Articles Posted in Sexual Assault

David Sweatt, a top neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University, has been accused of drugging and raping a student last year. Despite the allegations against him, Sweatt remained in his position at the university until recently, 11 months after his accuser reported the abuse to school officials.

Sweatt was officially placed on leave in August, shortly after a tweet by another scientist. Following a blog post in which Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, praised the neuroscientist, a University of Washington climate scientist by the name of Sara Myhre tweeted something notably less endearing about Sweatt.

“Hello NIH Director,” she wrote. “Do you know that Dr. David Sweatt, the ‘gifted painter’ you are lauding here, has been accused of drugging and raping a student?”

The next day, Myhre tweeted that “Sweatt is a serial rapist. There are multiple women victims.”

Incident Reported to Vanderbilt in 2017

In 2017, an anonymous Oregon Health & Scent University (OHSU) student alleged that she was assaulted by Sweatt at a 2015 scientific conference. Although Vanderbilt was alerted to the incident, the school’s Title IX office says the anonymous student “did not wish to be identified to Vanderbilt’s Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action and Disability Services (EAD) office or to make a report.” Further, the office claims that after exhausting all options, Vanderbilt simply “did not have sufficient basis for conducting an investigation.”

But Myhre’s tweet changed everything.

In addition to her public comments on twitter, Myhre reported having been contacted by two other women who were both able to confirm, separately, the “extent and nature of the allegations” against Sweatt. Shortly after Myhre’s tweets, an official investigation was launched by the university’s EAD.

“Vanderbilt takes reports of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, very seriously,” wrote the university in a recent statement. “We have a robust process for investigating sexual misconduct reports and do not tolerate any sexual misconduct on our campus. Our process protects the well-being and safety of our community members and respects the rights of everyone involved.”

“Potential Safety Threat”

When Sweatt’s alleged victim alerted officials at her school last year, OHSU warned Vanderbilt of the “potential safety threat” posed by Sweatt. Yet the chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Pharmacology remained on campus for another 11 months.A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.

When Sweatt was finally placed on leave in early August, Larry Marnett, Vanderbilt’s medical school dean of basic sciences, released an email to inform colleagues.

“I want to make you aware that as of today David Sweatt, Chair of Pharmacology, is on leave,” Marnett wrote,

“Providing a safe and welcoming environment is a priority, and we take seriously any complaints of misconduct,” wrote another Vanderbilt spokesperson. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.

Sweatt’s bio was removed from the school’s website last week.

Sweatt has denied any wrongdoing.

“Beginning in August, and set in motion by people with a destructive, political agenda that is not tethered to reality, Dr. Sweatt has been targeted by anonymous, irresponsible and unfounded allegations,” wrote the neuroscientist’s attorney, Andrew Miltenberg. “He has always conducted himself, both professionally and in his private life, in a respectful, thoughtful and consensual manner.” Continue reading

Last week, the University of Southern California (USC) said it would agree to a $215 million settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit brought by current and former students. The large payout is expected to be the first of many stemming from the sexual misconduct of campus gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall.

It is unknown how many students were abused by Tyndall, who practiced at the school for 27 years, but as many as 17,000 students may be eligible as members of the class-action lawsuit. According to a university lawyer, the settlement will provide $2,500 to students who were treated by Tyndall and up to $250,000 to students he abused. USC’s interim president Wanda Austin reported that, “Patients who are willing to provide further details about their experience could be eligible for additional compensation up to $250,000.”

In a letter addressed to the campus community, Austin wrote “we hope that we can help our community move collectively toward reconciliation,” through the settlement.

To date, there are more than 400 lawsuits filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The $215 million settlement is likely just scratching the surface. In addition to the civil suits, Tyndall is also under criminal investigation. A Boston sexual abuse attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.

Plaintiffs Not Satisfied

As substantial as the settlement may seem, many plaintiffs are unsatisfied. Some allege that USC allowed Tyndall to continue working at the school’s clinic after multiple reports of sexual misconduct, dating back to the early 1990s. Others are critical about how the class-action was handled, claiming it was used to block discovery, delaying sworn testimonies that may have uncovered even more pertinent—and disturbing—evidence. Still others are frustrated, and insulted, by the $250,000 cap. Consider the recent Michigan State settlement of $500 million in a similar case involving the school’s athletic trainer, Larry Nassar. That settlement, which was twice the USC settlement, was divided among only 332 women. As a result, it is likely that many plaintiffs in the USC class-action suit will pursue their own case, choosing to opt out of this recent settlement.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

