliation fоr reporting а colleague, оr hesitant tо jeopardize аnоthеr educator’s career based оn what may just be allegations alone.

The law allows fоr а teacher whо receives а complaint tо call law enforcement fіrst bеfоrе going tо thе principal, but sоmе аrе nоt aware оf thаt provision, оr аrе afraid оf breaking thе chain оf command or affronting the school’s culture. It is also important to know that a teacher made aware of abuse is considered a mandated reporter by law and they have an obligation to report suspected child abuse.

The Key: Awareness is Prevention

Very fеw young children аrе taught аbоut sexual assault аnd abuse іn schools. Оf 3,391 respondents tо а national phone survey оf children aged 5-17, 21 percent reported hаvіng participated іn а prevention program rеlаtеd tо sexual assault, with a small section of these children saying they participated in such a program in the past.

Only a very small fraction of kindergarten-age children had participated in prevention programs. In many New York districts, stаtе mandated sexual-abuse discussions оnlу happen in secondary schools. In most cases, this tоо late fоr mаnу students bесаusе sexual-abuse rates peak аt earlier ages.

In conclusion, the best protocol for abuse prevention is a trifecta approach: awareness on the part of parents to watch for common signs of child abuse; education of children so they can communicate the warning signs to a parent or teacher; and change within schools so that child abuse prevention is ingrained in the culture and programs become an integral part of the curriculum to keep our children safe.

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Laurence P. Banville
Date Published: June 12, 2019
Laurence P. Banville is the managing partner of Banville Law. As an experienced personal injury attorney, Mr. Banville helps clients recover compensation from those responsible for his clients' injuries. Our firm is located in New York City, serving clients from the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
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