Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Deaf and Blind Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence

Deaf and Blind Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence

It is estimated that children with disabilities are 4 to 10 times more vulnerable to sexual abuse than their non-disabled peers (National Resource Center on Child Sexual Abuse, 1992)

If you know of any resources for Jewish individuals who are deaf / hard of hearing, blind and are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, please send them to: VickiPolin@aol.com

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:

Organizations that address the needs of deaf Jewish Survivors of sexual violence


  1. Silent Voices: Preparing Deaf Children for Court
  2. Abuse widespread at schools for the deaf nationwide
  3. Decades of sex abuse plague deaf school - For generations, state's students kept secrets
  4. Abused Deaf Woman's Advocacy Services  Providing services to Deaf and Deaf-Blind victims of sexual assault and/or domestic violence.
  5. Deaf Abused Woman Warrior's Web Network
  6. Deaf Abused Women & Children Advocacy Services  Provides victim services to people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deaf/Blind, and Late Deafened.
  7. California Deaf-Blind Services - Strategies for Minimizing the Risk of Sexual Abuse 

Cases of Sexual Violence in the Deaf Jewish Community
  1. Case of the New York Society for the Deaf - Group Home


Organizations that address the needs of blind Jewish Survivors of sexual violence

  1. Experiences of Childhood Sexual Abuse among Visually Impaired Adults in Norway: Prevalence and Characteristics (2005)


Silent Voices: Preparing Deaf Children for Court
National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse
Volume 19, Number 10, 2006

Properly preparing your witnesses for court is a major factor in successfully prosecuting a case. To assure that you have thoroughly prepared your victim, proper means of communication is the key. When the victim is a child, communication must be altered so that the child understands the questions. What happens when that child has a communication barrier, such as being deaf or hard of hearing? It is your job to find other means of communicating. When assigned a case where the victim is a deaf child, consider the following practical tips as you prepare for trial.

Preparing the Deaf Child for Court
Approximately twenty million people in this country are deaf or hard of hearing, one million of whom are children between the ages of three and seventeen.2 To communicate effectively with a deaf person, and before adjusting an interview for a young deaf victim, an understanding of the differences in communication methods in the D/deaf community is needed.3

First, there must be an assessment of the child's communication ability. It is helpful to know when the child became deaf or lost his or her hearing. Studies show that children whose hearing-loss is identified prior to six months of age have higher language abilities than later-identified deaf children.4 Accordingly, if you know that your victim has been deaf since birth, there is a higher potential that the child's language skills have been developed with the hearing loss in mind. He or she may have developed communication skills using sign language or lip reading. If the child became deaf later in life or the hearing loss was not discovered immediately, there is a strong possibility that the child's language abilities were being developed through speech and hearing language. As a result, the child may not understand what was being taught, and may have delayed his or her language abilities. Once you know when the hearing loss occurred, you can adjust the level and types of questions you ask during preparation.

Second, discern whether anyone in the child's home is deaf and/or fluent in sign language. Only 12% of deaf children are born to deaf parents.5 Many deaf children are born to parents who cannot communicate with them and they are not exposed to formal communication skills until they attend school.6 If your victim has not had any exposure to formal communication, it may be more difficult initially to find someone who can communicate with the child. Services provided by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID), can assist you in identifying persons who are skilled in the various means of communication in the D/deaf community.The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID) is a national membership organization that provides certification programs and also has a searchable database where you can locate certified interpreters.7

Finally, ascertain what mode of communication this child uses. Although American Sign Language (ASL) is the fourth most used language in the United States,8 not all deaf people use ASL to communicate. Some deaf children communicate though "homesign," i.e., making statements and requests through pointing and gestures.9 Others communicate through Pidgin Sign English (PSE), which is a combination of American Sign Language and English word order.10Yet another means of communication is Manually Coded English (MCE), which is word-for-word English signed on the hands. MCE is generally used by people who have lost their hearing later in life.11 How the child communicates affects what type of interpreter is obtained. Ask any potential interpreters whether they are fluent in or familiar with any other means of communication within the D/deaf community other than sign language. Using an interpreter who is only fluent in sign language will not be effective with a child who homesigns or uses one of these other forms of communication.

