South Carolina Sex Abuse Attorneys Representing Children Assaulted in Youth Organizations
Protecting children when they suffer abuse from youth group leaders or members
Generations of children have enjoyed involvement in youth organizations. From Little League to Boy Scouts, youth groups are a great way to keep your kids involved with the community, learn skills for the future, and make like-minded friends to last a lifetime.
However, these types of organizations can also attract sexual predators. The sexual abuse attorneys at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC fight for justice for South Carolina victims. We hold youth organizations and perpetrators of abuse accountable for their actions. Call today to learn more about how we can help.
Youth organizations must be held responsible
Youth groups and organizations are meant to help mentor and motivate children, and as a parent or guardian, you trust they are safe. Group leaders, volunteers, and other members of the organization should be held accountable when they engage in abhorrent actions which harm your children. If you or your child has been abused at some time, or a family member has been abused, there may be legal remedies available to you to hold your abuser, and your abuser’s organization, liable for trauma and injury.
At McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC, we fight for justice for our clients. We have the experience and resources to represent survivors in claims against:
- Sports clubs and organizations involving youth activities like baseball, basketball, cheerleading football, and hockey
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
- Boy Scouts
- Girl Scouts
- Music programs
- Religious youth groups
- Summer camps
The Boy Scouts and sexual abuse
One of the most striking and tragic examples of sexual assault in youth organizations is the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Founded in 1910 to instill the values of patriotism and civics in young boys, the BSA is currently facing an avalanche of sex abuse allegations that rivals those against the Catholic Church.
The NY Times reports that as of November 2020, over 82,000 individuals have come forward with sex abuse allegations against the Boy Scouts, with victims ranging in age from eight to 93 years old. The BSA is currently filing for bankruptcy with the goal of setting up a victims’ compensation fund. For this reason, it is imperative that you contact one of our sexual abuse attorneys in South Carolina as soon as possible, if you wish to file a claim against the BSA.
Why does sexual abuse in youth groups happen?
Sexual predators should not be working in or volunteering with youth organizations of any kind. One of the problems is that these predators hide themselves in plain sight. Youth organizations are aware that they have attracted this type of person as a volunteer in the past. It requires vigilance in the hiring of employees or investigation of volunteers. These employees or volunteers will be interacting with a vulnerable population (children). Thus, if there are signs of potential abuse or failure to act on suspicions, organizations can be held liable for negligence. That negligence can take many forms:
- Inadequate background checks. Anyone who wishes to work with children should be forced to undergo a criminal background check. Special attention should be paid to those volunteers or potential workers who have a history of violent or inappropriate acts, including, but not limited to, harassment, assault, child abuse, criminal sexual conduct, or other similar crimes.
- Failure to supervise. All volunteers and staffers should be supervised, either in-person or through regular accounts of activities. A single adult should not be left alone with one child, nor should he or she engage in one-on-one activities that have not been approved by the organization and the child’s parents.
- Failure to report. Certain youth organization volunteers and employees are mandated reporters. As such, if they have a reasonable suspicion of abuse – or have been told, either by the victim or someone else that abuse has occurred – they must report that abuse to the Department of Social Services or county law enforcement. Understand that this mandate holds even if the abuse occurs outside of a mandated reporter’s profession. For example, if a Girl Scout troop leader is a teacher by profession, that troop leader must report what she knows, even though leading her troop is not part of her job duties.
When you place your child in the care of other adults, you rightfully expect that these adults are trustworthy and will treat your child with care, healthy boundaries, and respect. When they do not, McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC is here to fight for your family.
How do I know if my child is being sexually abused?
It is important to recognize and understand the signs of sexual abuse. Children may exhibit a wide range of both behavioral and emotional responses to sexual trauma, including:
- Age-inappropriate knowledge or behavior regarding sexual activity and language
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Avoiding certain individuals
- Difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares
- Unexpected outbursts of anger or sadness
- Changes in behavior, including withdrawal
- Changes in hygiene
- Suicidal acts
Not every child who has been sexually abused will exhibit the same behavioral or emotional changes. Some may not exhibit any at all. Parents and guardians should always discuss the importance of healthy body boundaries and safety around others.
Why your children may not tell you they are being sexually abused
Child victims of sexual abuse often keep that abuse a secret. Some of the more common reasons include:
- Fear that nobody will believe them
- Fear the authorities will take them away from their family
- Feelings of shame about the sexual abuse
- Feelings of guilt, as though their actions were responsible for their abuse
- Fear of retaliation, especially if the perpetrator threatened harm to the victim or the family
- Feelings of anxiety if they agreed to keep the abuse a “secret” between them and the abuser
Sexual predators use this fear or guilt as power over the children they abuse, hoping their victims will never reveal their secret. The sad truth is that it often works, and many parents have no idea that their child is being abused, assaulted, or molested by an adult.
What do I do if my child tells me he or she is being sexually abused?
As parents, your first reactions will likely be anger, shame, grief, and fear. Your first thoughts may turn to retaliation or violence. These are natural reactions.
However, if your child reveals that he or she has been sexually assaulted, it is crucial to your child’s health – and yours – that you remain calm and listen carefully to every word. The best thing you can do for your child is to believe him or her and avoid assigning blame. The single most important thing you can do for your children at the time is to support them.
Once your child feels secure, there are a series of steps you should quickly follow:
- Contact local law enforcement and report the abuse.
- Contact your child’s pediatrician and schedule an exam and blood work.
- Contact a local counselor or therapist who can work with your child and with the family, either separately or together.
- Contact us and schedule a consultation with an attorney.
If you are not the child’s parent or guardian, you should still report the abuse to local law enforcement. You can also contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 422-4453, for help about your next steps.
Why contacting the organization is not the right move
Your first instinct may be to contact the abuser directly, or the youth organization to which the abuser belongs. Don’t do it. Call the police and let them do their jobs. Let them open an investigation. Let them question the accused and the applicable members of the organization. This is what police do every day; they are trained in proper protocols.
The first few days of a police investigation are critical. Not only is it important for police to collect evidence, but that evidence can help bolster your civil lawsuit against the abuser and organization. It is imperative that you allow them to collect it.
That said, you can help this effort by writing down everything your child told you, and anything you may have heard from other members, other parents, or other employees and volunteers. Make sure to share this information with your attorney. We can help you with the next steps.
Legal options if your child is sexually abused in a youth organization
There are two justice systems in South Carolina: the criminal justice system, and the civil justice system. The criminal justice system is the one that tries the predator for his or her crimes. A conviction can lead to jail time and restitution.
The civil justice system, however, allows victims to seek damages for their injuries. While a criminal conviction may help your civil claim, it is not necessary. The attorneys at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC can help pursue a civil suit against the abuser for compensatory damages, including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages (for parents who stayed home to care for their children)
- Pain and suffering
Who is liable if my child is sexually abused?
Youth organizations have a responsibility and legal duty of care to the members of their groups, and they may be held accountable if they fail in this duty and a child/teen suffers harm. A youth organization or its leadership could be found negligent if that negligence were a factor in the sexual abuse of a child. Other types of negligence could include:
- Attempts to cover up or failure to report abuse (actual or suspected)
- Failure to conduct adequate background check
- Failure to implement policies creating a safe atmosphere for children and minors
- Failure to investigate or respond to complaints of abuse (actual or suspected)
- Improper employee training on abuse recognition and prevention
- Inadequate supervision of employees and/or volunteers
The sexual assault lawyers at McGowan, Hood and Felder, LLC can sit down and talk to you about what happened – whether it was 10 years ago or three weeks ago. We understand the legal process in South Carolina, and we want to help secure justice on behalf of you or your child.
We help you fight for the rights of your child
Youth organizations are supposed to be a place for kids to socialize, learn, and thrive. When these groups allow sexual predators to take advantage of children, they must be held accountable. Our South Carolina lawyers can help – call us for a consultation today. We provide a safe and secure environment for you to discuss your needs with an attorney. If you prefer speaking with a female attorney, just let us know and we’ll arrange it for you. To review your case, please call McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC at 803-327-7800 or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Handling a variety of Sexual Abuse and Assault cases
There are many different types of assault cases. No matter the specifics, our attorneys are prepared to help you. We handle cases involving: