Student Sexual Abuse
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Student Sexual Abuse

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child.

Sexual abuse is a horrific crime, often committed by people in power against some of the most vulnerable in our society. It can happen anywhere, anytime and can be perpetrated by strangers or people the victims trust: parents; religious figures like pastors, priests and nuns; teachers; coaches; and family friends.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, an experienced attorney can evaluate your options for bringing those responsible to justice.

Below we provide some answers to frequently asked questions about sexual abuse in schools.

What is child sexual abuse?

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network defines child sexual abuse as, “… any interaction between a child and an adult (or another child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or abuser.” It does not have to include physical contact between the child and the perpetrator and may include non-contact activities like exhibitionism, voyeurism and exposing a child to pornography.

How common is child sex abuse in schools?

According to a Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, nearly 1 in 8 eighth graders and 1 in 5 high school seniors reported unwanted sexual contact. While it can happen to anyone, targets are frequently:

  • Female students
  • Students of color
  • Disabled students
  • Students who identify as LGBTQ+

How does sexual abuse occur in schools?

While sexual abuse can happen anywhere on the school grounds or during school events, the National Education Association notes student-on-student sexual assault and harassment occurs most frequently in school bathrooms, school playgrounds and in the back of school buses. The NEA also cited an Associated Press analysis of federal crime data and noted that, for every adult-on-child sexual assault, there were seven assaults by students on other students.

What should I do if I am sexually assaulted at school?

If you are sexually assaulted at school, it is important to understand that it is not your fault. Here are the next steps to take:

  • Tell an adult. Speak with your parents or guardians, your guidance counselor, or a teacher at the school.
  • Tell the harasser to stop and keep track of what happens after you tell them (i.e., whether the harassment or unwanted advances continue, etc.)

What should I do if I think my child is being sexually abused at school?

If you suspect your child has been sexually assaulted at school, it is important to take the following steps:

  • Seek medical treatment for your child.
  • Find resources to help you connect with therapists, counselors, fellow survivors and others:
  • Get a copy of the school’s sexual harassment policy. All schools are required to maintain a sexual harassment policy that details how they handle complaints. Title IX of the Civil Rights Act covers all forms of sexual harassment, including “any unwelcome sexual conduct, such as unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal, non-verbal, or physical contact of a sexual nature.”
  • File a complaint with the state board of education.
  • Contact an attorney experienced in handling student sexual abuse cases.

What are the long-term impacts of child sexual abuse?

As a result of sexual abuse, children may experience both mental and physical changes. These can include:

  • Regressive behavior, like bed wetting and thumb sucking
  • Increasing isolation
  • Fear of being by themselves
  • Other changes in behavior, like aggression, impulsiveness, delinquency and substance abuse
  • Mental health issues, like depression, PTSD, personality disorders, anxiety disorders and psychosis

In adults who have experienced abuse, the issues noted above may take a lasting physical toll as well, contributing to conditions like:

  • Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Arthritis
  • Headaches
  • Gynecological problems
  • Stroke and heart disease
  • Hepatitis

What are the signs of sexual abuse among minors?

The signs of sexual abuse will vary depending on the child’s age and can present themselves physically, behaviorally or emotionally. While there may be other causes behind some signs of abuse, it is important to trust your gut. Addressing sexual abuse can be painful, but the sooner you act, the better off the child in your care will be.

Warning signs can be difficult to spot but may include the following:

  • Evidence of trauma to the genital area
  • Sudden regression to old habits such as bed wetting or thumb sucking
  • Excessive knowledge of sexual topics
  • Overly compliant behavior
  • Spending an excessive amount of time alone
  • Changed eating habits
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Lost interest in daily activities
  • Sudden fear of being away from primary caregivers

Signs that an adult may be grooming a child for future sexual abuse include:

  • Fails to respect boundaries
  • Tries to be a child’s friend rather than an adult role model or does not seem to have an age-appropriate relationship
  • Spends time alone with a child outside of their role in the child’s life
  • Gives gifts without reason

How PCVA Can Help

Our nationally recognized attorneys have represented thousands of sexual abuse survivors, helping them achieve justice by holding the institutions and individuals that failed to protect them accountable and preventing future abuse. Through our efforts, we have helped recover hundreds of millions of dollars in damages on behalf of abuse survivors. While no amount of monetary compensation can erase the trauma of abuse, the financial assistance can help pay for necessary expenses to allow the healing process to begin.

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 and expertise when representing sexual abuse survivors. We take a trauma-informed approach to our counsel that acknowledges the sensitive facts of the case and the vulnerability of our clients.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse or assault, our attorneys are here to listen and help. Learn more about how we help sexual abuse survivors or schedule a no obligation consultation with one of our lawyers by completing our intake form or 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 if your case settles or reaches a favorable verdict, we collect a portion of the settlement or award.

Our Case Results

$4.25M Settlement in Sexual Assault Case Against Issaquah School District
$4.2M Settlement Reached in Coach Sexual Abuse Case Against University Place School District
$3M Settlement in Coach Sexual Abuse Case Against Seattle Public Schools
$2.25M Settlement for Sexual Abuse at Rainier School
$2M Settlement for Sexual Abuse of 10 Juveniles at Green Hill School
$500K Settlement for Sexual Abuse at Bethel High School
$333K Settlement for Sexual Abuse Against Walla Walla School District

See a more detailed list on our Case Results page.

Additional Resources

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE (4673)
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): https://www.rainn.org/
State Law Database: https://apps.rainn.org/policy/