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SEXUAL ABUSE LAWSUITS

WASHINGTON JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER SEXUAL ABUSE LAWSUITS

Fighting for Survivors Sexually Abused in WA Youth Detention Facilities

Juvenile detention centers across Washington have faced years of scrutiny over failures to protect youth inmates from violence and sexual abuse. This includes a number of facilities operated by the Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families that have made headlines for their involvement in high-profile civil suits, large payouts to victims, and investigations that show how systemic abuse often went unchecked or covered up by those in positions of authority.

Now, a growing number of survivors are stepping forward to file civil lawsuits against the DCYF and other responsible entities that failed to protect them during their stays in state juvenile detention facilities.

If you or someone you love were sexually abused as a youth inmate in any secure juvenile residential facility, community facility, or treatment program in Washington, Levy Konigsberg wants to help you even if the abuse occurred many years or even decades ago.

Levy Konigsberg is nationally recognized trial practice with a legacy of litigating sexual abuse lawsuits against powerful institutions, municipalities, and public and private prison systems. We serve survivors statewide and offer FREE and confidential consultations. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer.

Sexual Abuse in Washington Juvenile Detention Centers

Washington’s problematic history of sexual abuse and violence within juvenile detention facilities has been documented by high-profile legal filings, public payouts, and investigations.

These records detail a systemic abuse problem in youth detention centers statewide and show that operators of these facilities – including the Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) and the DCYF’s Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) division – enabled a culture of secrecy, cover ups, and unacceptable oversight failures that allowed staff-on-inmate abuse to proliferate for years. Some examples include:

Green Hill School

  • In September 2021, the state of Washington agreed to pay over $2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by 10 survivors who were sexually abused while housed at the Green Hill School, a secure residential facility in Chehalis, at various points from the 1970s through the early 2000s. The suit accused the state and Department of Social and Health Services of fostering a decades-long “culture of sexual abuse and cover-ups” that caused many Green Hill residents to be repeatedly abused while in custody.
  • In April 2021, former Green Hill School employee Samantha Washington was sentenced after pleading guilty to second-and fourth-degree assault charges in connection to a sexual encounter with an inmate. Washington was the third former Green Hill staffer to be charged with sexual misconduct between January 2016 and June 2018. The other two were Erin Stiebritz (aka Erin Snodgrass), who pleaded guilty to a single count of first-degree custodial misconduct in 2016, and Katherine Kimbrel, who pleaded guilty to custodial misconduct in 2019.

Echo Glen Children’s Center

  • In August 2009, a former female inmate housed at the Echo Glen Children’s Center in Snoqualmie filed a lawsuit against the Washington Department of Social and Health Services over claims that she was forcibly raped by Officer Robert H. Fox while incarcerated at the facility in May 2006. The suit claimed that Fox, who had been grooming the victim for some time, entered her room, removed her clothes, and assaulted her. The lawsuit was eventually settled in July 2011 when the DSHS agreed to pay $375,000 after Fox pleaded guilty to first-degree custodial sexual misconduct.

Naselle Youth Camp

  • In July 2021, the state of Washington paid a total of $805,000 to settle sexual abuse lawsuits brought by four former detainees at the Naselle Youth Camp. All four survivors raised allegations of abuse against former counselor Michael Nolan that occurred, sometimes repeatedly, between 2018 and 2019 during skinny dipping and “sweat lodge” rituals orchestrated by Nolan. Nolan was arrested and charged with multiple sex crimes in January 2021, but charges were later dropped. Naselle was closed in September 2022.
  • In January 2021, former Naselle Youth Camp employee Steven D. Wirkkala was charged with commercial sexual abuse in connection to inappropriate behavior with a 12-year-old victim on social media. Though the charges did not relate to Wirkkala’s employment at Naselle, where he has worked since mid-2020, authorities were investigating his conduct with minors at the camp.

Do I Have a Case?

You may have grounds to file a civil legal action if:

  • You were sexually abused by a guard, counselor, or other juvenile detention center staff member.
  • The abuse occurred at any secure juvenile residential facility, community facility, or treatment program in Washington.

Levy Konigsberg represents survivors in civil lawsuits that aim to hold juvenile detention center operators and the DCYF accountable for their failures to stop abusive staff members and protect young inmates.

As civil claims, these cases are separate from any criminal proceedings that may arise from abuse and focus instead on holding institutions liable for damages. This means you may still have a claim even if:

  • Your abuser is no longer alive.
  • Your abuser was never charged or convicted of a crime.

Recoverable Damages in Sexual Abuse Claims

In addition to providing accountability and a sense of justice, civil sex abuse lawsuits allow survivors to recover financial compensation for their damages, which may include:

  • Past medical and mental health expenses
  • Future mental health expenses, including therapy, medications, etc.
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish and psychological harm
  • Lost income
  • Other economic and non-economic damages

Washington Proposed New Law to Eliminate Civil Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations

Washington state lawmakers are currently considering a measure that would greatly reform laws surrounding the amount of time sexual abuse survivors have to file civil lawsuits for compensation.

Like other survivor-focused laws passed across the country, Washington’s proposed law (House Bill 1618) accounts for the fact that survivors face considerable challenges when it comes to processing their abuse and connecting it to damages they experience later in life – especially in cases involving minors.

Under current Washington state law, survivors of sexual abuse have three years from the date of their abuse, or three years from the date they discover that their damages (which can include addiction, self-harm, and other mental health issues) are connected to their abuse, to file civil lawsuits. If passed, HB 1618 would:

  • Eliminate the three-year civil statute of limitations, giving sexual abuse survivors in Washington an unlimited amount of time to file claims against their abusers and/or the entities and institutions that failed to protect them.
  • Retroactively apply to claims that were time-barred under the previous statute of limitations, giving survivors abused at any time in the past the right to file lawsuits.

Our legal team at Levy Konigsberg has extensive experience representing survivors in states that have passed survivor-friendly legislation and is closely tracking Washington’s proposed measure. If you have questions about a potential case and your rights under the current statute of limitations or proposed new laws, we’re available to help.

Call For a FREE Consultation: (800) 315-3806

Levy Konigsberg has recovered more than $3 billion in compensation for clients, including millions in compensation for survivors of sexual abuse. We’re passionate about helping survivors seek justice and provide the firepower they need to fight back against powerful institutions.

If you have questions about pursuing a lawsuit over sexual abuse that occurred when you were a juvenile housed at a youth detention center or jail anywhere in Washington, we want to help. We serve survivors statewide and work on contingency, which means there’s no cost to hire and no fee unless we win.

Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online for a FREE and confidential consultation.

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