These days, it seems there’s a new sex abuse scandal in the headlines every week. Fortunately, this onslaught of scandals isn’t because of an increase in sexual abuse, but a shift in how our society reacts to victims, and those who commit the abuse. Victim shaming and blaming, which used to prevent women (and men) from coming forward about sexual abuse, is going the way of the dinosaur. And the collective strength of victims to come forward en masse has helped many others come out of the shadows. All across the nation, people are saying, we will no longer stand for the sexual abuse and harassment of anyonewhether female or male, straight or gay, black or white, prominent figure or low-income worker. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of any type of abuse or harassment. Continue reading

Across the country, attorneys general are opening investigations into misconduct (and worse) at the hands of the Roman Catholic clergy. In fact, last week the attorney general for the state of New York issued subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state, eight in total. Such sweeping investigations into sexual abuse of children and allegations of church cover ups come in the wake of a shocking grand jury report out of Pennsylvania. The report announced the discovery of the abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of Pennsylvania priests, and the steps the Church took to hide it.

Since the release of the explosive Pennsylvania report, attorneys general in New York, Nebraska, New Mexico, Missouri, and Illinois have announced they will open their own investigations. New Jersey has announced a criminal investigation. And abuse at the hand of Catholic clergy isn’t unique to the U.S. Allegations of clergy sexual abuse have reached global proportions—from Honduras and Chile to Ireland and Australia.

“The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover-ups in the dioceses,” said New York’s attorney general, Barbara Underwood. “Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well — and we are going to do everything in our power to bring them the justice they deserve.”

Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey’s attorney general, has created a test force to investigate abuse and cover ups.

“I was deeply troubled to read the allegations contained in last month’s Pennsylvania grand jury report,” said Grewal. “We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here. If it did, we will take action against those responsible.” A Boston clergy sexual abuse attorney can help you determine how to proceed.

Will they Cooperate?

Thus far, church officials have been relatively compliant with subpoenas and requests to provide documentation. In fact, Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for New York’s Archdiocese, said that every NY diocese will cooperate.

“It is not a surprise to us that the attorney general would look to begin a civil investigation, and she will find the Archdiocese of New York, and the other seven dioceses in the state, ready and eager to work together with her in the investigation,” said Zwilling. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of clergy sexual abuse.

Statute of Limitations

In New York, victims of most forms of child sexual abuse only have until the age of 23 to file charges. When the case involves rape, there is no time limit, as long as the conduct didn’t occur prior to 2001. In MA, the statute of limitations is slightly more in favor of the victim—28 years after the incident occurred, or 28 years after age 16. A bill to change New York’s restrictive timeline—known as the Child Victims Act—has failed to pass for years. Last week, the bill was again presented. If passed, it would allow victims to file criminal charges until age 28 and to file civil suits until age 50.

“Little is known about clergy abuse of children in New York, because of the state’s antiquated and predator-friendly statute of limitations, and because the church has kept the evidence secret all these years,” said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org.

“Finally we will learn the truth in New York.” Continue reading

A grand jury issued a report last week revealing that more than 300 priests sexually abused at least 1,000 children over a 70-year period, in Pennsylvania alone. Nearly as disturbing is the discovery that the abuse was covered up by bishops and many others in Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic Church, and that victims and law enforcement were “persuaded” to remain mum. According to the report, there are likely thousands of additional victims who are reticent to come forward, or who have died leaving no record of abuse.

The report includes detailed descriptions of abuse, including the rape of a young girl by a hospital chaplain after a tonsillectomy, a priest who impregnated a young girl and arranged for her abortion, a priest who tied up and whipped his victim with leather straps, and five sisters who were all abused, including the youngest who was 18 months old.

Pennsylvania Isn’t Alone

Boston is no stranger to sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. In 2002, decades of sexual abuse and cover ups were brought to light, resulting in the resignation of Boston’s Archbishop, settlements in the billions of dollars, and the addition of multiple prevention programs. But Boston and PA are far from the only places to be rocked by scandal in recent years; the former archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, recently resigned after being accused of sexual abuse against minors, and some of these cover-ups have gone as far as the Vatican. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse.

According to the report, some of the church officials who protected abusive priests were not only allowed to remain in office, they got promotions.

“Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” wrote the grand jury in the report. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.” A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of clergy sexual abuse.

Several bishops are rejecting accusations that the church has been covering up sexual abuse.

“There was no cover-up going on,” said Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh. “I think that it’s important to be able to state that. We have over the course of the last 30 years, for sure, been transparent about everything that has in fact been transpiring.”