Locating an Interpreter
All deaf interpreters are fluent in sign language but not all are trained to interpret in legal situations, nor are most trained to interpret with someone who homesigns. Determine what kind of interpreter would be best suited for the child's needs. Statistics show that the average deaf student graduates from high school with a fifth-grade reading level.12 As a result, writing notes to an adult who is deaf is not an effective means of communication and certainly is not appropriate for a young deaf child. In order to assure that your victim understands who you are and what is going to happen find an interpreter who is able to cross communication lines. Several types of deaf interpreters are available.

1. Certified Interpreter.A certified interpreter (CI) is a person who is fluent in American Sign Language. A CI, although trained in ASL, is not necessarily proficient in other means of communication such as gestures or homesign. If your victim is not proficient in ASL you may need a Certified Deaf Interpreter.

2. Certified Deaf Interpreter.A certified deaf interpreter (CDI) is a person who is deaf and has native or near-native fluency in ASL.13 CDIs have an understanding of D/deaf culture and are also trained in gestures, mime, and other means of communication. As a deaf person, a CDI has first-hand experience that will be invaluable to the communication process. CDIs work as a team with a hearing interpreter. Utilizing a CDI in an advisory role is a good preparation tool. A CDI can help you formulate proper questions and can provide insight into D/deaf culture. A CDI can also suggest better ways to communicate with your victim based on the CDI's experiences as a deaf person. All interpreters are held to ethical standards similar to attorneys.14 According to the ethical standards as provided by RID, interpreters must remain neutral and must not provide advice, counsel, or opinions. Therefore, if you use a CDI in an advisory capacity, you will not be able to use the same interpreter for trial. Although it would b beneficial to always use a CDI, there are very few in the country. Consequently, for the purposes of trial you should use a certified interpreter who has a legal specialist certificate.

3. Certified Interpreter with Legal Specialist Certificate. A certified interpreter with a legal specialist certificate has specialized knowledge of legal settings and a greater familiarity with legal terminology.15 It is important to use an interpreter who is familiar with legal terminology and the court process. English and ASL do not translate word-forword.

An interpreter who is a legal specialist will be better equipped to interpret certain legal terms that do not necessarily have an ASL equivalent.

Ideally, every state should have sufficient numbers of CDIs and CIs with legal specialist certificates.That is not always the case. If you are unable to secure a specialized interpreter, make an effort to develop relationships within your local D/deaf community to further your knowledge and understanding of communication within the D/deaf culture.

Communicating with Your Deaf Victim
Once you have gained an understanding of how the child communicates, there are some other basic tips to remember when communicating with the child.

First, do not attempt to communicate when the child is reading or looking at something. Communication in the D/deaf community is visual; therefore, if your victim is looking at something he or she cannot see you. It is important that you wait until the child is looking at you or the interpreter

before you begin communication again. Second, do not forget that your victim is a person. Although you have to communicate through an interpreter, be mindful that you are speaking to the child.Try to remember not to tell the interpreter to "ask him or ask her" because pursuant to their code of ethics, interpreters are required to interpret everything you say and those statements seem as if you are not talking directly to your victim. Third, be mindful of how you ask questions.Try not to ask compound questions. Also, try not to speak at a rapid pace.You do not want to overwhelm the interpreter. Fourth, position yourself in the room so that the witness can see you and the interpreter clearly. Body language is an important tool in D/deafcommunication.16

Finally, do not forget to educate the court, opposing counsel, and the jury about the communication differences of your witness.17 Most people have very little exposure to the D/deaf community and may be watching someone interpreting for the first time.You do not want the focus to be on the interpreters.This child is a victim of a crime and the focus should be on the child's statements, not how they are conveyed.

As with all witnesses, particularly child victims, preparation by the prosecutor, as well as all allied professionals assisting with the prosecution, is essential to effective presentation of the evidence. Implementing the aforementioned suggestions will help facilitate better communication between you and the child and will help ensure that the child is prepared for court and the proceedings to come.

