Crime Victim Law Blog

Holding prison staff accountable for harassment and abuse

Prison is a place to house those found guilty of a crime, not a place for crimes to be committed. However, sexual assault is an all too familiar part of prison life, especially for incarcerated women. As awareness of sexual assault increases, it’s worth noting that it affects all arenas of life.

As the #MeToo movement has shined a spotlight on sexual harassment and assault, one notable consistency whether it was in Hollywood, politics or elsewhere, is that people in power are often taking advantage of those of lower rank. The prison system is to provide care, custody and control of prisoners, which fits into this power dynamic.

Report: Military does little to protect youth on bases

Sexual assault has long been an issue in the U.S. military. While the military has taken steps to reduce sexual assault against those in service, it has been reluctant to pursue cases of sexual assault involving youth, according to investigative reporting by the Associated Press.

According to the AP, there have been at least 600 confirmed reports of alleged sexual assault involving minors on military bases since 2007. There are certainly more unreported cases, perhaps many more. These are instances in which one minor is alleged to have sexually assaulted another student.

Sexual assault law aims to protect youth sports participants

Most people by now have heard of Larry Nassar's horrific sexual assaults on young gymnasts in his care. The former USA Gymnastics doctor was recently convicted of multiple criminal charges and will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Unfortunately, the gymnasts he abused also have to live with their experiences for the rest of their lives. That kind of abuse should never happen. USA Gymnastics fell under heavy scrutiny for failing to report alleged abuse to authorities.

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.

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