They Put the Church First

But the grand jury doesn’t see it that way, saying that the Catholic Church knew what it was doing by following the “playbook for concealing the truth.” For example, any documentation about incidents used language such as “inappropriate contact” for actions that more accurately described rape. And when priests were removed for misconduct, church officials were advised to say the priest was on “sick leave” or “suffering from exhaustion.” According to Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the church put itself first. “They protected their institution at all costs. As the grand jury found, the church showed a complete disdain for victims.” Continue reading

Most women would prefer to do a multitude of things rather than go to the gynecologist, but periodic check-ups are necessary to ensure good health. Finding a gynecologist with whom you are comfortable is the best way to make these visits at least slightly more tolerable. Fortunately, the majority of gynecologists in the United States have the best interests of their patients in mind at all times. But there are exceptions. Case in point—52 women have come forward alleging sexual abuse at the hands of former University of Southern California (USC) staff gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall.

According to LAPD reports, Tyndall, now 72, abused patients—most of them USC students—for a 26-year period…basically his entire career. Despite numerous complaints and accusations during that time, Tyndall remained employed at USC until a 2016 incident, after which he was asked to resign, and given a severance package.

According to the abuse allegations, Tyndall groped women’s breasts, and penetrated their vaginas and anuses for “no legitimate medical purpose,” other than “to satisfy his own prurient sexual desires.” He also made lewd remarks about his patients’ sex lives and bodies. A MA sexual abuse victims attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been sexually harassed, raped, or assaulted.

Position of Power

One of those patients, now a nurse practitioner, said that Tyndall used his position of power to take advantage of his patients. He knew that certain actions could be perceived as medically necessary, and he used that knowledge to exploit women.

At a recent press conference, LAPD officials encouraged Tyndall’s victims to come forward to the authorities. “We are empathetic and ready to listen,” said Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala.

“In mid-May, news broke of allegations brought forth by faculty and students within the University of Southern California against Dr. George Tyndall — a gynecologist there at USC whose behaviors and practices appear to go beyond the norms of the medical profession and gynecological examinations,” said Girmala. “As the LAPD works with the University of Southern California, its board, staff, faculty, and very importantly, student community — both past and present — we wanted to personally outreach to those who may have been impacted and believe they may have been the victim of criminal conduct by Dr. Tyndall.”

Was USC Negligent?

In addition to the criminal investigation into Tyndall’s actions, numerous lawsuits have been filed against USC claiming that the university failed to respond to dozens of complaints made over a period of more than two decades. The lawsuits allege that USC allowed Tyndall to have “unfettered sexual access to the young female USC students in his care.” His abuse was overlooked by USC staff until 2016, when a nurse reported Tyndall to the school’s rape crisis center. Continue reading

The woman, a student at MSU, was 18 at the time of the alleged rape. She filed a lawsuit, claiming  that the men gang-raped her, and that the university’s counseling center discouraged her from coming forward with the allegations.

According to the lawsuit, the rape occurred a week after Michigan State lost to Duke in the 2015 Final Four. The woman, who is currently a student at MSU, says she was at an East Lansing bar when one of the three men bought her a drink. Shortly thereafter, she was invited to a party by one of the basketball players, who also claimed that her roommate would be there.

As soon as she arrived at the “party”, in an off-campus apartment, the woman realized her roommate wasn’t there and began “feeling discombobulated” and “thought she might have been drugged.” According to the lawsuit, one of the players threw her down on a bed and raped her, and the other two men soon began taking turns. A few hours later, she woke up and called a taxi. A Boston sexual assault attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of rape or any other type of sexual assault.

School Counselors Discouraged Victim From Reporting the Rape

The woman says she immediately reported the rape to MSU’s Counseling Center. Although the counseling staffer was initially supportive, “the counselor’s demeanor completely changed,” once the victim revealed that the three men involved were basketball players. Another staffer entered the conversation, informing the woman that reporting the rape may not be in her interest.

In response to the allegations about discouraging the plaintiff to come forward, staff at MSU’s counseling center said that “we have had many other students in the same situation who have reported, and it has been very traumatic for them.” The plaintiff also claims that staff said they had received several reports of cases involving “guys with big names” and that it would be in her best interest to “just get yourself better.” They also told her, “if you pursue this, you are going to be swimming with some really big fish.”

This is not the first time MSU has been pegged for a lack or transparency with regard to sexual assault cases. In fact, the school has been overseen by the Department of Education since 2014 due to mishandled sexual assault cases involving football and basketball players. A MA sexual assault lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been the victim of rape or any other type of sexual assault.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is an annual campaign that raises public awareness about sexual assault and how to prevent it, especially as it pertains to college campuses. According to statistics, one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college, and 43 percent of college women say they have experienced violent dating behaviors. And Massachusetts is no exception. In 2014, a total of 283 rapes at colleges were reported in MA, but only seven percent of those were ever reported to the schools. Continue reading

Jacob Moore, an 18-year old gymnast, is the first man to accuse gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. Nassar was the team physician for USA Gymnastics for about 20 years.

One day after practice in April 2016, Moore went to Nassar’s office to receive treatment for an injured shoulder. According to Moore, after Nassar advised him that acupuncture would be the most effective treatment, the doctor pulled down Moore’s pants and began administering acupuncture to his genital area. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment or abuse.

Not surprisingly, the unorthodox “shoulder treatment” did not relieve Moore’s shoulder pain. It did, however, leave him feeling “quite uncomfortable.”

“I left his basement thinking that did not help at all,” Moore said. “It’s frustrating when you have an injury and thinking you’re gonna get legitimate medical treatment, and you’re not getting that, for sure.”

And there was another person in the treatment room with Moore and Nassar during the incident – a young female gymnast. As he performed the disturbing treatment, Nassar asked the woman if she had ever seen a man’s body part before.

Moore made the decision to make his story public after nearly 200 girls – his own sister among them – came forward and testified against Nassar. Last week, the University of Michigan student joined a civil federal suit against the disgraced doctor.

“I was inspired by my sister and everyone else in this community to come out and help bring change to what allowed this to happen,” said Moore. “I don’t want (other victims) to be scared to come out because of stigma that guys can’t be sexually abused or taken advantage of.”

Nassar Sentenced to Decades in Prison

Earlier this year, Nassar admitted that he used his position of authority as a doctor to abuse his victims, and pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct. In addition to those charges, he was sentenced on multiple charges of child pornography.

According to the civil lawsuit against Nassar, “There is no known medical connection between shoulder pain which can be treated through acupuncture in the area of a male’s genitalia. Plaintiff Jacob Moore believes the conduct of Dr. Nassar was sexual assault, battery, abuse, molestation and harassment performed by Defendant Nassar for Defendant Nassar’s sexual pleasure and gratification.”

USA Gymnastics terminated Nassar in 2015 after receiving several complaints about the doctor. But he continued treating Michigan State University patients until further allegations were made public a few months later. In November 2016, Nassar was placed under arrest.

How Was the Abuse Allowed to Go On for So Long?

According to the lawsuit, USA Gymnastics failed to inform the public – or even other gymnasts – about the allegations against Nassar after the organization dismissed him in 2015. As a result, Moore and other victims continued to suffer abuse for nearly a year after Nassar’s dismissal. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse. Continue reading

Roman Catholic priests keep making headlines, for all the wrong reasons. In 2003, Thomas O’Brien, who was bishop of the Dioceses of Phoenix at the time, admitted he had sheltered dozens of priests who had been accused of sexual abuse. Beyond just sheltering them, however, he allowed them to work with children. In 2016, O’Brien himself was accused of sexually abusing a young boy.

In the early 2000s, the Roman Catholic diocese exposed a handful of priests as abusers, two of whom fled the country and are still at large. Another 60-or-so lawsuits are currently pending against priests across the nation, some of the alleged sex crimes dating back seven decades. The most recent involves Louisiana Rev. F. David Broussard, a 51-year-old former pastor who was charged with 500 counts of possession of child pornography. Broussard remains free, on administrative leave.

Mark A. Broussard, a former priest who is not related to F. David Broussard but presided over a neighboring Louisiana parish, was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences and 50 additional years for molesting and raping altar boys in the 1980s. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse.

Is Justice Being Served?

Today’s Catholic Church is responding much differently to sex abuse scandals than the Catholic Church of the past. During the first half of the 20th century, priests accused of sexual abuse were often simply reassigned to different parishes. Today, the likes of Mark and F. David Broussard are turned over by Bishops who say they now follow the Catholic Church’s mandates to protect children, including requiring criminal background checks for anyone who has contact with children.

Although progress is definitely being made, you don’t have to go back to the early 1900s to see the Catholic Church turning a blind eye to sex abuse. In 1986, former priest Gilbert Gauthe was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he admitted to raping 37 children, also in Louisiana. But despite having abused more than 100 people, Gauche was released after only 10 years.

And in 2002, during the Boston archdiocese child sex abuse scandal, decades of covered-up child abuse in Wilmington, Delaware began to surface. By 2011, more than $110 million was distributed to 152 adults who had been sexually abused as children by Catholic priests in the Wilmington area. Dozens of priests were involved. A MA injury attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been sexually assaulted or abused.

