Sexual abuse is a harrowing and life-altering experience that no child should ever have to live through. Unfortunately, discovering the true abusive nature of a person can be difficult if they hide their intentions under the veil of working as an educator. This situation can become even more complicated if a school attempts to protect a sexual abuser. If you or a family member was sexually abused by school staff, consult with an experienced Philadelphia school sexual abuse attorney today.
The Reiff Law Firm has an unwavering commitment to fighting for children that suffered abuse at the hands of sexual predators that posed as educators. You do not have to fight alone. To schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your claim, contact the Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940, or contact us online.
Forms of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is not just limited to actions like rape and similar situations. A child can endure sexual abuse despite not even being touched by their abuser. Understanding the types of abuse a sexual predator may employ can help a survivor build their case to stand against their abuser.
As mentioned, physical sexual abuse is just one form of sexual abuse. Common actions that a sexual abuser may take when committing physical sexual abuse may include:
- Coercing a child into allowing their genitals to be fondled
- Forcing a child into performing sexual acts on them, another adult, or another unwilling child
- Physically harming a child when they do not consent to commit sexual acts
- Raping a child or performing oral copulation on a child
- Penetrating a child’s genitals with a foreign object
In addition to physical sexual abuse, a sexual predator may also use other tactics to abuse a child mentally and emotionally. For example, exposing a child to pornographic material to make them believe the abuser’s actions are common instead of perverse is a form of sexual abuse.
A sexual abuser may try to keep an abused child in check by trying to isolate them from others who may help them. An abuser may accomplish this by constantly telling a child no one will believe they are being abused or convincing them that they will be in trouble if they alert another person.
There are many other foul tactics an abuser may use to manipulate a child. When this abuse and manipulation occurs within the scope of the abuser’s employment, this could make the abuser and their employer responsible for their actions. For example, a priest using their role as a teacher to lure unsuspecting students can reflect upon the educational institution.
To learn more about filing a lawsuit against a sexual abuser, continue reading and speak with an experienced Philadelphia sexual abuse lawyer today.
Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in Philadelphia
If you were abused by a teacher or other members of the school staff, you should pursue compensation for the unspeakable trauma you experienced. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations may sometimes act as an impediment to a survivor of sexual abuse.
The statute of limitations determines the amount of time that a person has to file a specific type of claim. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse claims is when the survivor reaches the age of 30. While this would be a substantial amount of time for many other types of lawsuits, this may not be enough for a sexual abuse lawsuit.
Many survivors of sexual abuse were abused when they were children. To conceal their terrible actions, their abuser may even have manipulated them into believing that they were not abused at all. Alternatively, some survivors may fear the stigma of telling family and friends that they were sexually abused. As a result, it could be decades before a survivor of sexual abuse is ready to face their abuser, which could lead to the lapse of the statute of limitations and the inability to pursue compensation.
Pennsylvania legislators are still determining whether it would be appropriate to increase the statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits. If passed, the law would mirror similar bills in other states that raised the statute of limitations for civil cases up to the age of 50 or above. Other states have also implemented renewal periods for lawsuits that have expired before the increase of the statute of limitations.
It is important to note that despite the age 30 limit on civil sexual abuse cases, a sexual abuser can still face criminal charges until their victim reaches the age of 50.
If you are confused about the final filing date for your sexual abuse claim, you should speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Title IX and Mandatory Reporting of Sexual Abuse in Philadelphia Schools
Title IX, or 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), requires that any school that receives federal funding to investigate a report of sexual abuse or rape. Under this requirement, schools must take immediate steps to stop student-student sexual harassment, prevent any recurrence of abuse, and proactively address the effects of sexual abuse.
States have also established mandatory reporting requirements. In Pennsylvania, if you are a school administrator, teacher, social services worker, school nurse, daycare worker, or any other person who cares for children or foster children, you are required to report suspected instances of abuse.
If a school failed to follow mandatory reporting requirements or Title IX requirements, we could hold the institution accountable for negligence. We may also file a suit against the responsible individual when appropriate.
