Family Sues over Sex Abuse Allegations

Source: Medford Mail Trbune, November 2, 2010

by Mark Freeman

The family of an Orchard Hill Elementary School kindergartener who accused her teacher of sexual abusing her last year and making a “pinky promise” with her not to tell has filed a federal lawsuit against the teacher, the school district and two administrators.

Filed Friday in U.S. District Court, the $6 million civil suit made public Monday alleges that Phoenix-Talent School District officials hired and kept teacher George Kuhn unsupervised in the classroom despite past complaints about inappropriate conduct with students.

The complaint claims negligence, false imprisonment, sexual battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Lawyers requested a jury trial. Defendants also named in the suit include district Superintendent Ben Bergreen and school Principal Gerry Flock. The alleged victim was listed only as Jane Doe in the suit, filed by Medford attorney Thomas Petersen.

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Tom Petersen, a leading Oregon Sexual Abuse Attorney, has the following advice if you’ve been or if you know of someone who’s been abused:

Immediately report the incidents to the police. Insist that a detective trained in sexual assault cases be assigned to investigate. Many police agencies have specially trained sexual assault investigators who are trained to obtain information that a uniformed officer simply is not prepared for. These specially trained officers will be able to provide you with information on who else can help you in these circumstances.

Immediately have a hospital or your own doctor examine the victim for any physical signs of sexual contact and to test for sexually transmitted diseases. Do not wait to be medically cleared. If you wait too long, crucial evidence can be lost forever and compromise any claim you may have, whether it is a criminal or civil case.

Immediately contact a psychologist or counselor for yourself or your child. Many cities have specially trained counselors and treatment centers which provide the support needed after such a traumatic event. Failure to seek help can result in lifelong emotional and physical impairments that can affect the victim’s ability to live a normal and productive life. Failure to treat can also lead the victim to begin molesting others as a means of trying to control and make sense out of what happened to them. Many victims of abuse become addicted to drugs and alcohol as a means of burying the deep feelings of hurt and shame associated with being molested. Without early and consistent emotional support and competent professional psychological treatment, sexual abuse victims’ lives can be ruined or greatly impaired. Consequently, the lives of their loved ones are also then negatively affected. In addition to individual counseling, family counseling is often needed to help family members understand how to deal with this extraordinary intrusion into the family unit.

Immediately contact your local Victim-Witness program, which is typically administered and operated by the local county district attorney’s office. Most often, if a police officer is investigating the incident as a criminal matter, he or she can provide you with the contact information you will need. Once you have made contact with the program, they will guide you to counselors, physicians, or any other people they believe may be able to provide you with assistance, including payment of medical bills and lost income.

Immediately contact a civil lawyer who has significant experience in successfully handling these types of cases. The lawyer can help advise you on how the criminal system works although the district attorney is responsible for prosecuting any offender. The civil lawyer also has investigators help develop facts needed to obtain money damages for the victim. The civil lawyer can advise you on when or if it best to sue the offender and/or the offender’s employer. They can help find insurance money which may cover the incident in question. They can also protect your interests in the criminal case by being an advocate for you with the authorities.

Most importantly, they can stand up for you against powerful interests who may resist paying money if the stakes are high. An example of such a situation handled by this firm was the civil prosecution of a case against a church organization whose priest had molested a young boy over several years. The church fought hard to defeat the claim, but eventually was made to pay when we found evidence that the church had concealed its knowledge of the priest’s sexual misconduct with our client and other children.