Crime Victim Law Blog

Rise in sexual assaults on commercial airlines has FBI baffled

As anyone who has flown in recent years knows, commercial airlines take safety seriously. Yet one danger is increasing – sexual assaults mid-flight.

On June 20, the FBI noted that reported sexual assaults have increased by two-thirds on flights since 2014. FBI special agents admit that sexual assaults on flights may remain under-reported.

When workplace pressure becomes emotional abuse

Let's face it, most of us have worked for bosses who blew their stack at the drop of a hat; or worked in an office where the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. In many cases, the stress is induced by one or two people who seem to thrive on the negative energy. It's their reason for getting out of bed every morning. For the rest of us, though, making it through the day working with them can be a challenge that we can't leave behind us at the office.

But when does the office pressure cooker become more than just the ups and downs of the daily business grind? At what point does a hard-working professional get to blow the whistle to warn their boss or co-worker(s) that the line has been crossed? We'll use this post to discuss what the law says about pursuing civil litigation against emotional abusers in the workplace.

Erie Catholic priest charged with sex crimes against children

The longstanding tradition of clergy abuse and subsequent cover ups by religious organizations has shown itself again in Pennsylvania. A recent grand jury investigation has revealed the names of 34 priests against whom there is compelling evidence of child sexual abuse.

As part of the statewide investigation, a 64-year-old Catholic priest from Oil City has been charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting two boys, according to Penn Live. Father David Poulson, who served as a priest for approximately 40 years, faces felony charges related to sexual abuse perpetrated on many occasions against two boys starting when one of the children was eight years old, according to an announcement from Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Founder of #MeToo talks about helping survivors

The founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, recently spoke at Michigan State University. MSU has been in the news recently because of Larry Nassar, the USA gymnastics doctor who was sentenced to life in prison for sexually abusing gymnasts he pretended to treat. Nassar worked for MSU.

At the event, Burke said she was not there to provide publicity to MSU. Instead, she said she was there to speak directly to victims of sexual assault. According to Burke, #MeToo is about a community of victims, not their attackers. She said she has been disappointed that the focus has shifted from survivors. She said she started the movement as “a declaration. It was about these women standing up and saying that they had experienced these things collectively,” reported The Detroit Free Press.

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.

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