Articles Posted in Sexual Abuse Injury Attorney

In a Baptist Church, the Pastor and Church leaders are looked up to by members of the congregation, especially young children. This enormous amount of power and influence the church has over its members creates dangerous opportunities for childhood sexual abuse in the Baptist faith.

The Star-Telegram investigated and discovered at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches and their affiliated institutions, spanning 40 states and Canada.

Twenty-one abuse allegations were uncovered exclusively by the Star-Telegram, and others were documented in criminal cases, lawsuits and news reports. But victims said the number of abused is far greater because few victims ever come forward.

One hundred and sixty-eight church leaders were accused or convicted of committing sexual crimes against children, the investigation found. At least 45 of the alleged abusers continued in ministry after accusations came to the attention of church authorities or law enforcement.

This confirms that childhood sexual abuse is as prevalent in the Baptist Church as it is in the Roman Catholic Church. The crazy thing with the Baptist Church is that they have no procedures set in place for tracking abusive clergy members who are transferred out of state, for removing accused abusers from the Church, or for informing members that their officials have been accused of abuse against children. The absence of a central agency for Baptist Churches to report child molesters has resulted in church officials moving from one church to another without their new home ever learning about the history of sexual abuse.

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A Cooper City Islamic school and mosque have agreed to a multimillion-dollar legal settlement with three former students who allege a teacher sexually abused them over a decade ago.

A lawsuit filed in Broward County Circuit Court in 2014 alleged Nur-Ul-Islam Academy and mosque were negligent as a teacher, now 39, sexually abused at least three female students in their young teens from about 2004 to 2008. The women, who are now all in their mid- to late-20s, will benefit from the undisclosed amount.

The lawsuit claimed that, for at least one of the girls, the teacher allegedly would write in “code” on the blackboard in class to arrange times to meet up with her and also communicated with her through social media and late-night phone calls.

The women say the school knew of the teacher’s abuse and worked to cover it up. According to a psychologist working on the case, when the secret got out at the Islamic private school, the girls were mocked by students, teachers and the school president, who, according to the lawsuit, told one of the girls she was “equally responsible.” One girl’s family tied her up and abused her in their home, according to reports.

The lawsuit says the school’s president was approached by a parent of one of the girls who discovered a late-night phone call between their daughter and the teacher. He is alleged to acknowledge that the teacher confessed that he had improper contact with “numerous female students,” and solicited a letter of resignation from the teacher, according to the lawsuit.

According to a complaint taken by Pembroke Pines Police in 2014, a victim came forward to say she had sex with the teacher over 100 times when she was 12 to 14 years old. The teacher told her she was pretty and gave her a lot of attention, the report said, and the two spoke over the phone and by text.

The complaint said the pair met almost every weekend at either a west Broward Publix to have sex in the teacher’s car or at his home in Pembroke Pines. Similar to what was alleged in the lawsuit, the victim said they developed “codes” that the teacher wrote on the board in class to make arrangements to meet.

Police reported that the victim did not disclose the sexual relationship sooner because, “she is a member of a conservative Muslim community and it would have caused ‘shame and disgrace’ to her family.” The complaint also notes that police made contact with another former student who said that she also had a sexual relationship with the teacher when she was 15 to 16 years old.

Police made contact with the teacher and his attorney at a police station in July 2014, but the man denied any sexual relationships with either student, according to the report.

A warrant is still out for the man’s arrest, according to a Broward State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman. He was charged in 2014 with five counts of sexual battery by a person who is in a position of familial or custodial authority to a minor — which indicates that there may have been more than just three students affected — and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation. His whereabouts are not known.

The investigation is still active and charges are still pending.

Teachers are in a position of power of their students, and many look up to them as role models and authority figures. Teachers are around their students for a good majority of time each day, possibly more than their parents. When a teacher abuses his or her trust by engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct, it can cause psychological and emotional problems that may last a lifetime.

When school officials are aware that illegal behavior is happening and do nothing to stop it, both the staff/school district and the teacher can be held liable. Our Florida Sexual Abuse Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have access to highly respected investigators who are able to thoroughly dissect all aspects of a sex abuse scandal and get to the truth to identify if the school administration was aware that child abuse was taking place. Through a careful investigation, we can build a strong case against school districts, administrators and individual child abusers.

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The Diocese of St. Petersburg has launched a new website in response to the latest Catholic church’s sexual abuse scandal.

The site boasts the biblical words: “Each of us shall give an account to God.”

The local diocese established the site last month, following the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report about the molestation of more than 1,000 children by at least 300 Catholic priests and the cover-up by church officials.

On the new site, Bishop Gregory Parkes addresses the crisis in a two-minute video that seeks to assure his flock of almost half-million Catholics in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Citrus and Hernando counties that the diocese has established a firewall of safeguards.

Parkes said the new “accountability” site was set up to provide “resources and information on how we are accountable to you, the people of God.”

The website, which links to a list of “credibly accused” priests and lay persons, states how much has been paid out to victims — $6.3 million since the diocese was founded in 1968. The site also has a link encouraging prayers, in keeping with Parkes’ request that parishioners pray for all who “have been wounded by crimes of abuse” and for “the priests and bishops who have justly served with compassion and kindness.”

It also addresses safeguards such as mandatory background screening and fingerprinting for those who work with minors and vulnerable adults.

Earlier this month, Parkes posted a letter to the new site following State Attorney General Pam Bondi’s announcement that she was launching an investigation into how Florida’s Catholic dioceses have handled allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The bishop said his diocese has been transparent and pointed to the list of accused priests on full display on its website. The list names nine priests and five employees.

It is the church’s responsibility to supervise all of its clergy, priest and religious leaders. When they fail to do so, this negligent supervision can result in a child being sexually assaulted. When children are not protected from sexual predators in a church setting, this can result in a legal claim against the religious institution.

If you know of or suspect any type of sexual abuse happening in your church, school, or workplace, please report it to the proper authorities. You can also contact our Florida Clergy Sexual Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton for free guidance on what steps to take next. We are experienced at handling sexual abuse cases against various religious institutions, including the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, the Episcopal Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), and Judaism.

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A mother and daughter have filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court alleging they were sexually abused by masseuses at the national chain’s Boca Raton storefront.

The May 2017 incident is just one of nearly a dozen separate assaults described in the lawsuit and describes how rampant sexual abuse is at the chain that grew into a national sensation by making massages affordable to regular working people.

The two unidentified women were among 11 who joined in the lawsuit that claims the Arizona-based company put profits ahead of customer safety at its franchises in West Palm Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville and three locations on Florida’s Gulf coast.

When complaints of inappropriate touching, groping and even rape were brought to the company’s attention, the 163-page lawsuit claims the company concealed it.

Instead of alerting police or a state licensing board, the company’s policies allowed the abuse to continue, reports indicate.

A similar lawsuit against the company was filed this month in California. The suits grew from a November 2017 investigation by BuzzFeed that found 180 women across the country had been molested by Massage Envy therapists.

Each of the cases is unique. In two separate incidents, women said male masseuses fondled their genitals at the chain’s locations on Southern Boulevard in Royal Palm Beach and on Village Boulevard in West Palm Beach. Some of the women were receiving massages to cope with lifelong back pain or other injuries. In many cases, the women didn’t know the names of the massage therapists who assaulted them.

The exception was a woman in Largo who filed a complaint with the Florida Board of Massage Therapy. The board responded by revoking the license of the therapist. It is unclear whether any criminal charges were filed.

Massage Envy policies state that franchisees must conduct their own prompt, fair and thorough investigation of sexual assault. However, the main problem with this policy is that it does not provide much guidance on how to do so and there are very few employees who feel capable of doing their own investigations.

