Sexual abuse and assault of innocent children, as well as adults, often causes lifelong physical and emotional pain to victims and their families. The attorneys at Passen & Powell represent sexual abuse victims in civil actions against sexual predators — and oftentimes their corporate enablers — to hold them accountable for their heinous acts. For a confidential and free consultation with one of our attorneys, call us at 312-527-4500.
Child Sexual Abuse
The scale of sexual abuse is difficult to determine largely because it is often not reported. Victims of sex abuse — often children — are afraid to come forward due to the intimidation and manipulation of their sexual predators.
According to the latest research on sexual abuse done by the Crimes Against Children Research Center, at least 20% of girls and 5% of boys are sexually abused. We know these numbers are far greater than what is reported.
Child victims of sexual abuse often develop emotional damage that last the rest of their lives, including feelings of low self-esteem, worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. This can often lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior.
Illinois law provides for some restitution to victims of sexual abuse and assault under the Illinois Crime Victim’s Compensation Act. Under the Act, victims of violent crimes who have inadequate insurance or no source of funds to cover their expenses may be eligible to receive up to $27,000 to cover medical bills, counseling, lost wages and other expenses. However, the Act does not allow compensation for pain and suffering or emotional distress — which is usually the biggest damage to sexual abuse survivors.
To recover damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering and similar damages, victims must turn to the civil justice system, which allows for such damages. This requires consulting an experienced law firm, such as Passen & Powell, to help determine whether there is a viable civil cause of action against the sexual perpetrator and any other entity or individual who may share responsibility.
Corporate Liability for Sexual Abuse
Oftentimes, abusers do not have adequate financial resources to compensate their victims. Which is why it becomes important to hold others associated with the abuser responsible as well. For example, the abuser’s employer may be held “vicariously liable” for the actions of the abuser during the scope of their employment, especially if the employer knew or should have known about the abuse. So, for example, a day care or child care service may share responsibility for sexual abuse of a child committed by a day care employee — if the employer failed to properly screen or supervise the abuser — or failed to report inappropriate incidents that could have prevented future abuse.
There are many possible theories of liability to hold an employer or corporate entity liable for the actions of their agents or employees. For example, a corporation might be liable for “negligent hiring” of an employee with a violent criminal background who then commits a sexual or otherwise violent act.
Another example of corporate liability for sexual abuse involves “adoption negligence” where child welfare agencies fail to disclose important information to adoptive parents concerning the child’s sexual background. When foster children have been victims of sexual abuse or sexual abusers themselves, child welfare agencies have a duty to disclose that information to adoptive parents. A failure to disclose such information threatens the safety of children in the home as well as the ability for adoptive parents to monitor and help the children, and may lead to liability of the child welfare agency in the event of sexual abuse in the home.
For an in-depth discussion of these and other issues, see Passen & Powell’s publication, “Civil Justice for Crime Victims in Illinois: An Overview.”
Unfortunately, there have been a long line of incidents of abuse in environments where we trust our kids to be protected. The most common recent examples of corporate liability for sexual abuse involves the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and Penn State University (for the actions of Jerry Sandusky). Such abuse also commonly occurs in sports leagues, summer camps, college campuses, day care, hospitals, foster care homes, and other places of worship.
Adult Sexual Assault
Of course, adults are often victims of sexual assault, which can be equally devastating. We also have experience representing adult victims of sexual assault, which commonly arise in the following contexts:
- Sexual assault of defenseless patients or others in hospitals, nursing homes, and similar facilities
- College campuses at fraternity parties or other instances of “date rape”
- Unsafe premises, such as apartment complexes, hotels and parking lots, located in a high-crime area with deficient security (i.e. negligent security)
As an example, Passen & Powell represented a student nurse anesthetist who was sexually assaulted by her supervising anesthesiologist at a hospital. She was able to prevail in a lawsuit against the doctor and hospital for negligent hiring and supervision, as well as for violations of the Illinois Gender Violence Act, resulting in a substantial confidential settlement.
We understand how difficult it is for victims of sexual abuse and assault to come forward and let their story be told. However, without such courage, sexual abusers and enablers would never be held fully accountable for their actions. We draw on the strength of our clients when we walk into boardrooms and courtrooms to ensure they receive full justice under the law. Call us at 312-527-4500 for a free and confidential consultation regarding your case.