  1. Jada L.Warfield is a Staff Attorney with the American Prosecutors Research Institute's National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse.
  2. See Gallaudet University's Library of Deaf-related resources at http://library.gallaudet.edu/dr/faq-statistics-deaf-us.html.
  3. For the purposes of this article, the term D/deaf will be used for both deaf and hard of hearing children. D/deaf also indicates both physical deafness and identification with Deaf culture.The term hearing-impaired gives an inference of a disability which is not culturally appropriate and should not be used.
  4. Christine Yoshinaga-Itano et al., Language of Early and Later-Identified Children with Hearing Loss, 102:5 PEDIATRICS 1161, 1169 (1998).
  5. Sharon M. Ridgeway, Abuse and Deaf Children: Some Factors to Consider, 2 CHILD ABUSE REV. 166, 167 (1993).
  6. Tyron Woolfe et al., Signpost to Development:Theory of Mind in Deaf Children, 73:3 CHILD DEVELOPMENT 768, 769 (2002). ("Deaf children who are born into families with a deaf communicative partner who uses a sign language are `native signers'.They have access to language even before school owing to the presence in their household of at least one fluent user of a sign language....")
  7. RID has chapters around the country and a listing of those chapters can be found on their web page at http://www.rid.org/index.html.
  8. Mickey Flodin, SIGNING ILLUSTRATED:THE COMPLETE LEARNING GUIDE 9 (Berkley Publishing Group eds., 1994).
  9. Rachel I. Mayberry, Cognitive Development in Deaf Children:The Interface of Language and Perception in Neuropsychology, in HANDBOOK OF NEUROPSYCHOLOGY 71, 78 (S.J. Segalowitz and I.Rapin eds., 2002).
  10. Jo Anne Simon, Symposium:The Use of Interpreters For the Deaf and the Legal Community's Obligation to Comply with the A.D.A., 8 J.L. & HEALTH 155, 162 (1993-94).
  11. Id. at 164.
  12. SeeYoshinaga-Itano, supra note 4, at 1161. [Emphasis added].
  13. For more information about CDIs, please visit http://www.rid.org/cdip.html.
  14. http://www.rid.org/codeofethics.pdf
  15.  http://www.rid.org/expl.html
  16. For more information about body language, deaf victims, and trial, please see Suzanna Tiapula, Learning to Read the Signs: Prosecution Strategies for Child Abuse Cases with Deaf Victims and Witnesses, APRI'S NATIONAL CENTER FOR PROSECUTION OF CHILD ABUSE UPDATE NEWSLETTER 18: (5) (2005).
  17. A good resource for educating the court is The National Child Traumatic Stress Network's Facts on Trauma and Deaf Children. For more information please visit http://www.nctsnet.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/edu_materials/FactsonTraumaandDeafChildren.pdf.

Abuse widespread at schools for the deaf nationwide
Seattle PI

  • 160 sex-related incidents at the Washington State School for the Deaf between September 1998 and February 2001. 
  • At least 100 other incidents, including 14 alleged rapes, several attempted rapes and dozens of molestations over the preceding decade. 
  • It took a string of five reported student-on-student rapes in 1999 to spur safety improvements. 
  • Lack of oversight continued for decades at the 120-student school. 

Rumors of rapes and molestations on the campus of the 115-year-old Washington State School for the Deaf circulated for years among parents of students. A Seattle Post-Intelligencer investigation identified dozens of child-rape victims over a half-century and raised serious concerns about the residential school's continuing failure to protect children.

Response to the P-I's report was immediate and fueled an expanded investigation. The P-I found that at least half of the nation's 50 taxpayer-funded schools for the deaf have been embroiled in controversies about sexual and physical abuse over the last two decades.


Decades of sex abuse plague deaf school - For generations, state's students kept secrets
By Ruth Teichroeb
Seattle Post - Intelligencer - Wednesday, April 25, 2001

VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Scores of parents shared the haunting secret. Most walked away, silently, with their wounded children.

For decades, officials at the 115-year-old Washington School for the Deaf have ignored or discounted a persistent pattern of sexual abuse.

It took a string of five reported student-on-student rapes two years ago to spur safety improvements at the insular, state-run school in Vancouver, perched above the Columbia River Valley.

Security cameras were installed. The school got its own cop. A 6-foot fence topped with barbed wire went up, to keep danger out.

Today, the fence has become a symbol of how a state agency and its watchdogs failed children in the worst possible way -- by refusing to see that the biggest threat was inside the 120-student residential school.

Abuse has been shattering the lives of deaf youngsters at the school for at least half a century -- and students still aren't safe, an eight-month Seattle Post-Intelligencer investigation has found. Perpetuating a cycle of rape, molestation and sexual harassment, some of the hunted have become hunters, using staff positions to prey on boys and girls.

The P-I has identified dozens of victims, dating as far back as the 1950s, who are tormented by memories of what one called a "sex school."

"Shut it down," said Ted Karanson, a Lacey teacher of deaf students and guardian of a youth abused at the school. "As long as an institution is victimizing kids, it doesn't deserve to exist. This has got to stop."

Records show that 132 sex-related incidents, from sexual harassment to rape, were reported at the school in the two years before new safety improvements took effect last September.

