What happens after sexual abuse at school is reported?
After abuse is reported, there will be an investigation by the police or social services. If abuse is found, criminal charges will be filed. This will trigger an arrest, bail proceedings, pleas, and eventually a trial if the abuser does not plead guilty. If found guilty by jury, the abuser will be sentenced, which can include any or all of the following: sex offender registration, jail time, fines, restitution, community service.
The abuser, and any liable parties, may also be sued in civil court. Civil court is where you may recover a settlement or award for any damages, including mental suffering, physical impairment, humiliation or emotional distress. The financial costs of these cases to school districts are staggering. LAUSD has paid more than $300 million to victims since 2012.
If your child is abused at school, they have a legal right to continue to attend school, be protected from the abuser, and from any repercussions or harassment by teachers or fellow students. This law is part of Title IX, and applies to every student attending a school that receives public funding.
Title IX even applies to non-sexual contact by a teacher that makes a student uncomfortable, such as frequent touching or hugging because this could create a hostile environment where the student finds it difficult to learn. The burden of fulfilling this duty is on the school, not the victim. They are responsible for reporting the abuse and protecting the student.
Many abuse victims can suffer PTSD, substance abuse, anxiety, and other mental health issue after abuse. It’s imperative that they receive treatment and counseling to help deal with any issues that arise from the abuse. Some of these issues may not occur until many years after the abuse. For more about recovering from abuse, please see our series: Healing from Abuse.
Further Reading: Why Should I Sue My Abuser?