Teacher Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania
Teachers are among the first people we regularly entrust our children to, and kids grow up expecting teachers to be a reliable source of aid and guidance when they are away from their parents. In fact, one sexual abuse statistic demonstrates how deep this trust runs: children and adolescents are more likely to report sexual abuse to teachers than to any other professional. According to statistics from Darkness to Light more than half of reported sexual abuse cases involving harm to the child are identified by school personnel.
Unfortunately, the same level of trust that makes teachers approachable when a child is in trouble make it easy for the unscrupulous among them to take advantage of a child.
Teacher Sexual Abuse Statistics
Only a tiny fraction of teachers engages in sexual abuse, but with more than three million teachers nationwide, even a small percentage can mean significant numbers. In one recent calendar year, the media reported on at least 800 cases of sexual abuse by teachers and other school personnel, 45 of them in Pennsylvania. That’s about 15 cases every week across the country, which is staggering enough in itself. Additionally:
- Not all cases investigated are reported in the media
- Only about half of cases reported to authorities are investigated
- Up to 90% of cases of childhood sexual abuse are believed to go unreported
That means the actual number of school-related sexual abuse cases is probably much, much higher.
Sexual Abuse by School Staff
Not all school-related allegations of sexual abuse involve teachers. A small percentage involve other staff members, and about 20% name a coach as the perpetrator.
Remedies for Victims of Sexual Abuse
If the abuser is convicted, the victim may gain peace of mind and regain some sense of power. However, victims of sexual abuse often suffer real, quantifiable damages. In those case, simply seeing the abuser behind bars will not provide a complete remedy.
In addition, the outcome of a sexual abuse report is uncertain at best. Many cases are not thoroughly investigated, as little evidence is available. Many investigations are inconclusive, or do not yield sufficient proof for a prosecutor to pursue criminal charges. When criminal charges are filed, there is no guarantee of a conviction.
Teacher Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
When a teacher sexually abuses a student, the victim may choose to file a lawsuit against the abuser. However, in a school setting, the abuser is likely not the only responsible party. In many cases, the private school or public school district may also be liable. For example, the school may have:
- Provided inadequate training to teachers and other staff members
- Had inadequate policies in place to protect children, or failed to enforce those policies
- Ignored warning signs, complaints from students, or other red flags
- Conducted an inadequate investigation prior to hiring the teacher
- Ignored warning signs when choosing to hire the teacher
An experienced sexual abuse attorney will investigate the claim to identify all possible responsible parties before filing suit. This is particularly important in school sexual abuse cases, since the abuser may be incarcerated and will almost certainly have lost his or her primary source of income. Often, the most significant recovery will come from someone other than the abuser.
Damages and Other Benefits of Teacher Sexual Abuse Litigation
The primary reason for sexual abuse litigation is to ensure that the victim has the resources he or she needs to recover from the abuse. In particular, cases of sexual abuse by a trusted authority often trigger the need for extensive and expensive therapy. However, sexual abuse litigation may offer the victim more than financial compensation.
Sexual abuse is disempowering and may create intense anxiety in the victim. Pursuing a sexual abuse lawsuit against the perpetrator and any other responsible parties can help the victim regain a sense of control and faith in the justice system. This is especially important when a trusted system has failed to protect the victim, as is often the case in school-related sexual abuse cases.
Time Limits in Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Cases
Most sexual abuse is never reported, and children may be particularly hesitant to come forward. The Pennsylvania legislature recognizes that children and adolescents may be unsure whom to turn to or too fearful of the abuser to report the abuse. In addition, many victims of childhood abuse repress those memories, becoming conscious of the abuse only years later.
The Pennsylvania statute of limitations allows a victim who was sexually abused as a minor to file suit up until the age of 30.
Consult a Sexual Abuse Attorney
If you are an adult who was sexually abused by a teacher as a minor, or you are the parent of a child who suffered abuse at the hands of a teacher, it’s time to take back control. You can start right now, by scheduling a free consultation.