Tim Amundson, 53, says he was sexually abused by a staff member when he was 7 years old at the Washington School for the Deaf in Vancouver. He said he is disgusted with the security fence outside the school. The problem, he said, is on the inside. Amundson was just 5 when he first enrolled.

At least 100 other incidents, including 14 alleged rapes, several attempted rapes and dozens of molestations, were reported over the preceding decade, according to a P-I computer analysis of school, police, court and state Child Protective Services records.

Most often, older students abused younger ones. But adults, too, took their toll. Over the last five decades, records and interviews show staff members had sex with teenage girls, while others raped young boys and fondled girls. Still others beat children.

Superintendent Len Aron insists there's no reason for alarm.

"We have children who are very, very safe here," said Aron, 49, appointed in 1998. "And, historically, they've been safe here."

During his first year in charge, however, students were accused of raping five fellow students. Four of the reported attacks were in campus bathrooms. A student who was a registered sex offender allegedly raped a cheerleader on a school bus.

Aron, citing confidentiality concerns, declined to discuss any specific allegations of sexual abuse involving his students.

He flatly denied that a rape has occurred during his tenure.

The pattern of abuse shows few signs of slowing. During the first half of this school year, students were involved in 28 incidents of groping, fondling and sexual harassment, records show. A student also reported another boy had paid him to have sex the previous year.

On Feb. 12, a 12-year-old girl alleged she was forced to repeatedly have sex with a boy at the urging of four older teenagers in one of the three new residences designed for better security -- under the noses of dorm counselors.

Joel Sibert, 19, a former student at the School for the Deaf, was convicted in 1997 of sexually assaulting a classmate. Of the recent lawsuits, he says, "Somebody is trying to milk the system for money. I feel the school is very safe."

No charges were filed against the suspect or the boys who served as lookouts.

Questions raised by the P-I's investigation prompted Gov. Gary Locke last month to quietly order two major external reviews of the school examining the safety of the residential program and gaps in oversight.

He has declined to comment on the controversy, referring all questions to his staff.

The P-I's review of thousands of pages of documents and interviews with dozens of former School for the Deaf students, parents, teachers and others has revealed the following:

  • Cycle of abuse: Children who were sexually assaulted by staff or other students sometimes became offenders.

  • Spotty reporting: The school has an erratic record of reporting incidents to police and CPS, especially in the past.

  • Policies, training lacking: Sloppy internal records and unclear procedures have hindered follow-up. Staff dismissed some reported attacks as consensual sex.

  • Few outside investigations: Since 1998, Vancouver Police Department records show just 11 sex-related investigations. Few criminal charges have been filed. CPS investigated just 11 of 28 sex-related abuse reports since September 1998, often taking up to a year -- two years in one instance -- to complete reports. The delays were blamed on understaffing. CPS did not fault the school for poor supervision in a single case of student-on-student sexual abuse.

  • Offenders on campus: Convicted sex offenders can remain at the school at the superintendent's discretion. Sexually aggressive students, including at least three convicted sex offenders, have been allowed to stay on campus and have allegedly assaulted more victims.

  • Token oversight : An appointed advisory board, with no power to hire, fire or set policy, meets quarterly. The facility is not licensed, so the Department of Social and Health Services can't enforce its recommendations. The school is one of 34 small state agencies reporting directly to the governor, a mere blip on his radar. 

After hearing horror stories from a handful of parents, lawmakers last year mandated safety improvements at the school. A blue-ribbon task force recommended additional changes.

Four multimillion-dollar negligence lawsuits have been filed against the school and the state of Washington: two on behalf of 1999 rape victims; the others alleging earlier abuse.

"They've turned out these horribly damaged children who deserve help," said Stephen Bulzomi, a Tacoma attorney whose firm represents three former students. "These families want to bring it to light and make it stop."

Superintendent Len Aron with Dave Cowsert, the school's community police officer. Cowsert, who knows some sign language, recently started working part-time at the school to help improve safety. During 1998, Aron's first year in charge, students were accused of raping five classmates.

For years, Locke and DSHS have defended the school's safety record, insisting children have not been at risk.

Their denials are like putting a Band-Aid on a malignant tumor and hoping it doesn't spread, said University of Alberta at Edmonton professor Doug Sobsey, an expert on institutional abuse of the disabled.

"You can't fix the problem if you don't fully acknowledge it," he said.

But fears that bad publicity could jeopardize the school's future have fostered a taboo against speaking out, especially in the deaf community.

"The school is our last frontier in our culture," said Allie Joiner, who works with the Seattle-based Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services and sits on the Vancouver school's board of trustees.

Reporting abuse can become a deaf-versus-hearing issue: "If we try to report hearing people, we aren't believed," Joiner said. "If deaf people do it, we don't want to report them."
Lugging backpacks, children spill out of classes in the red-brick academic building on Grand Boulevard. They jostle and smile, signing back and forth. Only the absence of the usual hallway din makes this different from any other school.

Sidewalks connect the academic buildings to a gymnasium and cafeteria, then wind across a grassy quadrant to three gleaming new residence cottages, an elementary school and the aging boys' dormitory.

The $4.6 million cottages, completed in 1999, each house two separate units where 14 boys or girls ranging in age from 5 to 21 live in a comfortable, family-like setting. Each child shares a bedroom with another student. Two staff members are on duty in the evenings and one overnight, sharing a glassed-in office at the center of each cottage.

The rest of the students live in two-story Deer Hall, a traditional dormitory with shared bedrooms off long halls. Like any public school, there is no cost to attend.

Aron, who earns $84,287 a year as superintendent, came to Washington from North Carolina's Department of Human Resources in Raleigh, where he helped oversee the state's three schools for the deaf for six years. Aron had also worked as an administrator at the South Dakota School for the Deaf.

Aron left North Carolina just as its deaf schools were embroiled in controversy about whether they had properly investigated allegations of sexual abuse. The deaf division where Aron worked was under fire for not acting on safety recommendations made several months earlier by the state Youth Advocacy and Involvement Office.
Investigations by two state agencies subsequently recommended improved supervision of children, better screening of potential students and more staff training.

Locke's former deputy chief of staff said the governor's office didn't know about the North Carolina controversy when Aron was appointed.

"We wouldn't have hired him," said Fred Stephens, now director of the state Department of Licensing.

Aron arrived in Vancouver with big plans for the school, from upgrading its academic achievement and attracting more students, to renovating deteriorating buildings.

But he got off to a bad start with some parents. His most controversial edict was to ban day students from campus after 5:30 p.m. because the school lacked adequate staff for supervision. The move angered day students who were used to socializing after hours. To this day, Aron believes those disgruntled families stirred up the furor over abuse.

After news reports about alleged rapes on campus broke in August 1999, Aron erected the security fence and locked the bathrooms.

When state Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Felida, pushed through a reform bill a year ago, providing $160,000 for training, Aron set up staff safety classes, tightened abuse-reporting policies, improved screening of sexually aggressive students and installed video cameras outside buildings. He also acted on task-force recommendations, including having a campus-based police officer.

Rep. Val Ogden, D-Vancouver, who led the task force, credits Aron with "trying very hard" to fix a decades-old problem.

Past administrations, she said, were "very protective and did not make public what was going on there."

They were little boys, brimming with curiosity and fun.

But their innocence was soon stolen by Dale Campbell, a dorm worker.

"I hated him because of the abuse," said Tim Amundson, 53, who was just 5 when he first went to the school. "I wouldn't want anyone to go through what I did."

Back then, children went home just four times each school year. It wasn't until the 1980s that weekend visits were allowed. Staff served as surrogate parents.

Starved for love and affection, sexual contact between boys was common.

"We didn't see anything wrong with it. We got affection where we could," Amundson said.
He remembers feeling pure revulsion when Campbell towered over him. "He'd say, 'Do you know what this is? An ice cream cone.' It was gross."

A few years later, Campbell died in a car crash.

After graduation, Amundson ran hair salons, launched an advocacy group for deaf gays. But the pain could no longer be ignored. He shared what had happened at the school with a friend. "It was like opening up a garbage can," he said.

Vincente Dominquez,18, who was sexually abused as a young boy at the Washington School for the Deaf, hugs his mother, Gloria. The teenage boy who molested Vincente also molested another boy three years earlier

Amundson is one of the few victims willing to come forward. A number of other former students contacted by the P-I agreed to tell their stories only if their names weren't used.
One of them is Arnold, who said he also suffered the terror of Campbell's attacks. As a boy growing up at the school, he found solace in sex with his peers.

His ruined childhood caught up with him at age 32. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for raping a 10-year-old boy. Like many victims, he's oddly accepting of the childhood abuse he endured.

"There's no stopping it. It happened back then, it happened when I was there, it's still happening today," Arnold said.

