Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.

Juvenile Detention Center Sexual Abuse

Victims and survivors of abuse at juvenile detention centers may be entitled to seek justice and file lawsuits to pursue compensation for their damages.

Survivor Advocate

Key Takeaways

  • Juveniles in detention centers are often subjected to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
  • Victims of abuse in detention centers can pursue justice and file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrators and the state, local, or other facility operators.
  • Many states have changed their statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse, giving survivors more time to file lawsuits.

Children sentenced to juvenile detention centers face the prospect of abuse from other inmates, corrections officers, and other staff members. These juveniles cannot legally consent to a sexual encounter, making all instances of sexual contact between staff and children a form of sexual abuse.

Survivors of abuse at juvenile detention centers have rights and legal options to pursue justice and compensation for their losses. Due to recent changes in state laws, many more abuse victims may now be eligible to file lawsuits. If you or a loved one has been the victim of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in a juvenile hall, Helping Survivors can connect you with an experienced lawyer who can advise you regarding your legal rights and options, including a civil lawsuit to pursue compensation for your losses.

Last Date Modified
June 14, 2024

Overview of Juvenile Detention Center Abuse

Minors incarcerated at youth detention centers face abuse at the hands of staff members who hold significant control over their lives. The power relationship in detention centers makes it hard for victims to speak out about abuse for fear of retaliation or loss of privileges. Several types of abuse occur in detention centers, including:

  • Physical violence and use of excessive force
  • Intentional deprivation of medical care
  • Sexual assault and abuse such as rape, sodomy, fondling, and forced kissing
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Sexual harassment
  • Exposure
  • Taking and distributing sexual pictures or videos
  • Exchanging sex for privileges or demanding sex to maintain them

It is critical to remember that minors, as defined by each state’s laws, cannot consent to sexual activity with adults. Additionally, state and federal laws specifically protect minors in detention centers. Consent is not a defense to sexual contact with a detained minor. Despite increased efforts to combat this abuse, alleged abuse has occurred at facilities, including those listed below.

Detention Centers Accused of Sexual Abuse

Juvenile Detention Center Abuse in the Headlines​

Juvenile detention center abuse has captured the headlines recently in part because of new laws granting more time for victims to file sexual abuse lawsuits. For example, the Maryland Child Victims Act eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits by child sex abuse victims. Some states have granted a look-back period, with a specific time for survivors to file suits that the statute of limitations would typically bar. Maryland wholly eradicated the deadline.

Thankfully, experienced and compassionate sexual abuse lawyers will listen to survivors’ stories and advocate for their best interests. They can counsel you regarding your reporting options, including seeking monetary damages by filing a lawsuit against the facility for the harm you suffered. It is sometimes difficult to gather the needed evidence for detention center sexual abuse cases, but skilled attorneys know where to look to find the documentation and witness statements needed to build strong cases.

As abuse victims have received more time to file lawsuits, many reports of egregious and systematic abuse have made headlines. These extensions of the statute of limitations have allowed survivors to step forward and finally report their abuse. In some cases, hundreds of youth detention center victims are coming forward at once:

  • The state of Illinois is facing a lawsuit filed by 95 men and women alleging pervasive abuse at the state’s juvenile detention centers from 1996 to 2017. Many plaintiffs stated they were coerced into or rewarded for not filing complaints while detained. The suit alleges abuse across nine detention centers involving corrections officers, sergeants, therapists, nurses, a chaplain, and others.
  • Hundreds of previous inmates are suing for sexual abuse across multiple juvenile detention facilities in Maryland. Many of the victims allege they reported their abuse but that administrators did nothing to address it.
  • In April 2024, former inmates filed more than 150 lawsuits against juvenile detention centers in the Bronx. The accusations date back to the 1970s and involve Horizon Juvenile Center, Rikers Island, and Spofford Juvenile Detention Center.
  • In 2023, nearly 600 people filed lawsuits claiming abuse across Los Angeles County juvenile detention facilities. The lawsuit asserts that victims were threatened and punished for reporting the actions of corrections officers and other staff actions, or that administrators ignored their complaints.

These recent cases give much-needed new attention to the sweeping problem of abuse in juvenile youth centers. There is renewed attention at higher levels of government as well. Senator Jon Ossoff, the U.S. Senate Human Rights Subcommittee chairman, has launched an inquiry into detention center abuse in his home state of Georgia and nationwide. He noted that while states must be responsible for what happens to children in their care, the federal government also has a role in protecting these vulnerable juveniles.

Why File a Juvenile Hall Abuse Lawsuit

Every survivor’s experience is unique. What you choose to do is ultimately your choice—there is no right or wrong path to recovery. However, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Abuse can have long-term consequences, including chronic illness, permanent injury, and psychological trauma. You have the right to file a civil lawsuit to seek justice and compensation for your losses. Lawsuits also tell other survivors they are not alone and that they, too, can step forward to talk about their victimization. In some cases, perpetrators of sexual or other violence against children in detention centers can also be held criminally liable for their actions.

It is critical to talk to an experienced sex abuse attorney in your area if you wish to file a lawsuit. Like Maryland, other states have also granted victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to file their claims. These statutes vary by state, and many contain provisions regarding when the last act of abuse occurred. An experienced attorney can review your case and tell you if you can file a claim in your jurisdiction.

A skilled lawyer can also tell you the best place to file your suit. Some victims bring their cases to state courts. However, if you are alleging that your abuse violated your constitutional rights, you can file suit in federal court.

It is a tough decision to speak out against abuse in juvenile detention facilities, particularly while still incarcerated. If you or a loved one are experiencing abuse now or have experienced abuse in the past, consult an experienced sex abuse lawyer. An attorney can help direct you to support services to help deal with your trauma and make recommendations about whether and how to move forward in seeking justice and compensation.

Want To Speak With A Lawyer?

Understand your legal rights and options as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse.