Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch

Sexual Abuse at Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch

Attorneys at PCVA have already settled multiple lawsuits for sexual abuse of then-minor boys placed at Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch in Tacoma, Washington, in the 1980s and 1990s. But we believe many more were abused at this facility, which was intended to be a safe and rehabilitative environment – not a haven for abusers. If you or someone you know was sexually abused at Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our experienced attorneys.

This article provides information on the sexual abuse that occurred at Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch as well as frequently asked questions about civil laws related to child sexual abuse in Washington State.

What is the Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch?

In 1926, Jessie Dyslin donated land and money to establish the Dyslin Ranch. Eventually, the Ranch was converted into a boys group home called Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch and housed many boys who were wards of the State of Washington. The facility was listed by Washington in 1998 among the state’s 22 facilities for juvenile offenders. The facility and program at Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch, operated by Gateways for Youth, was licensed by the state’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration.

What happened at the Jessie Dyslin Boy’s Ranch, and how have the lawsuits unfolded?

Sexual abuse occurred at the Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch during the 1980s and 2000s. Many survivors have since come forward and filed suit in the Pierce County Superior Court. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is named as a defendant in these cases.

PCVA’s Darrell Cochran, attorney for the plaintiffs in these lawsuits, said, “The DSHS has responsibility for licensing group foster care homes, and one of their primary responsibilities is to make sure if they’re taking a boy out of their own family home that they’re placing them into a better home, a nurturing and a safe home.”

PCVA recently settled one lawsuit for three former Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch residents who were sexually abused by staff members and/or residents for approximately $1 million total.

How can child sexual abuse occur at a facility created to protect them?

Incidents of child sexual abuse can occur in any setting where predators are able to gain the trust of their child victims. All too often, these facilities have been noted for overcrowding, understaffing, and hiring staff who are completely unqualified to supervise youth, who have histories of criminal activity, or who are both unqualified and have criminal histories. In some cases, boys entering such facilities have been warned that “the law of the jungle” rules.

How common was sexual and other abuse at facilities like Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch?

Unfortunately, sexual abuse of children by those charged with protecting and nurturing them is all too common. What were supposed to be safe places for boys who had already suffered trauma in their homes instead became breeding grounds for emotional, sexual and physical abuse by residents and staff.

In other examples, the Kiwanis Vocational Home (closed in the 1990s) and the Olympia Kiwanis Boys Ranch (closed in 1994) have both settled dozens of cases of sexual abuse for tens of millions of dollars. In yet another example, a group home called Secret Harbor, which has operated since 1947, has generated multiple plaintiffs, former residents mostly in the 1980s and 1990s.

In November of 2020, the State of Washington Department of Enterprise Services published a study of claims and suits for childhood sexual abuse pending as of October 1, 2020. Jessie Dyslin Boy’s Ranch is just one among the 14 listed facilities (which the study admits is incomplete) under the auspices of the Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF). As of October 1, 2020, there were 30 active claims and 20 lawsuits arising from these 14 group homes/juvenile facilities.

Why don’t the abused always come forward right away?

Those who have been sexually abused often don’t come forward right away. The psychological reasons are many, but common reasons seem to fall into a few categories: shame, guilt, denial or disbelief, uncertainty, fear of not being believed, avoidance, or lack of information – just to name a few. But seeing survivors coming forward may inspire confidence and hope in others and even bring long-suppressed memories of abuse to the forefront. Everyone has a right to tell their story and be heard, and, if possible, achieve justice for the suffering they have experienced.

I believe I was abused at Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch, but does it merit filing a lawsuit?

Most likely, yes. Even if there is no outward injury to the body, sexual abuse causes serious injury to the nervous system — especially to children, who are still developing neurologically. The effects of sexual violence can last for decades, or even a lifetime, and include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Flashbacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dissociation
  • Panic attacks
  • Substance abuse
  • Disordered sleep
  • Sexual dysfunction

According to PCVA’s Darrell Cochran, “There two reasons to file lawsuits in cases that are decades old: to help finance a fresh start for the alleged victims and to make sure Washington State’s children are safe in the future. Too often, these victims never speak out, harboring the effects of this abuse for the rest of their lives. Victims of sexual abuse have significant increases in their risk for suicide, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

I suffered abuse at a Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch. How long do I have to file a lawsuit in Washington State?

In Washington State, a special statute of limitations allows many who have experienced childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits for the abuse they suffered many years later, even as adults. That law recognizes that survivors of childhood sexual abuse may not realize or appreciate how the sexual abuse harmed them until much later in life. If you were sexually abused at Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch, please contact us.

Can I come forward or sue anonymously if I’m worried about my privacy?

Most likely. The law usually allows attorneys to file lawsuits on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse using a pseudonym, like “John Doe” or “Jane Doe,” or our client’s initials. Moreover, it may be possible to resolve your case privately without filing a lawsuit or going to court.

How can PCVA help?

Our nationally recognized attorneys have represented thousands of sexual abuse survivors, helping them achieve justice by holding the institutions that failed to protect them accountable and recovering hundreds of millions of dollars in damages on their behalf. Our attorneys have been involved in some of the most complicated and concerning sexual abuse cases in the country and are often consulted by other law firms for guidance when representing sexual abuse survivors.

Importantly, PCVA’s sexual abuse attorneys are trained in trauma-informed counsel. This means that to prevent re-traumatization, we have undergone professional training on how to work with individuals who have been subjected to trauma. When you work with us, know that you are working with an advocate who represents you with the utmost empathy and care.

For information on what to look for when hiring a child sexual abuse lawyer, see our article on this topic.

What should I do if I want to speak with a PCVA attorney?

If you or a loved one has experienced sexual abuse or assault, our attorneys are here to listen and help. Schedule a no obligation consultation with one of our lawyers by completing our online form or by calling us at (253) 948-3199 or (206) 536-2850. 

How much do you charge?

Our work is done on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay us on an hourly basis, and we advance the costs of litigation. If we help you resolve your case, we receive a percentage of the amount you receive, and you reimburse us for the costs we advanced on your behalf.

Our Case Results