A San Francisco community has been shocked by allegations that sexual abuse involving children took place at a local nonprofit facility that helps vulnerable children and teens.

Did The Edgewood Center for Children and Families Fail To Protect The Kids They Serve?

child survivor at Edgewood facilityAccording to police records, the discovery of the alleged sexual abuse began with an anonymous tip provided to officers in 2018. This simple tip resulted in a massive nationwide investigation, resulting in police and FBI hunting for individuals involved in producing and sharing child pornography.

Of the nearly 20 individuals, one is a man named Graham Bessermin and he has been accused of actively sexually assaulting children and videotaping the entire attack so that it could be shared with others. He then did spread the material to others. He was arrested in May 2019 and police discovered additional child pornography on his phone. At the time of his arrest, he worked the night shift at Edgewood Center for Children and Families as a supervisor.

The first allegation, however, involved a totally separate employee and was first reported in April.

SF Employee Allegedly Groped Edgewood Resident

According to the report made to state officials, an Edgewood employee went into a 14-year-old resident’s room in the middle of the night and then grabbed the female resident’s breasts and buttocks. The victim told another employee about the incident and a report to state officials was immediately made. Surveillance videos and interviews with others supported the victim’s allegations and the male employee was fired. Edgewood employees helped the victim and her family file a police report, however, the Department of Social Services has required that Edgewood submit to various reforms including employee training on how to report abuse.

The San Francisco’s Public Health Department and Human Services Agency has also stopped referring patients to the facility after the release of the allegations. If Edgewood can show a plan that will protect children in its care from sexual predators, those referrals may be reinstated.

As state officials and Edgewood employees continue to contact current and former patients about the reported sexual assault, it is likely that additional victims will come forward.

Why Do Sexual Assault Victims Fail To Report Their Assault?

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, only about 12% of all child sexual assaults are reported and overall, 63% of all rapes and sexual assaults go unreported.  The question is, why are so many victims staying silent? The answer is complicated.

The reality is that victims don’t report for a wide variety of reasons, including:

  1. Love: Eight out of ten victims know their attacker and their complicated emotional entanglement puts pressure on their decision to report.
  2. Fear: It’s not uncommon for victims to be threatened – especially child victims. Abusers may threaten death, injury to loved ones, or other punishments if the victim speaks up.
  3. Disbelief: Sadly, it’s not uncommon for survivors to be victim-blamed. Comments about their outfit, what they were doing at the time of the assault, and comments about their looks, in general, are typical. Many victims also believe that law enforcement can’t or won’t help protect them.

This is why it’s important, especially in facilities that treat children, for employees to help look for and report any warning signs or abuse that is discovered. If the facility owners, managers, or employees fail to do their duty and a child is abused, they could face a civil legal complaint.

Sexual Assault Survivors Have Incredibly Powerful Legal Options

In addition to criminal charges that could see a sexual predator punished for their actions with jail time and other consequences, a sexual assault survivor has the right to file a civil lawsuit against those whose negligence allowed the crime to take place.

For example, if a student is sexually assaulted by a teacher who has a history of inappropriate contact with students, the school could be considered negligent if they didn’t perform the necessary background checks during the hiring process or if they failed to remove that teacher from their position when the first allegations were made. In a case like this, the student could take action against both the teacher and the school.

If you are a survivor who is interested in learning more about your legal options, contact the experienced legal team at Abuse Guardians. Together we can fight for the compensation that will ensure you get the care you need to build a bright and beautiful future.