By the late 1960s, little had changed. A school employee, who drank on duty, allegedly targeted William, then 7.

"He'd use a belt and pull your clothes off. He'd hit us with a ruler. Sometimes he'd make you kneel on a broom handle for hours," said William, now a Seattle resident. "It was very scary."

Although reporting child abuse was required by law, some former employees say that rarely happened.

"They didn't want negative publicity because there were efforts to shut the school down," said Patricia Bostick, a dorm counselor in the early 1980s. "Staff were afraid of losing their jobs."

One evening, she heard a developmentally disabled boy screaming on the floor above. Older teens liked to stuff the boy under blankets and pummel him -- or worse.

Bostick begged a dorm supervisor to intervene. He refused.

"I knew he was being raped. (He) bugged the adults, so they let him get what he deserved," she recalled.

One day, she caught a longtime employee with his hand down the front of a third-grade girl's shirt. It was the only time she can remember police being called. The man retired early but wasn't charged.

While on duty in the mid-1980s, Patty Graham reported the attempted rape of a young boy by a predatory older teen.

"That kind of thing was swept under the rug and just plain ignored as horseplay," said Graham, a former student who worked at the school from 1966 to 1991.

Former Superintendent Ray Ayala, who taught at the school until six years ago, doesn't recall the incident, but says he always reported abuse to CPS officials, who decided whether to call police.

"I took it seriously," said Ayala. "I didn't want my head to roll. The reputation of the school was at stake."

Not a single employee of the school is known to have been charged or convicted of abusing children. But more than one has resigned under a cloud of suspicion.

One of the first safety measures put in place by Superintendent Len Aron, in response to parents' concerns about reports of sexual abuse, was requiring visitors to wear ID badges. Aron insists there's no reason for alarm.

As a shy 6-year-old, Michael was shocked by what he saw at the school. Boys did "dirty things" in the showers. At night, he huddled under his covers, dreading sexual attacks from older boys.

But there was no escaping the male employee who raped him in his bed. One day in May 1989, the little boy packed his bags. He told staff he was going home and refused to budge.
"I was really scared. WSD was worse than a prison," recalled Michael, who still fears the employee.

His parents didn't believe his stories, but took him home. Within two years, he was diagnosed with herpes, a sexually transmitted disease. He got counseling but was never interviewed by police or school officials.

The man who allegedly raped him was forced to resign a year or two after Michael left. A dorm worker had caught him simulating sex with a baton in front of elementary school boys. Two months ago, Michael finally felt strong enough to face his past. He filed a $5 million lawsuit against the school.

It also took Melody LaPlante a few years to realize she'd been used.

In fall 1997, a staff member turned his attention on the gregarious 17-year-old student. He flirted and e-mailed her seductive notes.

"He asked if he could kiss me. I was shocked. He was a lot older than me. I thought, this is not good," LaPlante wrote in a police statement.

At first, she was flattered by the attention. Then he cornered her in an off-campus apartment, locked her in a bedroom and demanded sex. Afraid, she gave in.

Fearing she'd be blamed, she didn't report him. The previous year, she'd been suspended along with a boy who had molested her.

But word of the incident leaked out. The school called police, and the staffer, denying everything, resigned in February 1998.

"I'm angry he got away with it," said Melody, now a single parent with a baby daughter. "The whole school is a big sex school. I think it should be shut down."

The first of five alleged rapes on Aron's watch happened on Oct. 7, 1998. A student was accused of digitally raping a junior cheerleader while returning from a game on a supervised school bus.

Staff called CPS right away. But it wasn't reported to police until a week later, when CPS discovered the boy was already a Level I sex offender. Administrators had kept the boy's earlier conviction quiet to protect his privacy, according to CPS documents. He wasn't charged but was upgraded to a Level II offender.

CPS cleared the school of negligence, the same conclusion it has reached in every sexual abuse case on campus in recent years. Under state law, the facility can only be held responsible if staff assault children or blatantly neglect them, such as failing to provide medical care.

The next two rapes were blamed on a 14-year-old student who had grabbed girls' breasts and demanded sex since the start of school.

On Oct. 19, Paul, the student, attacked a girl in a school bathroom. He was suspended for a week, and was charged with second-degree rape. His victim was too frightened to come back to school.

Aron assigned an adult to supervise the boy during classes but didn't warn dorm staff, thinking he was only a threat to girls. On May 12, 1999, Paul allegedly struck again, luring a 12-year-old boy into a dorm bathroom for sex.

