Sexual Abuse in Group Homes
A group home is a place where you may have placed a loved one with all the best intentions but, because of its management and employees, your loved one suffered sexual abuse. Sexual abuse happens when there is someone vulnerable to such an attack and a sexual predator who feels, given the time and place, he or she can get away with it.
Those in Maryland group homes are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse. They may suffer physical, emotional, psychological or cognitive disabilities or have addiction problems. Their contact with the outside world is limited, and they may fear retaliation if they report the abuse. Some may lack the ability to consent to sexual activity because of their youth, psychological or emotional disabilities. Others may be so physically impaired that they can’t protect themselves.
Sexual abuse of the most vulnerable among us is something that’s too repulsive for most of us to even think about, but it happens.
- Two Maryland agencies put a temporary stop to sending youths in their custody to Good Shepherd Services, a Baltimore County residential treatment center, reports the Baltimore Sun. After a resident reported to staff she was sexually assaulted twice by another resident, state regulators investigated and found there was a “failure to enforce facility policies and procedures designed to protect residents [which] may have put [a resident] at risk for the alleged assaults.”
- A 28-year-old California youth counselor facing charges of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl he met at a youth home was given 17 more charges of felony sexual assault of a 13-year-old after the second victim from the same facility came forward with similar allegations, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The youth home houses minors with family problems and runaways. The inappropriate relationships took place in 2016.
- A former caregiver of a group home for adults with diminished mental capacities in Utah was arrested after accusations that she sexually abused two of the residents in 2016, reports the Deseret News. The 19-year-old employee faced ten counts each of forcible sexual abuse, forcible sodomy and object rape. The victims, two women, aged 19 and 27, were allegedly sexually abused every night the caregiver worked. When one of them was moved to another group home, she disclosed the abuse to a caregiver.
Residents could be abused by a fellow resident, a staff member, visitor or family member. Because the group home is responsible for the health and safety of its residents, sexual assaults of residents often occur because of the negligence of the group home’s management.
- A sexual predator may gravitate toward a job or occupation where it’s easier to get access to possible victims. Though the vast majority of group home employees would not even think about sexually assaulting a resident, there are some who will abuse residents for their own personal, sexual gratification. In this type of situation a group home may be held legally responsible because it may have failed to look into the employee’s background before hiring the person, properly supervise the worker or monitor the resident, or in some other way failed to live up to its legal responsibilities.
- When residents are sexually abused by other residents, it may be because of insufficient supervision or failure to sufficiently examine or consider the attacker’s background, which may have included prior sexual abuse of others. The group home may have been aware of past sexual assaults but accepted the resident anyway in order to fill a bed and obtain compensation.
- A group home can be responsible for sexual abuse if it learns of instances of abuse but fails to properly investigate them and take steps to prevent future ones from happening.
Some of the emotional or psychological effects of sexual abuse can include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition where symptoms are triggered by a stressful event. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
- Depression, which can be shown by prolonged sadness, feelings of hopelessness, unexplained crying, changes in appetite and significant weight changes, loss of energy or loss of interest and pleasure in activities the person previously enjoyed. It may impact the person’s outlook, causing feelings of hopelessness which may affect thought process and the ability to make decisions. In extreme cases the person may consider or commit suicide.
- Dissociation, which refers to a feeling that one is not present. A person may find themselves constantly daydreaming in order to escape the “real world” and avoid dealing with the sexual abuse. The person may not be able to focus on job-related duties or concentrate at school.
Physical symptoms of sexual abuse include:
- Bleeding (vaginal or anal)
- Difficulty walking
- Broken or dislocated bones.
If you believe your loved one has suffered from sexual abuse, you should notify the group home’s management, local law enforcement and our office. Your loved one needs to be kept safe, the abuse needs to stop, and an investigation needs to start so the perpetrator can be identified and responsible parties held accountable.
If you find yourself and your family in this situation because a Maryland group home violated your trust and its legal obligations, contact our office. The Law Offices of Roger S. Weinberg, LLC has successfully handled cases of sexual abuse at group homes. We will passionately investigate and litigate your case to get the compensation and justice you and your loved one deserve.