Prevalence of Sexual Abuse in California Juvenile Detention Facilities
The sexual abuse of minors in juvenile detention facilities in California has been a well-documented problem for years. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the perpetrators and the facilities that employed them. For example, the Los Angeles Times reported on a lawsuit filed by 20 women who were allegedly sexually abused while detained at Camp Scott in Los Angeles County. The lawsuit alleged that at least 10 officers subjected the women to sexual assaults while they were minors between 1996 and 2008. In one case, the victim was impregnated by a juvenile officer while she was a teenager.
Previous investigations by the federal government and the Los Angeles Times in 2008 and 2010 uncovered a culture in which sexual abuse was covered up by juvenile detention facilities in Los Angeles. In the 2008 federal investigation, investigators found that sexual abuse in LA detention facilities was widespread. In response, the county hired independent monitors to improve safety and avoid a lawsuit. However, when the Times conducted its investigation in 2010, it found that 11 employees of juvenile facilities in LA had previously been convicted of inappropriate conduct but continued in their jobs while many others had escaped punishment.
For years, many former detainees who were victimized while housed in juvenile detention facilities across California were unable to pursue legal remedies because of the statute of limitation for civil sexual abuse cases. However, the California Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law by the governor. This new law expands the statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse lawsuits involving abuse that occurred while people were minors.
Since that time, numerous lawsuits have been filed against the Department of Juvenile Justice, the perpetrators of abuse, and numerous California counties. Hundreds of victims have filed lawsuits, alleging a rampant pattern of abuse in juvenile detention facilities and camps over decades. These lawsuits seek to hold the operators of these facilities accountable for failing to investigate sexual abuse complaints, failing to appropriately respond to reports of sexual misconduct, and failing to protect minor detainees.
New Law Expands the Statute of Limitations
Under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 340.1, childhood sexual abuse victims must file claims within 22 years of reaching the age of majority or within five years of when they learned or reasonably should have discovered that their psychological injuries were caused by childhood sexual assault. In 2022, the Legislature passed AB 2959, which clarifies this law.
Since claims against juvenile detention facilities are claims against the state, the Government Claims Act would typically apply. This act requires victims to file an administrative notice within six months of when the claim accrued, which would prevent many people from filing civil sexual assault claims against the state for abuse they suffered in juvenile detention facilities. However, AB 2959 clarifies the sexual abuse statute of limitations and specifically excludes claimants from the requirement of filing an administrative notice before filing a lawsuit.
This means that victims of childhood sexual assault in juvenile detention facilities can file claims if they are younger than 40. For people who are 40 or older who could only have reasonably discovered that their sexual abuse precipitated their psychological injuries later, they can still file lawsuits within five years of that date as long as they also file certificates of merit from their treating mental health professionals.
Claims Against Juvenile Detention Facilities for Childhood Sexual Abuse
If you were the victim of sexual abuse while detained in any of California’s juvenile detention facilities and are under age 40, you might have grounds to file a civil sexual abuse lawsuit. This includes the following facilities:
- Camp Joseph Scott in Santa Clarita
- Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey
- Camp Ellison Onizuka
- Camp McNair
- Camp Scobee
- Camp Jarvis
- Camp Resnik at the Challenger Memorial Youth Center in Lancaster
- Camp David Gonzales in Calabasas
- Camp Karl Holton in Sylmar
- Camp William Mendenhall in Lake Hughes
- Camp Fred Miller in Malibu
- Camp John Munz in Lake Hughes
- Camp Kenyon Scudder in Santa Clarita
- Barley Flats Camp in La Canada
- Camp Louis Routh in Tujunga
- Camp Clinton B. Afflerbaugh
- Camp Vernon Kilpatrick
- Camp Joseph Paige
- Camp Glenn Rockey
- Dorothy Kirby Center
- Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall
- Central Juvenile Hall
Understanding the Childhood Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations
As previously mentioned, the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse lawsuits is 22 years after victims reach age 18. This is in recognition of the fact that it can take victims years to understand their abuse and the injuries they have suffered. The Child Victims Act was passed in 2019 to extend the statute of limitations, and AB 2959 was passed in 2022 to clarify that victims do not have to file administrative notices before filing lawsuits against the state.
Victims 40 and under can file lawsuits if they were sexually abused in detention facilities as minors. Those who are older than 40 can only file claims if they have discovered psychological harm resulting from childhood sexual abuse in the past five years as long as they can file a certificate of merit.
people who were 18 or older and abused in detention facilities will likely be subject to the state’s statute of limitations for adult victims. In that situation, the statute of limitations for adult sexual abuse survivors is 10 years from the date when the abuse occurred or within three years of discovering psychological injuries that resulted from the abuse.
However, adult survivors of sexual abuse in juvenile detention facilities might be able to file claims under the 2022 California Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act. This law opened a window to file claims for people who suffered sexual abuse as adults long ago. Those who suffered abuse at any time that was covered up can file a claim before Dec. 31, 2023. Those who suffered sexual abuse as adults in 2009 or later have a filing window open until Dec. 31, 2026.
Even if you are unsure which statute of limitations might apply in your case or think that your claim might be beyond the limitations period, it’s a good idea to schedule a free consultation with the civil sexual abuse lawyers at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC. We can review what happened to you and help you understand whether your claim has legal merits and how the statute of limitations might apply to your case.
Proving a Civil Sexual Abuse Claim
To prevail, you will need to present evidence proving that you were sexually abused by an employee of a juvenile detention facility at which you were housed. Your attorney will investigate your claim and gather evidence to meet the burden of proof. In addition to the perpetrator, the juvenile facility that employed the abuser might also be vicariously liable for their abuse as their employer and directly liable under a theory of negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.
Since a civil sexual abuse claim is a civil action, it is separate from any criminal case that might have been filed against the abuser. Instead, your claim will focus on holding the facility and the state liable for your losses. You can still pursue a claim even if the perpetrator was never criminally prosecuted.
Civil sexual abuse claims against detention facilities allow victims to hold those responsible accountable for their actions and achieve justice. Filing a lawsuit might also allow you to recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered because of your abuse, including both economic and non-economic losses.
The following are examples of the types of damages that might be available:
- Past and future medical expenses to treat your injuries
- Past and future psychological counseling and therapy expenses
- Past and future income losses
- Physical pain and suffering
- Psychological trauma
- Other losses
Contact a Civil Sexual Abuse Attorney
If you were sexually victimized while housed in a California juvenile detention facility, you might be entitled to recover compensation for the harm you have suffered. Contact the attorneys at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC. We offer free, confidential consultations and can help you understand your rights. Call us at 866.966.5240 today.