Many people have bravely come forward to report sexual assault, harassment, and other misconduct by employees of the 91 pools and 26 beaches that the Chicago Park District oversees. Complaints led to a department-wide investigation revealing that lifeguard managers and other workers sexually abused subordinate lifeguards, many of whom were minors. Reportedly, systemic failures at the Chicago Park District allowed such abuse to continue for decades.
This scandal leaves numerous survivors of sexual abuse with serious physical, mental, and emotional harm - through no fault of their own.
If you need assistance, a Chicago sex abuse attorney can provide a no-obligation, confidential consultation. These are sensitive matters, and an experienced attorney can provide the guidance you deserve.
The Park District Allowed the Abuse to Continue for Decades
Investigations began following complaints in 2020 that one veteran lifeguard reportedly engaged in criminal sexual assault against a 16-year-old lifeguard. As of August, the Park District suspended, terminated, or otherwise disciplined at least 42 employees, stemming from investigative findings. The investigation continues and may uncover many additional offenses.
Reports indicate that the Chicago Park District mishandled complaints of sex abuse and the subsequent investigation into the misconduct. The longtime Parks CEO recently resigned, as many former lifeguards and City Council members requested, largely for failing to promptly report sexual assault complaints by minor lifeguards to the inspector general.
However, stories from former lifeguards all consistently indicate that sexual misconduct has been part of the Chicago pool and beach employee culture for decades even dating back to the 1970s. One former lifeguard stated that the abuse was so pervasive that “every female lifeguard I know has had some experience of sexual harassment. Nearly all my supervisors harassed me in some way.”
Many survivors say that supervisors and higher-ups in the Park District knew about this workplace culture of sexual abuse, yet chose to look the other way.
Sexual Assault Survivors Have a Higher Risk of Serious Emotional Damage
Sexual abuse - when a person in power abuses authority over a subordinate to coerce sexual favors can leave lasting effects in survivors.
Triggers for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mood swings, and flashbacks at work or school may make earning a living or seeking a degree so much harder. Personality changes brought on by sex abuse can affect relationships with coworkers, family, and friends.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 68 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in America.
Most sexual assault victims are children, disabled, or elderly, and most of the time in 93 percent of child sex abuse cases the victims know the perpetrators. In 44 percent of cases, survivors are, like many Chicago Park District lifeguards, younger than 18.
These predators use their status and access as a teacher, priest, babysitter, or employee supervisor to take advantage of their victims.
Those who suffer sexual abuse or sexual assault not only experience damages associated with medical bills, lost time from work, and other directly related costs, but they also experience other difficult circumstances that may qualify them for additional compensation.
For example, sexual abuse survivors are at a much higher risk of:
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Substance Abuse
- Panic Attacks
- Eating Disorders
- Sleep Disorders
The damages associated with these unfortunate side effects can also be pursued in a sexual assault civil lawsuit, depending on the situation. An experienced sexual abuse attorney can help you and your family to determine what compensation may be available to you.
If you endured sex abuse as a Chicago Park District lifeguard, you are not alone. Supervisors allegedly abused many of your coworkers and predecessors, too.
A Chicago Sex Abuse Lawyer Can Help You
What should have been an enjoyable first job, enjoying summers in the sun or on the sand, turned into nightmares for numerous high school-aged girls. Many loved their jobs but felt forced to leave due to the unbearable mistreatment. Supervisors asked some lifeguards who complained about the misconduct to quit or simply transfer them to other beaches, with no apparent discipline for the abusers.
It is all too easy to feel helpless in this situation, but now that investigations revealed the chronic pattern of sexual abuse, survivors may seek the legal relief they deserve for the harm they suffered.
Coming forward with a sex abuse claim can be difficult for survivors. You might worry about publicity or the Park District accusing you of encouraging the misconduct.
In sex abuse cases, however, lawyers can maintain a client’s anonymity and keep their names out of the spotlight. A sex abuse lawyer can serve as your protector as we empower you to seek justice and heal from the abuse you suffered from officials who perpetrated it or covered it up.
Your Rights as a Sexual Abuse Survivor
Sexual abuse can lead to both criminal charges and civil claims.
The criminal offense can result in jail or prison time, probation, and sexual offender registration. However, criminal charges do not always work out, and they do little to help abuse survivors overcome their injuries.
This is why many victims of sexual abuse, assault, or rape turn to civil lawsuits for a sense of justice, to get compensation for pain and suffering, and recoup the money they lost because of the abuse from their abusers and any employers that allowed the abuse to occur.
Damages that sexual assault survivors may recover in civil claims relating to the physical, emotional, and mental harm caused by the abuse, and will continue to suffer as a result of the abuse.
The amount and type of compensation that is available in a sexual abuse lawsuit depend on the specific facts of the case.
Not only did individual lifeguard managers allegedly engage in ongoing and unacceptable sexual misconduct, but news reports state the Chicago Park District may have willfully ignored the problem and allowed the abuse to continue for nearly 50 years. By pursuing a claim, you can help hold Park District liable for failing to protect you, your coworkers, and the citizens of Chicago whom the department should serve and benefit.
Many people might think that if their abuse happened years ago, it is too late to bring a claim. However, in recent years, Illinois significantly extended its statute of limitations for child sex abuse civil claims.
If you were a minor when the abuse happened, depending on when you were born, you may still have time to file a lawsuit for the damages caused by sexual abuse. Further, Illinois eliminated the statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims for abuse that happened after 2019.
Even if you believe the statute of limitation expired in your case, it’s best to consult with a lawyer and determine if a claim can still be pursued.
We know that telling anyone about sexual abuse takes a lot of courage. It isn’t easy. The sooner you call us, however, the more easily we can find evidence to support your case and help you find justice and compensation for:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Therapy and psychiatric treatment costs
- Counseling fees
- Physical pain and suffering
- Cost of relocating to a different area
- Emotional distress
- Lost wages from missed time from work
- And other costs associated with the sexual abuse
In egregious cases like sexual abuse, especially abuse involving an institution or organization may also qualify for punitive damages. These damages are awarded to the sexual abuse victim to punish the responsible party or parties for their actions and/or their willful and wanton conduct.
A good example of a situation where punitive damages may be awarded includes cases of institutional sexual assault where an organization (like the Chicago Park District) did not properly report an allegation of sexual assault, knew about the allegations but did nothing, or the facility employed a sex offender without a thorough background check.
These damages are usually reserved for situations where the acts were malicious, wanton, willful, or oppressive, or show reckless indifference to the interests of others.
While money cannot turn back time and eliminate the abuse and harm you endured, it can give you a sense of justice and help you move forward. Bringing a claim can also help to ensure that others do not have to go through such abuse when they simply want an enjoyable summer job with the Park District.
Contact a Chicago Sex Abuse Lawyer
If you or a loved one were a victim of institutional sexual assault or abuse, contact a sex abuse attorney for a free consultation today. An experienced attorney understands the difficulties and challenges associated with these types of cases and will handle every step of the process with compassion. A lawyer will work to reduce the burden on the victim and their family so that you can obtain the compensation that you deserve.