Statute of Limitations

Most civil and criminal cases have a statute of limitations, a window of time within which a claim or lawsuit must be filed. With regard to sexual abuse cases, the statue of limitations varies from state to state. In MA, it’s 15 years. However, in light of the recent surge of sex abuse scandals involving Catholic priests, private schools, and even celebrities, some of these statutes of limitations are being lifted. In Minnesota, for example, a 2013 law temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for victims age 24 and under, giving them unlimited time to file a lawsuit. Anyone over 24 was given a new, three-year window. When that window ended in 2016, more than 800 claims had been filed against state churches and schools, and the Boy Scouts. Continue reading

While she was suffering from a drug overdose, a woman was transferred by ambulance from Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford, Mississippi to another BMH facility about 100 miles away. The Jane Doe now claims that during the transfer, she was sexually assaulted by a paramedic. Bryan Englebert, the EMT accused of sexual assault, plead guilty and is currently serving a minimum of five years in prison. But the victim is blaming more than her assailant.

When we go to the hospital – or any health care professional, for that matter – we have no choice but to put our lives and well-being in their hands. Hospitals and medical professionals owe us a duty of care to protect us from further harm, at the very least, while in their care. Medical professionals can make honest mistakes; they’re only human. But when negligence is a factor, a provider and / or health care facility may be liable for any resulting damages, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Doe alleges that the hospital’s failure to provide proper training and supervision to its employees, as well as its lack of an adequate safety policy, put her in harm’s way. In her lawsuit, she claims that Englebert sexually battered and assaulted her while the driver, Matthew Austin, videotaped the assault. Doe was incapacitated during the incident, and has a history of mental health issues. As such, the hospital owed her an even higher duty of care. She is suing for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. According to her lawsuit, Doe suffered significant physical injury, and mental trauma and suffering.

Hospital Liability

So, when is the hospital liable, and when is it just an honest mistake? Fortunately, the vast majority of medical professionals have the best interest of patients in mind at all times. However, even good doctors can make serious mistakes when fatigued or under extreme pressure or stress. Sometimes, mistakes are due to inexperience. Other times, lack of communication, administrative problems, and even bad handwriting are the culprit. And occasionally, health care-related injuries can be a result of gross negligence. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether negligence played a role in your particular case.  Continue reading

Following a nine-month investigation by a security consulting firm, school officials at Massachusetts’ prestigious Milton Academy recently confirmed a decades-long sexual abuse scandal. Four teachers are alleged to have molested several students over the years. The school’s theater program director from 1975 to 1987, Rey Buono is accused of abusing at least 12 boys. Buono was fired in 1987 after admitting to molesting a male student. According to the consulting firm, Milton Academy “had some knowledge of Rey Buono’s misconduct in 1982,” but he continued to work there for an additional five years.

More than 200 Victims

The investigation extends beyond Milton to other schools in New England. All in all, more than 200 victims have come forward, and at least 90 legal claims have been filed against at least 67 private schools in the region. In an official apology letter, Milton school officials wrote, “On behalf of Milton Academy and its board of trustees, we want to acknowledge and deeply apologize for those failures.” That letter was but one in a series of apology letters sent by dozens of private schools in the New England region. In fact, a recent investigation by the Boston Globe discovered sexual abuse allegations in more than 100 New England private schools in the past 25 years.

“Milton Academy’s leadership at that time failed to protect students and failed to investigate whether Rey Buono had abused other students during his tenure at the school,” said Todd Bland, the current head of school. If you have been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment, a Boston sexual abuse attorney can help you determine how to proceed.

After losing his job in 1987 due to sexual abuse allegations, Buono moved to Southeast Asia in 1988 and has been working in a similar capacity – with children – ever since. According to a spokesperson for Milton Academy, immigration authorities have been contacted with the findings of the investigation. In addition to Buono, three other Milton employees are alleged to have sexually abused three female students. The claims range from lewd comments to sexual intercourse. Milton Academy has not identified the other male employees, but says that reports have been filed with “appropriate officials and law enforcement agencies.”

Sexual Abuse Can Have Lifelong Repercussions

Milton Academy’s current school leaders have acknowledged the detrimental impact that sexual abuse can have on an individual, saying that these victims “can live with the repercussions of those acts for years.” The school is responding by offering to pay for counseling services for victims. A MA sexual abuse lawyer can help you determine your rights and options if you were a victim of sexual abuse at Milton Academy or any other school. Continue reading

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