After a sexual assault occurs, filing criminal charges can be first step in bringing this person to justice. A criminal case will not provide financial compensation for what you have had to deal with as a result of the assault, which is where our Florida Sexual Abuse Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help. We can explore your legal options for obtaining compensation for the physical, financial and emotional damages you have suffered.

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A 72-year-old priest who was affiliated with Ascension Catholic Church in Boca Raton is accused of molesting a 9-year-old boy and sexually abusing unidentified others in a report issued Tuesday by a Pennsylvania grand jury that conducted a sweeping investigation into clergy misconduct.

The man was among the scores of “predator priests” the grand jury mentioned by name in a 1,356-page report of its roughly two-year investigation, the most comprehensive in U.S. history. The man, according to the document, served at the church on North Federal Highway from 2007 to 2009 and still lives in Boca.

The man said the Vatican cleared him of any wrongdoing in 2014.

The grand jury report noted that police officials in Pennsylvania said their investigation determined the allegations of abuse by the priest were credible. By the time the allegations were presented to prosecutors, the statute of limitations had run out, the jury said.

Diocesan officials ignored several other abuse allegations against Benestad, the grand jury report states.

In its report, the grand jury urged lawmakers to change the law so sexual predators won’t escape prosecution if victims are reluctant to come forward for years. Further, they asked that changes be made so the church can’t hide behind confidentiality agreements. They also want to see laws requiring people to report sex abuse to be beefed up.

Sexual abuse can lead to serious, lifelong emotional and psychological injuries. Our Florida Sexual Abuse Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton know the scarring that can come along with abuse, which is why we retain highly skilled and experienced mental health professionals to help evaluate victims’ damages. If you or a loved one was molested by a priest, bishop, deacon, nun or any other employee of a Catholic Church, regardless of when it occurred, please contact us to help you determine what options are best for you.

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Hundreds of priests were said to have molested more than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — since the 1940s, and senior church officials, including a man who is now the archbishop of Washington, D.C., allegedly covered up the abuse, according to a grand jury report released Tuesday.

The “real number” of abused children might be in the thousands since some secret church records were lost, and victims were afraid to come forward, the grand jury said.

The grand jury accused a Cardinal, who leads the Washington archdiocese, of helping to protect abusive priests when he was Pittsburgh’s bishop.

Most of the Pennsylvania victims were boys, but girls were abused, too, the report said.

The abuse ranged from groping and masturbation to anal, oral and vaginal rape. There are also accusations that child pornography floated around the church.

The report put the number of abusive clergy at more than 300. In nearly all of the cases, the statute of limitations has run out, meaning that criminal charges cannot be filed. More than 100 of the priests are dead, and many others are retired or have been dismissed from the priesthood or put on leave.

The grand jury said it found cases in which police or prosecutors learned of clergy sex abuse allegations but did not investigate out of deference to church officials.

The grand jury concluded that a succession of Catholic bishops and other diocesan leaders tried to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability. They failed to report accused clergy to police and sent abusive priests to so-called “treatment facilities,” which “laundered” the priests and “permitted hundreds of known offenders to return to ministry,” the report said.

The grand jury probe was the most extensive investigation of Catholic clergy abuse by any state. U.S. bishops have acknowledged that more than 17,000 people nationwide have reported being molested by priests and others in the church.

Sexual abuse by priests or clergy members is now well known. When priests take advantage of their position and sexually abuse children, it is a heinous action that warrants both criminal punishment and civil liability. In many cases involving the Catholic Church, individuals in authority knew of abusers and failed to take appropriate action, as this case highlights. Sadly, abusers were given complete freedom to take advantage of adolescents for years, even decades.

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The Justice Department is currently investigating the Lowell Correctional Institution in Central Florida, where female inmates have complained for years about sexual, physical and mental abuse inflicted by corrections officers.

This investigation mirrors that of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Alabama where women were raped, sodomized, forced to engage in oral sex and fondled by corrections officers as state corrections officials looked the other way for nearly two decades.

