Institutional sex abuse lawsuits

When an employee, volunteer, or another representative of an institution commits sexual abuse, the organization may also be legally responsible. This liability could result in holding the institution accountable in civil court for the physical, emotional, and financial losses experienced by victims and their families. 

Most law firms that represent victims in institutional sex abuse lawsuits provide free consultations. These are confidential, no-obligation, free meetings where victims and their families can safely and openly discuss their experience and learn about their legal rights. As a result, it may be possible to hold the institution accountable for what you or a loved one endured. 

Can the victim of a sexual assault file a civil lawsuit?

Victims of sexual assault can often file a claim against the perpetrator and hold them legally liable in civil court. However, you might be unable to recover compensation from an individual. Most people do not have significant assets to cover a payout, especially if there are multiple victims. 

In addition, insurance often is unavailable to pay for a policyholder engaging in illegal or unethical behavior. Most people recover compensation in other types of civil lawsuits through insurance coverage, including car accident cases, dog bites, slip and falls, and medical malpractice. 

This is one reason why it often makes more sense to pursue a case against the institution that allowed the abuse to occur—and in some cases, even covered for the abuser. These institutions generally have assets and hold insurance policies if their employees act inappropriately. Finally, a verdict against a liable organization is much more likely to teach others a lesson when they see victims get justice from the organization and not just the individual.

Types of institutional sex abuse lawsuits

Many perpetrators use their positions of power within well-known institutions to attract and abuse victims, including children, teens, and adults. Their institution often grants them some type of authority or position of respect, allowing them to convince their victims they mean well or can act in an inappropriate, abusive, and illegal manner. 

They may be youth leaders, clergy members, physicians, officials, or professors. On the other hand, their victims may be students, patients, nursing home residents, inmates, congregation members, mentees, or athletes on teams they coach. The acts of abuse can range from inappropriate comments and content sharing to indecent exposure, assault, and rape. 

Here are some examples of institutional sexual assault and abuse. 

Catholic Church sexual abuse lawsuit

The number of alleged abuse cases against clergy and other representatives of the Catholic Church runs in the thousands. According to Newsweek, the Church paid almost $4 billion in claims between the 1980s and 2018 from over 8,600 victims who came forward with their claims. There are likely many more victims who have not yet reported the abuse they endured. 

There is also shocking and convincing evidence in many of these cases that the Catholic Church went out of its way to cover up for many of the accused clergy members by relocating them or taking steps to eliminate evidence that could have supported a civil or criminal case. As a result, it is little surprise that some of these perpetrators likely abused again. 

Boy Scouts of America sex abuse cases

The Boy Scouts of America is a well-respected organization that has served millions of youths. However, according to PBS NewsHour, the institution also maintained a “blacklist” that included thousands of volunteers, staff, parents, and others accused of using their position within the organization to victimize children and teens. This confidential list, known as “the perversion files,” existed for about 90 years before it became known to the public. 

TIME magazine wrote about an expert the Boy Scouts of America hired to analyze the list and other related reports that identified more than 10,000 victims. She testified that boys between 1944 and 2016 filed 12,254 sexual abuse allegations. These incidents involved at least 7,800 different adults involved with the organization. 

The Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2020. As a part of this process, their insurer agreed in December 2021 to add $800 million to a fund for survivors, boosting its balance to over $2.6 billion. With more than 82,000 sexual abuse claimants, The Associated Press (AP) reported that this could be the largest sexual abuse settlement in history.

Military sex abuse lawsuit

Since 2013, federal laws and military directives have demanded thorough investigations into potential cases of military sexual assault and domestic violence and adequate care and support for survivors. However, a CBS News report from November 2021 found the military had failed on both counts.

In 2012, eight current and former service members sued the military, alleging they were raped, assaulted, and sexually harassed while in the service and faced retaliation because they reported the illegal acts. Their lawsuit led to changes in federal law and an increase in reports. 

Universities, colleges, and schools

Schools, colleges, and universities must provide a safe atmosphere staffed with trusted adults. They are liable for the injuries incurred when they fail to do so, usually through negligent hiring, supervision, or retention practices. Some even cover up accusations of sexual misconduct or fail to act upon credible allegations. 

Several universities have faced serious accusations, claims, and suits over the last decade for professors, doctors, and others’ alleged abuse:

  • University of Southern California (USC): The accusations against USC health center staff gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall began in the mid-1980s, yet he remained on staff and actively treated students for 20 years. In 2020, survivors reached a settlement with USC and the Board of Trustees, which had not only kept Tyndall on staff but may have covered up many reports of abuse and assault.
  • University of California, Los Angeles: According to a USA Today report, the school reached a $73 million settlement with seven women representing thousands of students who’d accused gynecologist Dr. James Heaps of sexual abuse, assault, and misconduct during exams and procedures. Heaps worked at the student health center on UCLA’s campus from 1983 to 2010 and had staff privileges at the medical center from 1988 until 2018. In May 2021, CBS Los Angeles reported on his indictment on 21 sexual abuse counts. 
  • University of Michigan: Dr. Robert Anderson, a late athletic trainer and doctor at the University of Michigan, may have sexually abused and assaulted several hundred students and athletes. At the same time, school administrators turned a blind eye. According to CNN, an investigation into the allegations began in 2020. These accusations resemble those against Michigan State University (Larry Nassar) and Ohio State University (Richard Strauss). 

Rideshare sex abuse lawsuit

Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare companies provide an easy and inexpensive way to get around, but many riders also feel it allows abusers to identify and exploit their victims. They claim these services need to do more thorough background checks and take quick action when there is an accusation against one of their drivers to get them off the app. 

Unfortunately, these assaults are not rare. According to Uber, there were almost 6,000 allegations of sexual assault—unwanted sexual touching, unwanted kissing, and rape—in the U.S. during 2017 and 2018. Lyft reported 1,096 sexual assault incidents in 2017, 1,255 in 2018, and 1,807 in 2019. This report included 156 allegations of rape in 2019 alone.

Both Uber and Lyft have faced lawsuits for their hiring practices by survivors of sexual assault in a rideshare. The claims in these lawsuits include assault, false imprisonment, and negligent infliction of emotional distress, with the survivors requesting compensation for: 

  • Medical care for physical and emotional injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress
  • Punitive damages

Summer camps sex abuse lawsuit

Sleepaway camps offer children and teenagers an opportunity to try new things, learn new skills, and gain independence while away from their parents and everyday worries. However, they also provide an opportunity for abusers to take advantage of vulnerable campers because they are away from their parents, often for the first time.

Over the last decade or so, reports of sexual abuse and assault from summer camps have become relatively commonplace. The allegations come from day camps, sleepaway camps, church camps, and those run by well-respected community organizations. The allegations include:

  • Rape
  • Forced penetration
  • Inappropriate sexual touching
  • Other types of sexual abuse

When a summer camp fails to protect campers, and they suffer abuse, victimization, or physical or emotional injuries, the administration may incur liability based on: 

  • Negligent hiring
  • Negligent retention
  • Deficient oversight
  • Other irresponsible and inappropriate actions

For example, an investigation by ABC13 Eyewitness News in Houston uncovered 12 cases of alleged abuse at nearby summer camps in one five-year period. This discovery came on the heels of a criminal and civil case against a counselor and the owner of Camp La Junta. At least one camper reported enduring “shower checks” and fondling from the counselor.

Daycare and aftercare sex abuse lawsuit

Parents trust their child’s daycare and aftercare providers to ensure their children’s safety while supervised by caring, trustworthy staff. However, these facilities often draw the attention of those hoping to groom a child for abuse or gain access to children. Unfortunately, many of these children are either too young to report the sex abuse, too naive to understand it is wrong, or too scared to report someone they trust and respect. 

Abuse in childcare facilities made the news frequently in the early 1980s. Today’s lack of high-profile cases does not mean abuse occurs any less often. Allegations still happen frequently, and many of these lead to arrests, criminal convictions, and civil settlements. They just do not make the national news. Some recent accusations and arrests include: 

  • A 62-year-old daycare worker was arrested on suspicion of multiple counts of sexual abuse, as reported by Fox 2 in San Jose, California
  • A preschool employee accused of sexual battery against at least two young children, according to WCJB in Gainesville, Florida
  • A daycare worker arrested for taking inappropriate photographs of children in her care faces multiple counts of possession of child pornography and sex abuse of a minor, according to WMDT in Salisbury, Maryland
  • A Berks County court found a former daycare worker guilty of sexually assaulting three young victims, according to reports in the Reading (Pa.) Eagle

Victims can hold a childcare facility’s owner, operator, or administrator liable when they fail to provide a safe environment that ensures the well-being of all children in their care due to:

  • Negligent hiring and retention practices
  • A failure to act when they first learned of the abuse
  • A failure to report the abuser to authorities

If you believe your child suffered sexual abuse or assault at a daycare, aftercare, or another childcare facility, contact law enforcement to report your concerns and consider taking civil action against the owners, as well. Taking these steps could potentially protect other children. 

Youth sports organization sex abuse lawsuit

Young athletes often develop strong bonds with their coaches. In addition, parents generally trust these coaches to provide guidance, oversight, and even childcare. Children may go to games, camps, or retreats with their coaches. In some sports, travel teams often stay in hotels or dorms with coaches and assistant coaches as the only adults around. The culture and structure of these sports organizations provide a perfect place for abusers. 

As children abused by these trusted coaches reach adulthood and feel they can speak about what occurred, more and more examples come to light. These cases have made very high-profile news, and it is not only the coaches who are being held responsible. It is also the sports organization that failed to protect young athletes. 

USA Gymnastics 

In 2018, Larry Nassar, a former doctor with the USA Gymnastics Team, was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to 40 to 175 years in federal prison. According to USA Today, 156 women and girls spoke out about his abuse against them in Ingham County (Mich.) Circuit Court. In a separate case, an Eaton County court sentenced him to 40 to 125 years in prison. 

USA Swimming

Numerous women have accused coaches of perpetrating underage sexual relationships with them, raping them, and committing other sexual assaults during the 1980s and 1990s. According to USA Today, six women filed lawsuits against the organization, claiming that this abuse was a well-known secret that USA Swimming did nothing to address. Instead, it ignored the behavior of these men, allowing the abuse to continue for decades. 

USA Taekwondo

In Brown v. USA Taekwondo, three women claimed that USA Taekwondo coach Marc Gitelman raped them on car trips and hotel stays during taekwondo competitions. They say the organization did nothing to protect them, despite having the opportunity to do so.

U.S. Youth Soccer

The San Jose Mercury News reported on a 2018 settlement made by the U.S. Youth Soccer Association and its Northern California affiliate with a former player who alleged they failed to screen her former coach, who was convicted of sexually abusing her.

Youth sports are a vital part of many people’s childhoods. Most participants build positive relationships and gain new skills. However, these organizations must be held accountable for protecting every child participating in their programs. They must properly screen, train, and supervise all staff and volunteers and put protections in place to prevent abuse. Their failure to do so is negligence, and victims should hold them responsible. 

Filing a civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse

It may be possible to develop a compelling civil case based on sexual abuse, whether it occurred several decades ago or much more recently. You could hold the abuser and the organization that protected them legally accountable for the abuse you endured and the damages you suffered. In addition, you could recover compensation, gain peace of mind, and help protect others from a similar experience.

Coming forward may seem like a scary step, and you may not feel confident. However, most institutional sex abuse attorneys provide free, confidential consultations to survivors of rape, assault, or abuse. They also manage these cases based on contingency, meaning you will not pay a retainer or other upfront fees.

If you decide to move forward with a case, your legal team will protect your rights and investigate the claims against the alleged abuser and organization. They will also seek to identify others who experienced the same abuse you did. If your child suffered sexual abuse and assault, it is possible to ensure confidentiality and keep their identity hidden throughout this process. 

Qualifications for a sexual abuse and assault lawsuit

If you or your child is a survivor of sexual abuse or assault, you may have a case against the individual and the organization that failed to prevent it from happening. However, there are time limits on these cases, so speaking with a lawyer who has handled institutional sex abuse cases could be the best way to learn if you qualify to take legal action. 

