After a seemingly never-ending maze of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy, new allegations of abuse have surfaced at two Illinois orphanages run by the Catholic Church.
Sexual abuse of children is the most insidious type of crime because it produces harms that often do not manifest themselves until years after the abuse occurred.
For this reason, the crime usually goes unreported until after the state statute of limitations (SOL) for bringing a lawsuit has expired, leaving the victim no legal recourse to seek recompense from the civil justice system.
However, as a result of growing awareness about the nature of sexual abuse and its lingering effects, as well as widely publicized cases involving pervasive abuse within high-profile organizations, some states including Illinois are making changes to their laws in order to allow victims their day in court.
The Chicago Public Schools have been inundated with complaints and allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse in its educational institutions. One particular school, Lincoln Park High School, has been the subject of a series of allegations that have resulted in numerous school personnel being suspended or fired. Now, CPS has been sued by the family of a student who alleges that the school did not do enough to prevent a sexual assault that she experienced at the school in January 2020.
Schools have an obligation to protect their students from all types of sexual abuse and assaults. They must provide adequate security in order to keep the students safe from outside intruders seeking to harm the students in school as well as from people within the four walls of the school. This includes both their fellow students as well as school employees such as teachers and administrators. Not only must the school have physical security protections in place, but it also must have policies and procedures that are reasonably intended to protect the students.
Even though school systems are governmental entities, they can still be defendants in lawsuits, albeit with slightly different rules governing the lawsuits. Governmental entities are accountable civilly for their failure to protect children from sexual abuse just the same as any other private entity. Parents of schoolchildren who are the victims of sexual abuse can file a sexual abuse lawsuit against the school.
One of the major issues in a sexual abuse lawsuit is the fact that the statute of limitations may have passed. In many states, this could prevent the victim from filing a lawsuit unless they do it within the time allowed by the court. The problem is that many victims either are not able to speak out right after they experience the abuse or may not even fully recall it until the repressed memories emerge later in life.
When that happens but the claim is barred by the statute of limitations, it creates a situation that seems to be harsh and unfair to those who have already suffered enough. However, many states are now changing their laws to allow victims much more time to file a sexual abuse lawsuit.
Emerging Liberal Interpretations of Statute of Limitations
Often times, out of necessity, many parents of young children require childcare services including day care centers and nannies. Unfortunately, children are often the victims of neglect and abuse in these facilities, at schools, or at home through the actions of the nanny. Many times, neglect or abuse is unknown because the child might be scared to discuss the matter, or too young to communicate effectively.
Lack of supervision, neglect, sexual abuse, and physical abuse are real dangers anytime others care for the child. Children are frequently physically abused or neglected by staff members that might be inadequately screened or trained.
Insufficient screening or improper education can result in hiring reckless or dangerous employees. Other times, there is inadequate supervision over the staff required to protect the child. Consequently, children at the facility can become the victim of emotional and/or physical abuse, sexual assault, or other horrific acts.