In 2013, the prison was considered among the 10 worst prisons in the nation. At least one third of its staff was suspected of sexual misconduct, and inmates who dared to report the abuse were punished by being locked in confinement, a more restrictive form of incarceration.

A civil-rights investigation at the prison in 2013 showed that understaffing, poor medical care, inadequate sanitary supplies, overcrowding and poor security fostered an environment where sexual violence and abuse thrived.

Lowell apparently has a huge problem with sexual abuse of prisoners. It has been on the Justice Department’s radar for several years.

In April, John Gore, acting attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice, sent a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, informing him, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Julie Jones, secretary for the Department of Corrections, that the department had launched a federal probe into conditions at Lowell.

In July, DOJ’s civil rights division sent a subpoena to Florida’s Department of Corrections, demanding records ranging from policy and training manuals to a listing of staff members who were terminated, transferred, suspended or resigned from the prison as of July 1, 2015.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division investigates when there is cause to believe that inmates are being subjected to conditions that deprive them of their constitutional rights — in this case, in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment protection against Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

Federal investigations follow a standard trajectory that takes anywhere from two to five years. The procedure calls for the department to visit the prison, inspect conditions and to interview inmates.

As part of the probe, the DOJ is holding a community meeting on Aug. 19. Investigators are inviting former inmates and family members of current inmates to the meeting at the Marion Baptist Association in Ocala.

The DOJ reached an agreement with the state of Alabama and its corrections department calling for a series of reforms to protect inmates. It concluded that Tutwiler guards had violated prisoners’ rights.

At Tutwiler, DOJ found that inmates lived in an environment of repeated, open and forced sexual behavior by corrections officers. Prison officials were criticized for failing to address the problems despite repeated complaints. The DOJ was especially critical of state corrections officials who “demonstrated a clear deliberate indifference to the harm and substantial risk of harm to women prisoners.’’

The probe found that Alabama had been on notice of the abuse for more than 18 years but had chosen to ignore them.

The Lowell investigation comes after years of complaints by inmates and activists, who organized in the aftermath of a 2015 Miami Herald investigation, “Beyond Punishment.’’ The series included interviews with more than three dozen former and current inmates at Lowell who described being forced to have sex with officers just to obtain basic necessities such as soap, toilet paper and sanitary napkins.

When someone is taken into custody for allegedly committing a crime, prison conditions can certainly be uncomfortable, but they should never include sexual abuse at the hands of other prisoners or prison staff. Prison guards have the legal and moral obligation to protect the rights of prisoners. Partaking in or allowing unwanted sexual advances is a direct violation of their duty.

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A Roman Catholic diocese identified 71 priests and other members of the church who had been accused of child sex abuse on Wednesday.

They said they are holding accountable the bishops who led the church for the past 70 years, announcing their names will be stripped from all church properties.

At a news conference to detail the church’s actions, a Harrisburg Bishop apologized to those who were abused, the Catholic faithful and the community and expressed his “profound sorrow.”

With its announcement, the Harrisburg Diocese became the second of six dioceses under investigation by the state to get out in front of a pending grand jury report on clergy sex abuse. The Erie Diocese released its own findings on clergy abuse in April.

The release of the nearly 900-page state grand jury report has been held up by challenges by some priests and former priests. The state Supreme Court ruled last week a version with some names blacked out can be made public as early as next week. The court said it identified more than 300 “predator priests” in the six dioceses.

The Harrisburg Diocese was making public the names of all those who faced allegations of child sex abuse but that it did not determine whether they all had merit, though some of those on the list have been convicted of crimes.

The Harrisburg list includes 37 priests, three deacons and six seminarians from the diocese, nine clergy members from other dioceses and 16 from religious communities. The conduct was classified as indecent behavior, inappropriate behavior such as kissing and inappropriate communication with children.

Most of the allegations date from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the diocese said.

The church is adopting a series of new procedures to deal with complaints and to help protect against future abuse, the bishop said.

Any new complaint will be immediately forwarded to local authorities, background checks will be conducted on people working for the church, including volunteers, and all employees will be required to take part in training on how to recognize and report abuse, the diocese said.

