Women and girls who enter inpatient rehab facilities with serious addictions or emotional issues need help regaining control over their lives. They are in an extremely vulnerable position, and may even be suicidal. Unfortunately, the people hired to protect and help them sometimes take advantage of their vulnerability and sexually abuse them. When this happens, the emotional toll can be huge. Women struggling with overwhelming issues now have to contend with being horribly victimized as well. The predators who commit these crimes against vulnerable women and girls deserve serious jail time. At The Collins Law Firm, we believe that the facilities who fail to properly vet staff and monitor their interactions with patients should be held accountable as well. Our sexual assault attorneys can help victims get justice from the institutions that failed to protect them when they were most vulnerable.
The recent sexual assault allegations at Timberline Knolls in Illinois give us a glimpse into how a facility can fail patients and put them at risk of sexual assault. According to news reports, Timberline Knolls waited at least three weeks to contact police after assault allegations surfaced regarding one of their counselors. In addition, the suspect was suspended and then reinstated twice. And despite Timberline’s assertions that the alleged assaults were isolated events, the facility has a reported history of prior incidents, including sex crimes, runaways, and missing persons. It would appear that Timberline did not have the proper procedures in place to safeguard the patients in their care. Unfortunately, the allegations at Timberline are not isolated. Our legal experience has shown us that sexual and physical abuse are serious issues for residential treatment facilities.
At first glance many facilities like Timberline Knolls seem like safe havens for desperate families looking for help for their daughters or for women dealing with a crisis, their leafy campuses seemingly bucolic and safe, but these outward trappings can be deceiving. Often, there is no supervision of staff-patient interactions. Male counselors may have one-on-one counseling sessions with fragile women and underage girls. Safety precautions may be lax, and when allegations surface, the administration often sides with the staff person and fails to take the victim’s complaints seriously. When victims have their allegations dismissed, ignored, or flat out disbelieved, they are left without recourse. In other situations, victims are afraid to speak up and so the abuse continues. In every situation, there is an adult abusing the trust of an emotionally fragile person.
Therapy at these rehab and residential facilities generally involves dependent relationships between counselors and patients. That dynamic puts patients in a vulnerable position. That is why it is the responsibility of the facility to put procedures in place to keep patients safe and to move swiftly to protect residents from any alleged abuser. So, why is this not happening? Part of the problem may lie in the fact that rehab centers are big business. Any whiff of sexual abuse or safety concerns at a facility can threaten profits. This pressures facilities to sweep allegations under the rug and keep the police from getting involved. This appears to have been the case at Timberline, where an administrator told police that the facility needed to do their own investigations first before getting corporate permission to call the police. This is unacceptable.
Vulnerable women and girls in rehab centers should not be pawns in corporate profit-making schemes. These rehab centers and residential facilities need to focus their efforts on protecting patients from predators. If they don’t, our experienced sexual assault attorneys are ready to help and support victims who want to confront the responsible parties and make them accountable. Not only will we fight for compensation for the victims, we will also push for institutional changes in hiring and safety procedures to prevent further abuse from happening.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of sexual abuse at an inpatient rehab facility or residential center, please contact one of our sexual assault attorneys as soon as possible to protect your rights under the law. Call us at 630-527-1595 for a free evaluation of your case.