In the fall of 2013, students from the University of Connecticut filed a Title IX complaint alleging that the University had not properly handled reports of sexual assaults on the campus, part of a growing national trend of current and former students at the university level bringing awareness to the problem of sexual assault in college.
Though there is a national campaign to take the steps necessary to ensure that college sexual assault victims get the help and support they need, Connecticut is moving on its own to help fight this problem. Governor Dannel P. Malloy recently signed into law legislation that would require colleges to provide assault victims with free counseling services and written explanations of the school’s policies regarding sexual assault, and creates a resource team to review these policies at Connecticut colleges and make suggestions for improvements. Hopefully, this measure will force schools to start taking the problem of sexual assault more seriously and develop improved institutional responses.
Sexual assault and abuse is an extremely serious problem that cannot and should not be taken lightly, and at the Law Offices of Paul Levin, we work to help assault victims fight for justice. Contact us at (860) 322-5302 to learn more about what we can do to help if you have been the victim of sexual assault.
A group of five women who were inmates in a county jail in Suffolk County, New York have filed a putative federal class action lawsuit over alleged sexual abuse by a correctional officer. Watts, et al v. County of Suffolk, et al, No. 2:13-cv-01691, complaint (E.D.N.Y., Mar. 28, 2013). They allege that one correctional officer committed multiple acts of sexual harassment and assault against them and other female inmates, and that supervisors either ignored their complaints or threatened retaliation. The lawsuit seeks certification as a class action, compensatory and punitive damages, and other relief.
The plaintiffs were pre-trial detainees at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility, located in Riverhead, New York, during periods of time ranging from April 2009 until April 2011. Two of the five named plaintiffs are still in state custody, and the other three all live on Long Island. According to the complaint, the county assigned male correctional officers, including defendant Sergeant Joseph Foti, to the women’s correctional facility. The plaintiffs allege that Sergeant Foti routinely subjected them, as well as other female inmates, to harassment and abuse, including “offensive sex-based language,…offensive touching and requests for sexual acts.” Complaint at 4. They further claim that supervisors at the facility knew about these incidents from multiple reports by inmates, but failed to investigate the complaints or discipline Foti in any way. The complaint lists individual allegations of harassment or assault by Foti from each of the five plaintiffs, including coerced sexual contact, repeated sexual comments and solicitations, and retaliation in the form of lockdowns and other punishments.
In the wake of former football coach Jerry Sandusky’s conviction on forty-five counts of sexual abuse, Pennsylvania State University, Sandusky’s former employer, issued an invitation to Sandusky’s victims to discuss settling their civil lawsuits against the school. Observers have suggested that the school wants to resolve any and all civil claims arising from the Sandusky case as quickly as possible. Several victims have already filed lawsuits against the university, alleging negligence for failing to follow up on reports and allegations of abuse years ago, and for allegedly covering up the abuse.
The Sandusky case exploded on the national stage in November 2011, when an investigation of Sandusky and other Penn State officials went public. Prosecutors accused Sandusky of sexually abusing eight boys beginning in 1994 and continuing until at least 2009. Several administrators resigned, and the university fired several officials, including its head football coach, Joe Paterno, over the allegations. The accusations centered around a charity, The Second Mile, that Sandusky started to help troubled youth, but that prosecutors said he used it to find victims. All of the alleged victims said that they met Sandusky through the charity.
Sandusky’s trial on forty-nine counts of sexual abuse began on June 11, 2012. The prosecution called a number of the alleged victims as witnesses. The defense convinced the court to drop one of the counts of sexual abuse, but the jury convicted Sandusky of forty-five of the remaining charges on June 22.
A tragic saga involving sexual abuse of poor children at a school in Haiti began a new chapter earlier this month, when seventeen Haitian men filed a lawsuit against Fairfield University, a Jesuit college in Connecticut, and others for damages arising from sexual abuse by Douglas Perlitz. Perlitz is a Fairfield graduate who founded Project Pierre Toussant (PPT) in 1997 to provide education and other care to impoverished youth in Haiti’s second-largest city. The program took children in from the streets and offered educational services, sports, meals, and other amenities. Supporters at Fairfield University and in the surrounding community formed a nonprofit organization, The Haiti Fund, to assist in fundraising in 1999.
Perlitz ran PPT from its founding until sometime in 2008, when allegations of sexual abuse appeared and the Haiti Fund’s board of directors removed him. Allegations detailed multiple incidents of sexual abuse of children in PPT’s care by Perlitz. He allegedly threatened to kick children out of PPT if they did not cooperate with him. Perlitz was arrested in 2009,
Federal prosecutors charged him with “traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.” This is a federal crime intended to prevent trafficking of minors across state or national boundaries for the purpose of committing “illegal sex acts.” The PROTECT Act, passed by Congress in 2003, made it a crime, punishable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to engage in “illicit sexual contact with a minor” while abroad, even if the person did not intend to do so at the time they left the U.S. This law was intended to combat “sex tourism.” Perlitz pleaded guilty to one count of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual contact in August 2010. A judge sentenced him to nineteen years and seven months in federal prison that December.
Seventeen Haitian men, ranging in age from 18 to 29 and alleging that they were victims of Perlitz, filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Connecticut on January 5. Each plaintiff claims $20 million in damages. A total of twenty-one victims have filed lawsuits related to abuse allegedly brought on by Perlitz. The latest lawsuit names Perlitz, Fairfield University, The Haiti Fund, The Society of Jesus of New England, and certain current and former Fairfield officials as defendants. It alleges that the school and the other defendants both “aided and abetted” and helped conceal Perlitz’s abuse. In one instance, a Fairfield official allegedly removed Perlitz’s computer from Haiti and then returned it to Perlitz in the United States in order to prevent law enforcement from discovering sexually explicit material stored on the hard drive.
St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford is nearing a settlement of seventeen pending lawsuits relating to horrific accounts of sexual abuse of children by a doctor there between 1963 and 1993. The hospital’s insurance company is attempting to limit liability by characterizing the claim as one of medical malpractice, rather than general liability. The hospital has already settled several dozen claims related to the doctor’s conduct, and it still faces at least forty-eight more lawsuits after these seventeen settle.
Dr. George Reardon began working at St. Francis in 1963, and became the chief of endocrinology in 1978. He had previously worked at a hospital in Albany beginning in 1956. A lawsuit filed in 1987 accused him of abusing a brother and sister, aged 5 and 7, for a period of at least five years at the Albany hospital.
Another lawsuit accused Reardon of abusing a boy at St. Francis while he was a patient between 1964 and 1965. The boy filed a lawsuit years later that settled for a “modest” amount. A suit filed in 1989 accused Reardon of abusing a 10 year-old girl in the mid-1970’s, and a complaint brought by the Hartford County Medical Association alleged abuse of a 14 year-old girl. The state medical board suspended his license in July 1993, but they reinstated it that November on the condition that he not treat patients under the age of eighteen without supervision by another doctor or nurse. Reardon retired one month later.
Most of the alleged abuse occurred with children participating in a thirty-year growth study run by Dr. Reardon. An FBI investigation in 1994 concluded that any alleged sexual abuse occurred outside of the criminal statute of limitations. St. Francis officials defended Reardon and maintained that the complaints lacked merit. Reardon died of a heart attack in 1998.
On May 20, 2007, the new owner of Reardon’s former residence, while performing renovations in the basement, found a collection of over 60,000 sexually explicit photographs of children. West Hartford police announced the find that November, stating that they would attempt to identify the victims. Former patients, mostly now middle-aged, almost immediately began to come forward with accounts of abuse while under Dr. Reardon’s care. The hospital and 135 former patients agreed to mediation in March 2008. After mediation failed, the lawsuits began. They now total more than ninety. Police would eventually identify more than 250 children in the photographs.
While showering with her two young female children on July 23, 2011, in a bathroom facility at Hammonassett State Park, a Young Woman noticed that they were being watched from behind the shower through holes. Subsequently, two men, state workers, were arrested and admitted their conduct. This conduct was invasive and insulting to my Client and also outraged her husband who witnessed the impact that this had upon his wife. The conduct appears legally actionable as it did subject the victims who were enjoying their family vacation time to extreme emotional and mental distress stemming from this invasion of their privacy.