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School Settles Sexual Abuse Lawsuit of Autistic Girls

Seagull Industries has agreed to pay a $300,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of two autistic sisters that claim that they were sexually abused repeatedly by their fellow students at the agency’s charter school for the disabled in Riviera Beach. The settlement was approved at the end of January by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Ryskamp.

Court records show that Seagull Industries agreed to settle the claims made by the sisters, identified only as A.A. and B.B. The attorney who filed the lawsuit in 2013 said that both girls, ages thirteen and fourteen at the time, were “repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped” by at least three men while attending Seagull Academy for Independent Living during the 2011 and 2012 school years. The attorney for the girls said that the men ranged in age from nineteen to 23 years old.

Seagull Industries denied all allegations of the incidents, and a representative for the company could not be reached for comment after the settlement was arranged.

Sexual Abuse of the Disabled

According to a report released by the Vera Institute of Justice, children with disabilities are three times more likely to be sexually abused than children without them. The likelihood of abuse is even higher for children with certain types of disabilities, such as intellectual or mental health disabilities, at 4.6 times the risk. A report published in 2010 by the Administration on Children Youth and Families (ACYF) showed that more than three million reports of child maltreatment were made in 2009. Over ten percent of cases involved sexual abuse, and of those, eleven percent of victims reported having a disability.

Problems Reporting Abuse

Another major issue with sexual abuse of disabled children is that they are often denied basic knowledge about sexual health and relationships. This means that no one has ever taught them the difference between a good touch and a bad touch, or about their bodies, and they are never given a framework for knowing what a healthy relationship is. Without this fundamental knowledge or lessons, disabled children are often unable to describe what has happened to them or report the abuse.

While many child victims of sexual abuse know their abuser, most abusers of children with disabilities are connected to them through their disability. Children with disabilities rely more on others for their personal care and have a greater dependence on others. As a result, “children with disabilities may be in isolated settings with adults providing transportation, intimate personal care, occupational therapy, special education, and a host of other services. Perpetrators within these professions have learned that they can target children with disabilities with relative impunity because their crimes are rarely made known to authorities—and when they are, they are handled as administrative matters.

Call a Florida Sexual Abuse Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered sexual abuse at the hands of another, there are criminal and civil remedies available to get compensation for the harm that has been suffered. Let the experienced attorneys at Gary Roberts & Associates handle your civil lawsuit against the abuser. Call or contact the office today for a free and private review of your claims.

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