Steps to Take if Your Believe Your Child is Sexually Abused at School
Unfortunately, sexual abuse does occur in schools. Even though we believe that schools provide a safe place for our children, incidents of abuse happen. Proving your child was a victim of sexual abuse at school and pursuing a lawsuit can be emotionally draining. Our compassionate Philadelphia sexual abuse attorneys are aware of the challenges involved and strive to provide professional and sympathetic guidance.
If you believe that your child is, or has been, the victim of sexual abuse at school, there are specific steps you could take that could prove beneficial in helping finding justice for your child.
First, you should talk with an experienced Philadelphia child sexual abuse attorney to understand your rights and options. It is crucial to share every detail, no matter how difficult, to allow your attorney the ability to understand your situation and offer their legal assistance. Every case is unique, and without the full information, building a successful claim is almost impossible.
Every school in Philadelphia has a protocol to follow in cases of suspected sexual abuse. It is essential to understand the steps you are supposed to follow. Notifying the proper person allows the school to address the situation. In addition to the school, you should also report the suspected abuse to the local authorities.
Every lawsuit requires evidence. This is also the situation in cases of sexual abuse. While you might not have access to much physical evidence, there are still some actions you can take that will help your case. For instance, if you believe your child was abused at a specific time, you should not launder their clothes and keep them persevered. Additionally, you should keep a record of any times, locations, or details you have that could relate to incidents of abuse. Furthermore, do not disregard and texts, voicemails, or emails that could also help your case. You can never provide too much information. Allow our office to shift through what you give us.
Our office will help you work with medical and mental healthcare experts. Sexual abuse claims are challenging but with the right resources at hand, the process becomes more bearable.
Negligence in a Philadelphia School Sexual Abuse Case
Pennsylvania courts define negligence in two different ways. Negligence is often an affirmative act, meaning the defendant was doing something they were not supposed to do. Negligence could also be the failure to act, or an omission. In this case, the defendant did not do something they should have. In Philadelphia school sexual abuse cases, schools could be held liable for either an affirmative act or for the failure to act.
For example, a school could be held liable if an administrator purposefully fails to report an allegation of sexual abuse by a teacher. When a school administrator attempts to hide reports of abuse, the school could be held liable for their affirmative conduct.
Likewise, a teacher could commit an act of omission that could result in liability for the school. If a teacher witnesses an incident of sexual abuse but does nothing, their conduct constitutes an act of negligent omission. In this case, the school could be held accountable for the actions the teacher failed to take.
The key in most of these cases is proving that the school employees or administrators knew or should have known about the abuse that was occurring. Our knowledgeable Philadelphia child sexual abuse attorney will have to present evidence that school employees or officials were aware of the abuse or had reason to know about the problem.
Sexual Abuse in Private and Public Schools in Philadelphia
Philadelphia has both public and private schools. The required evidence necessary to prove sexual abuse is different depending on the type of institution. Take the example of an eighth-grade teacher sexually abusing one of their students for a period of two years. The school in this case had received evidence of two prior reports of abuse. When faced with these allegations, the school did nothing.
In a private school, including a parochial school, two incidents of failing to address the reports could be sufficient enough to impose liability on the school. Here, the school officials knew about the allegations of sexual abuse and failed to take any action. This negligent omission allowed the child to suffer the continued abuse for two years.
However, in a public school, the evidence in the above case is probably not sufficient to win a sexual abuse case against the school. To hold a Philadelphia public school liable for sexual abuse, there needs to be enough evidence to establish that the suspected offenders acted with a willful disregard for the victim’s welfare.
Our office will have to prove a custom of reckless indifference regarding reporting cases of abuse. Basically, the school must have fully appreciated and understood the risk presented by the teacher and allowed the behavior to continue.
In a public school setting, the critical component is demonstrating a pattern of conduct. Therefore, two incidents of ignored reports is probably not enough. Our experienced Philadelphia sexual abuse attorney will develop a case based on the evidence available and craft it according to your unique circumstances.
Consult with an Experienced Philadelphia School Sexual Abuse Lawyer You Can Trust
If you are a survivor of sexual abuse and you wish to file a claim against your abuser, contact an experienced Philadelphia school sexual abuse lawyer today. The skilled injury lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm have fought for clients for decades, and we would be honored to work with you. To schedule a free case evaluation, contact the Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940.