Crime Victim Law Blog

Protecting special needs individuals from sexual assault

Sexual assault against the intellectually disabled remains an often-ignored problem. Unfortunately, the issues facing abuse victims with cognitive impairments can be significant. Much like with other vulnerable populations such as young children and the elderly, sexual predators rely on special needs victims being unable to communicate clearly. Even if they can communicate, the victim's plight is often ignored as unreliable. For these reasons, it is very difficult for prosecutors to get convictions against perpetrators for their crimes.

The problem is bigger than you might think. According to data compiled by National Public Radio, people with intellectual disabilities suffer from seven times the rate of sexual abuse as the rest of the population.

Talking to your kids about sexual abuse

For all of the strides of the #MeToo movement  -- and the bravery sexual abuse and harassment victims continue to demonstrate by speaking out -- it is still difficult to talk with kids about sexual abuse. It can seem inappropriate or unnecessary. The topic is difficult to bring up. No parent wants to admit the possibility that their kids may be subjected to such horrors.

Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 percent of girls and 16 percent of boys under 18 will suffer sexual abuse of some type. You may have difficulty believing that number. Because it is a taboo subject, the prevalence of sexual abuse is often underestimated.

Are confidentiality agreements legal in sexual abuse settlements?

A confidentiality agreement prevented McKayla Maroney, a U.S. Olympic Medal winner, from speaking out about sexual abuse suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar, a USA Gymnastics doctor. The agreement, signed between USA Gymnastics and McKayla Maroney, was worth a reported $1.25 million. Revelations about the confidentiality agreement has led to a renewed discussion of when, if ever, a settlement for sexual abuse should include a nondisclosure provision.

The settlement was reached in 2016, shortly before numerous other allegations about Larry Nassar began to surface. Since USA Gymnastics and Maroney signed the confidentiality agreement, Larry Nassar has been convicted of possession of child pornography and is facing several felony charges for sexual abuse of minors.

Jehovah’s Witnesses accused of covering up instances of abuse

We all have an obligation to protect children in our care. For some religious organizations, unfortunately, there has been a history of protecting reputations over kids. Institutional leaders in the Jehovah’s Witnesses in both the U.S. and U.K. are the latest to be accused of covering up child sex abuse.

Former members coming forward with their experiences

Florida school districts blame victims in sexual assault cases

“They were asking for it” is perhaps the oldest and most despicable form of victim-blaming that occurs in sexual assault cases. However, perpetrators of sexual assault and institutions responsible for keeping young people safe continue to resort to this obvious falsehood in an attempt to shift blame.

The latest example comes from Broward and Miami-Dade school districts. The Sun-Sentinel recently reported on several lawsuits in the districts regarding claims of sexual abuse and sexual assault. The Sun-Sentinalreports that the school districts used these arguments as a defense in at least eight separate lawsuits stretching back to 2010.

Another gymnastics victim speaks out in #MeToo post

In the wake of revelations of the outrageous behavior of Harvey Weinstein, who is alleged to have sexually harassed actresses for decades, many people in Hollywood have taken to speaking out against sexual harassment and sexual assault. In short time, the #MeToo campaign has gained significant momentum and attention. Women who have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault are bravely sharing their experiences in an attempt to raise awareness about the extent of the problem.

Not just a Hollywood issue

Catholic clergy sexual abuse: A serious worldwide problem

Recent reports that a high-ranking Vatican official has been accused of sexual abuse confirm that child molestation by Catholic clergy is a global problem with far-reaching implications. For decades, accusations have been lodged against priests and Catholic leaders who either abused kids, allowed the abuse to occur or covered up sex crimes. Many of them have led to significant financial settlements, terrible P.R. for the Church and, increasingly, jail time for the abusers.

According to Time magazine, Cardinal George Pell of Australia was charged with crimes related to sexual abuse. The Church's Vatican-based treasurer and adviser to Pope Francis is the former Archbishop of Melbourne and Archbishop of Sydney. He is reportedly the highest ranking Catholic leader to be accused of sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse is not limited by gender

Up to one in six boys suffer sexual abuse before age 18

The statistics on child sexual abuse are incredibly saddening. While we know it is a tragically common and underreported crime, there are still myths and stereotypes about sexual abuse and who the victims of these heinous acts are.

Daycare is defendant in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse

It is almost inconceivable that those charged with caring for the safety of young children would so horribly abuse this trust by sexually abusing a child.

Yet that is just what has been alleged in two separate lawsuits against the same daycare provider in Orlando, Florida.

Gymnastics doctor accused of molestation guilty of child porn

Almost a year ago, we wrote about the Indianapolis Star's exposé on USA Gymnastics. The large children's gymnastics organization mishandled allegations by gymnasts who were victims of sexual assault. You can read more about that story in our 2016 post.

The good news is that prosecutors were also paying attention to the story.

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