The younger boy's mother says he was raped. "He said, Mom, come and get me, I'm hurt,'" she recalled.

School officials had assured the boy's mother they "didn't have those kind of problems" before she enrolled him the previous September.

"They lied to me," said the mom, who pulled her son out of school. "They said they'd protect my kid and they didn't." In August 1999, she filed a $2 million lawsuit. Reluctantly, she sent the boy back to school when he insisted on returning.

Melody LaPlante, 20, and her daughter, Aaliyah, move into an apartment in Richland. LaPlante says she was forced by a male employee to have sex with him when she was 17 and a student at the Washington School for the Deaf.

Prosecutors didn't charge Paul in his encounter with the boy because they said force wasn't used. Also, the age gap between the two boys was just under two years, ruling out a child rape charge under state law.

The school expelled Paul after he pleaded guilty to third-degree rape of the girl attacked in the bathroom.

The fourth incident exposed disturbing lapses in the school's system of reporting abuse allegations.

On April 27, 1999, an older teenager, Roy, followed Liza, 14, into a cafeteria bathroom, locked the door and ripped her blue shorts off so violently he gashed her from bellybutton to pubic hair, according to a police report.

Afterward, Liza's dorm counselor refused to call police, get medical care or let her call home that night, according to the family's attorney, Joe Bowen of Mount Vernon. "That wreaked havoc with the criminal investigation," he said.

It was an accident that police found out at all.

Two police officers visited the school on other cases during the three days after the alleged rape. Both were told in passing there'd been "sexual contact" between students. The school called Liza's grandmother a day after the incident to say she'd been "improperly touched on the bottom."

"We didn't know how bad it was until she came home Friday night," said the grandmother.
Liza disintegrated, often crawling into her grandfather's arms like a small child. "Do you hate me? I'm bad," she'd say. The grandparents pulled Liza out of school and filed a $3 million lawsuit in September 1999.

Roy was suspended for a week, but denied the rape and wasn't charged. Physical evidence had been lost. What no one mentioned was that Roy, too, had been sexually victimized for years at the school. Joel Sibert, a 6-foot-tall, husky boy, pleaded guilty to trying to rape Roy in November 1996.

Sibert continued to attend classes, except for a six-month suspension after he was accused of a sex-related incident in 1998. That allegation wasn't proven and Sibert, now 19, is still angry at the academic setback.

Aron let him return while reassuring parents there were no sex offenders on campus. But under the new reform law, the school was required to have Sibert undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation as a condition of coming back last September. Furious, he refused.

The fifth major incident of Aron's first year occurred on May 27, 1999 when a dorm counselor caught two young boys having anal sex in a bathroom. One boy told a doctor he'd been forced to have sex. His attacker had been written up 18 times earlier in the year for assaulting students. The school provided counseling, suspended him twice, and set up a behavior plan. No charges were filed.

Aron won't talk about any of the alleged rapes.

"The kids want this to go away," he said. "Abuse and neglect are a worldwide problem."

But the school's victims are ready to break their silence.

"I'm extremely bitter," said Liza's grandmother. "She has been our life. We thought she was safe."

TODAY: Sexual abuse at the Washington School for the Deaf has been shattering the lives of deaf children for at least half a century.

TOMORROW: What will it take to end the cycle of abuse and make the school safe?

NOTE TO READERS: The real names of abuse victims were used with their permission. When a victim or alleged perpetrator is referred to by first name only, the name has been changed to protect that person's privacy.


California Deaf-Blind Services - Strategies for Minimizing the Risk of Sexual Abuse
by Maurice Belote
CDBS Project Coordinator - June 2002

The incidence of sexual abuse among persons with disabilities is staggeringly high, and yet abuse prevention is rarely addressed in school programs for these individuals. Teaching children who have multiple disabilities including deaf-blindness often requires creativity and the ability to adapt and modify existing materials and programs. When teaching abuse prevention, it may not be adequate to simply follow the same instructional objectives used among children without disabilities—don't talk to strangers, run away and tell a safe person if someone is trying to hurt you, etc. For a child who is deaf-blind, intervention will need to encompass many curricular domains, including the areas of communication, self-help, and social skills. The following strategies may be useful in creating an instructional program to address prevention of abuse and exploitation.

