Posted in News on November 26, 2019
Over the last few years, the country has been rocked with revelations of child sexual abuse taking place in what are supposed to be trusted institutions. This includes in our churches, in the Boy Scouts, at schools, in recreational activities, and more.
We have spent plenty of time listening to how this sexual abuse has affected victims’ lives. Often, we hear from adults who were abused as children. However, what about those who have been abused and are still in school? What about those who are in school with their abusers? How are they handling their lives after sexual abuse has occurred?
Assimilating into normal school life is hard
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has worked to change the federal rules on sexual misconduct. Of concern are rules put into place that offers more protection for those accused of abuse and have relaxed scrutiny into institutions where abuse occurs.
Under the new rules proposed by DeVos and the current administration, schools would only be expected to recognize complaints of sexual assault under Title IX when the harassment or abuse is deemed to be “severe and pervasive.” They could also decline to investigate incidents of sexual assault and abuse that happens off-campus or outside of the school’s programming.
Title IX is the 47-year-old federal law in place to prevent sexual discrimination in education, and it is expanded over the years to include incidents of sexual violence in elementary and secondary schools.
A recent New York Times story highlights the fact that many K-12 schools do not take these incidents seriously. One girl says she was pinned down by a student at her Winchester, Virginia school. He kissed her and tried to take her pants off when she was 14 years old.
She reported the incident and thought the school was investigating her claims. However, the boy was left at the school, and she felt nauseous every time she saw him. She says she tried to avoid him in the hallways. School administrators called her into a conference room over the time and showed her a video of herself zigzagging to avoid seeing the student as she sought help after the incident. When the school district released its report weeks later, they said that she could not have been distressed because, in one segment of the video, she was seen smiling minutes after she saw her alleged attacker.
“That’s when I realized that instead of investigating my complaint, they were investigating me,” the girl said in an interview.
What we know about child sexual abuse
How can a child who has sustained sexual abuse get back into a normal routine at school? These incidents must be taken seriously and investigated, whether the victim is another student or an adult. We know that nearly one out of every ten children will be sexually abused before they reach their eighteenth birthdays.
According to RAINN:
- 93% of sexual abuse victims know their abusers
- 59% of abusers are acquaintances of the child (coaches, mentors, teachers, peers, etc.)
- Many victims of abuse in schools do not report the abuse because they fear they will not be taken seriously
In order to help and protect children, we must encourage the reporting of these incidents. Law enforcement and school officials should remove the alleged perpetrator and fully investigate allegations of sexual abuse.
A Lawyer Can Help
While no one can go back in time and take the pain and suffering away from a child, having an experienced attorney to protect the interests and rights of a child survivor can make a big difference on their road to recovery. An attorney can ensure a school provides adequate accommodations to a child while they assimilate back into the system, and also pursue legal ramifications for anyone who intends to further harm a survivor in any way. Speaking to an attorney can help provide clear answers to a family’s legal questions and guide each individual towards their best legal options. If you’re in doubt as to what options are available to you, contact our office today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys over a free, no obligation consultation.