Court documents have revealed that the pending state grand jury report, the work of a two-year investigation, includes allegations of obstruction of justice by people “associated with the Roman Catholic Church, local public officials and community leaders.”

Many people who suffer sexual abuse continue to suffer in silence years after the abuse occurred.  Many are ashamed or afraid to come forward. Our Florida Sexual Abuse Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are dedicated to helping victims of abuse by a church or clergy member. We can investigate your case to determine the liable parties. In addition to the abuser, church officials and the church itself may be liable for allowing the abuse to occur.

We represent people of any faith, including abuse involving:

  • Catholic Church
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Protestant churches
  • Judaism
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • Church Of God In Christ, Inc. (COGIC)
  • Seventh-Day Adventists
  • Islam

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A Jacksonville man was convicted Wednesday of aggravated sexual abuse by force on an 18-year-old woman aboard the Carnival cruise ship Elation.

The 23-year-old was convicted after 90 minutes of deliberation.

According to the original criminal complaint, the man was in a hot tub with a number of people, including a young woman with the mental capacity of a 12-year-old, when he touched the woman over her bathing suit before she pushed his hand away. The man then groped her under the water before getting out of the Jacuzzi.

The woman left the Jacuzzi and immediately reported what happened to her grandmother, who reported it to ship security.

The ship was at sea at the time, and the FBI was notified of the report. FBI agents and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office were present when the ship returned to port in Jacksonville

The man will remain in custody of the U.S. Marshals until his sentencing October 22. He faces up to life in prison.

When you are on a cruise, you should not have to worry about being sexually assaulted by another passenger or a member of the crew. Sadly, rapes and other types of sexual abuse happen all too often on cruise ships.

The cruise line could be held liable for your suffering, including psychological and emotional injuries. They could also be liable if they handled the aftermath of the assault negligently. This can entail not providing adequate medical care to the victim, not restraining the assailant, etc.

In order to protect your rights after being sexually assaulted on a cruise ship, it is important that you seek legal advice from our Florida Cruise Ship Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible after the incident in which you were injured. We are experienced in dealing with cruise line negligence and can assist with your case right away. You want to act fast as there are statutes of limitations set forth on cruise ship injury claims, which could prevent you from seeking compensation past a certain date.

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Two former University of Miami football players avoided jail time after accusations that they raped an intoxicated female student in a dorm room on the Coral Gables campus.

Now the victim has filed suit against the University of Miami in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging the school failed to protect a minor student athlete, coming to the university for the first time, from sexual assault on its Coral Gables campus.

She was 17 at the time and had come to UM to play soccer.

The 2014 incident, involving two of UM’s ex-linebackers — who were 20 and 19 at the time and immediately kicked off the team and expelled from the school — was resolved when both agreed to enter a pretrial diversion program for first-time offenders, undergo sex-offender treatment classes and complete 100 hours of community service.

She is seeking damages “far in excess” of $15,000, according to the suit.
The lawsuit lists 15 instances in which UM failed her.

Among them:

▪ Negligently allowing minors into a dormitory where there are not protections from other students, particularly other students who the University of Miami knows or should have known had “violate tendencies.”

▪ Negligently allowing minors into a dormitory where there was “no meaningful guarding” from being brought back into the dorm in an impaired state by two student athletes.

▪ Failing to have adequate security measures and policies in effect which would prevent a sexual assault and rape in a University of Miami dormitory.


As a victim of a crime that the government elects to avoid prosecution, you have options for seeking damages. Our South Florida Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are dedicated to obtaining justice for people harmed by the intentional acts or negligence of others. We do this by forcing institutions to take responsibility for their carelessness by obtaining compensation for victims and making them change the way they operate. This helps the victim get started on their own recovery and prevents others from being victimized in the future.

We offer free consultations. We can help you achieve some sense of accountability and recover the financial compensation you need for medical care and counseling, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.

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