Start young. Issues of sexuality begin at an early age, and instruction during these early years creates a foundation onto which everything else can be built. Some of the early skill areas that will assist in abuse prevention instructional activities include curiosity about the bodies of other people (children and adults), names and function of body parts, and public restroom behavior. In addition, this is the time to make children feel comfortable about talking to their parents or caregivers about personal issues. This comfort level— established at an early age—will be very helpful as the child passes through adolescence and young adulthood. Despite what we may think, national research consistently suggests that teenagers want to discuss these issues with their parents, and that adult-child communication is effective in decreasing sexual risk behaviors.

Know the people who interact with your child. Sadly, most abusers aren't strangers, but people who know their victims: friends of the family, neighbors, service providers, etc. If a situation doesn't feel right, trust your instincts and intervene. An internet resource can be found at http://www.sexoffender.com that provides a database searchable by state and also a guide to Megan's Law (don't accidentally type sexoffenders—plural—or you will go to an adult material website). And while vigilance is important, there is probably no need to be overly suspicious of everyone who interacts with children. The vast majority of friends, neighbors and service providers are caring people who would never put a child's safety and well being at risk.

Make sure skills are generalized. When teaching abuse prevention skills, use the same methods that help ensure that all skills are generalized—teach the skills in multiple locations and settings, with multiple people, and at various times of the day and night. A significant component of skill acquisition is testing to determine if the skill is truly mastered and generalized. Don't assume that a child will perform in a certain way if she or he has demonstrated the skill in a contrived setting with familiar adults. You may need to set up a situation where the child must demonstrate mastery in an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar people.

Teach terminology, including slang. It may be difficult for an individual to relay information about abuse or mistreatment if the person lacks of way to communicate this clearly. Building vocabulary regarding body parts and action words is an important step to providing the individual with a communication system that will last a lifetime. It may also be necessary to specifically address the use of slang. For example, an individual who isn't knowledgeable of widely used slang terms for genitalia and sexual acts is more vulnerable because of their lack of sophistication, even if they know the proper "medical" terms for the same things.

Respect privacy; and insist that others do so, too. It is important that we provide children with significant disabilities the same respect and dignity we give all people. It may be necessary to teach the concept of modesty, and be certain that this instruction respects individual family values and norms. For children who require help with daily living, issues of privacy and modesty may be complicated by situations where adults and even peers are providing assistance with physical care needs that require intimate physical contact. One way to handle this, from an early age, is to ask the person's permission before helping with intimate or invasive tasks. If requesting permission is established early and consistently, the person who is receiving help is much more likely to feel she or he is in control of their body, and in control of where they are touched and by whom they are touched.

Teach appropriate behaviors. We want to teach our children and students to act in the same way we expect others to when those others interact with our children. For example, we want our children to resist if other people try to touch them in inappropriate places on their bodies. This will be difficult to teach if these same children have been allowed to touch others in those same places. The goal is to establish norms, so that behaviors outside of these norms are clearly viewed as such.

Put it in the IEP. Don't assume that goals and objectives discussed in the IEP meeting will be implemented if they are not part of the written plan. It isn't necessary to include everything in an IEP, but too often there is a reluctance to include items in IEPs that are out of the ordinary domains such as functional academics, gross/ fine motor, communication, etc. If a particular skill is very important to you, do not accept an explanation that instruction in this skill doesn't need to be written into the IEP because it will be addressed all the time throughout the child's program. The IEP is the family's assurance that a skill will be addressed, and also provides a forum for discussing mastery towards the goal at subsequent IEP and team meetings. For service providers, IEPs provide concrete plans, and help maintain consistency between programs and staff members during times of transition or instability.

Fact sheets from California Deaf-Blind Services are to be used by both families and professionals serving individuals with dual sensory impairments. The information applies to students 0–22 years of age. The purpose of the fact sheet is to give general information on a specific topic. More specific information for an individual student can be provided through individualized technical assistance available from CDBS. The fact sheet is a starting point for further information.


Experiences of Childhood Sexual Abuse among Visually Impaired Adults in Norway: Prevalence and Characteristics
By Marit Hoem Kvam
American Foundation for the Blind - 2005

This study compared the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse among visually impaired children and sighted children in Norway. Visually impaired women and men aged 18–65 who lost their sight before age 18 reported sexual abuse with contact before age 18 more often than did the sighted group, and the abuse of the visually impaired children was more severe. Implications for parents and teachers are presented, and the need for adapted sexual education is stressed.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank You for bringing these issues to light. It is all so horrific, and predators and enablers should have greater consequences than being asked to resign. They move on to other schools and re-offend.