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Nine out of ten. Of the 1,390 victims of juvenile detention sex abuse, nine out of ten of them were males abused by female guards, according to a 2013 report by the Department of Justice.
Some of this gender discrepancy is due to the overwhelmingly large proportion of male inmates in the American juvenile detention system. Nevertheless, the report highlights a troubling trend in our justice system: the systematic and repeated sexual abuse of minors by juvenile detention center staff. In mid-2015, five juvie hall inmates sued the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. One of the detention center’s nurses had given a 16-year-old inmate drugs, and then taken him to her home and had sex with him. An adult female student intern at the same detention center abused multiple boys, telling them that she had a “personal sex addiction.” More than one of the abused teenage boys wrote letters to the juvenile detention center’s director asking for help, but the director did nothing. She told one of the boys that he would need to go through the “proper channels” to lodge a complaint against a staff member.
In a juvenile detention center, as elsewhere, sexual predators’ modus operandi are the same. According to the DOJ report, juvie hall staff will often groom victims before molesting them. Two out of three juvenile detention sex abuse victims reported receiving preferential treatment or material gifts from their abusers. Almost one out of four claimed that they had been given alcohol or drugs to loosen their inhibitions and make them more pliable.
If you have a child or know of a child in a juvenile correction facility, it’s important for you to be watchful for the telltale signs of sex abuse. If you suspect that a child in the juvenile detention system is being sexually abused, he or she might:
- Suffer from nightmares or sleeping problems
- Be emotionally cold or distant
- Gain or lose weight suddenly
- Refuse to eat or have difficulty swallowing
- Undergo abrupt mood swings (fear, anger, anxiety)
- Draw or writes sexually suggestive or abhorrent things
- Become irrationally afraid of particular places or individuals
- Possess money or gifts or toys without adequate explanation or cause
- Speak frequently about an “older” or “new” friend
- Consider themselves or their bodies disgusting
- Regress to more juvenile behaviors like bedwetting or thumb-sucking
- Display uncommonly good knowledge of sex and body parts
- Act in a seductive or inappropriate manner
If a child comes to you and confesses that he or she has been sexually molested by a corrections officer or juvie hall staff member, there are some things which you should do:
- It is more than likely that the child isn’t lying. Don’t let yourself doubt the story—there’s a reason the child has come to you and told you about this. Reassure the kid that you believe him or her and will get help. Let them know that you’ll tell someone trustworthy about their abuse and they will be protected from any reprisals by their abuser.
- Get the facts. You needn’t interrogate the child—law enforcement officials will do that during the investigation. Recounting incidents of sexual abuse is a traumatic experience for a child, and you may be unintentionally adding to the child’s psychological burdens if you insist on getting the whole story and all the details. Just get enough information to make an informed report to the authorities.
- Obtain further help. If you’re not sure where to make your report, or what the next step in the process should be, get in touch with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Call toll-free at 1.800.843.5678. You may also visit Estey Bomberger’s child molestation victims’ resources page.
Estey Bomberger, in 2010, obtained one of the largest child molestation verdicts in the history of California: $30 million. Our team represented a young man who was sexually abused by his foster father for years, starting when the plaintiff was just 11 years old.
When an individual in a position of authority—like a staff member at a juvenile detention center—takes advantage of their position to sexually molest children, they have broken a sacred, ethical trust between themselves and their charges. This violation of a child’s innocence and rights is a despicable act, one that permanently traumatizes children for years to come. We fight for fair compensation for sexually abused children. Monetary settlements won’t make their psychological anguish go away, but it can pay for mental healthcare and psychiatric counseling victims will require in the future.
If you know a child who has been sexually molested at a juvenile detention center, get in touch with the juvenile detention sex abuse attorneys at Estey Bomberger. We can work towards securing the victim the financial compensation which they deserve. Go to childmolestationvictims.com or call 1.800.925.0723 toll-free to learn more or get a free, confidential consultation.