In many of the most prominent recent cases, the sexual abusers have faced criminal charges. At the same time, the survivors filed civil suits against the individual and their employer or another responsible organization. Even if time has run out to bring criminal charges in your case, you may still qualify to take civil action against the abuser or the institution that protected them.

Damages in sexual abuse lawsuits

Most sexual abuse survivors do not file lawsuits to recover compensation. Instead, they do it to get justice. However, the best way to hold the negligent organization accountable is by making them pay for failing to protect those who trusted them to do so.

It also makes sense to seek damages because you incurred expenses, financial losses, and noneconomic losses due to the abuse you survived. Your lawsuit attorney will help you identify the financial, physical, and emotional harm you suffered and seek a fair payout based on it. Your damages could include: 

  • The cost of medical care for physical injuries
  • Counseling and therapy expenses
  • Income lost because of missed work
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Mental anguish
  • Other psychological damages

The psychological damage from childhood sex abuse

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, victims of childhood sexual assault and abuse often experience long-term negative outcomes unless they receive support, care, and treatment for their resulting emotional struggles. They may experience:

  • Depression
  • Guilt and shame
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug and alcohol addiction
  • Sexual dysfunction

These are all intangible damages survivors may experience for which they could receive compensation.

Victims often require counseling, including play therapy for young children. In addition, talk therapy and trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy are typical in teens and adults. These costs can add up and should also be recoverable in a civil claim.

Verdicts and settlements

Civil claims against abusers and institutions recover compensatory damages for survivors, but victims could also receive punitive damages. These damages penalize the defendant for their negligent behavior, hopefully teaching other similar organizations a lesson about protecting abusers. 

The payouts in these cases can be significant. Some recent examples include:  

  • According to NBC News, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid $660 million to settle 508 claims of clergy abuse in 2007, paying each claimant around $1.3 million.
  • The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reported that the Church paid out over $281.6 million from July 2018 to June 2019 to settle with alleged victims of clergy sex abuse.
  • According to CNN, the Boy Scouts of America reached a settlement that would use a $2.7 billion trust to fund compensation to claimants.
  • Michigan State University settled out of court with those abused by Larry Nassar during his time as the head athletic doctor at the school. They agreed to a $500 million settlement, according to the Associated Press (AP).
  • Nassar also served as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics. A court recently approved a $380 million payout from this organization and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, according to CNN.

Resources for sexual abuse survivors

If you recently experienced sexual abuse or are helping your child recover, you might benefit from looking for local advocacy centers. Meeting with other survivors and finding local resources can help immensely. If you are in touch with local police, they might offer an advocate within their department or information on resources near you. 

Working with a therapist who understands trauma and has specialized knowledge or experience in this area may also help. You can search for the right match for you or your child using the American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator

Discussing your case with a sexual abuse lawsuit attorney may also help you take control of your future. You could build a claim against the individual who abused you and the institution that let it happen. For many, there is no greater impetus to healing than getting justice in court. 

Survivors of child sexual abuse

As a parent, after learning your child endured sexual abuse or assault, it can be challenging to know where to turn. In addition to your child’s doctor, mental health professionals, and local advocates, you could find resources and support online:

Adult survivors of sexual abuse

Whether you experienced sexual abuse as a young child, teen, or adult, you might find it challenging to locate a support network. It can also be uncomfortable to discuss what you endured, even years later. However, coming forward can play a vital role in healing. Some resources available for adults include: 

  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA) is an online community that includes confidential forums, eMeetings, and other opportunities to discuss almost any topic with other adult survivors privately
  • RAINN has a national hotline for survivors (1-800-656-HOPE) who need support, confidential online crisis counseling, and many other resources
  • is an organization that provides resources and support for men who endured sexual abuse or assault in childhood
  • Male Survivor is another advocacy organization just for men and boys who need support, counseling, and other resources

Contact a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Lawyer

If you or your child endured sexual abuse or assault, and an institution tasked with protecting you failed to do so, a compassionate and knowledgeable sexual abuse lawsuit attorney might be able to help. You can connect with a lawyer about your legal options for justice and compensation for free today. Consultations are always confidential. 

Fill out our contact form today for help with your case or to learn more about how you can bring the organization that harbored your abuser to account.