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The Next Frontier of Scholarly Study: Sexual Abuse in Puerto Rico

March 13, 2013


We often broach the notion of statutes of limitation, typically within the context of how such time constraints serve the purposes of certain pedophiles and hinder the ability of the abused to seek damages in civil litigation.

Let’s look at the notion of time limits in a different way and ask rhetorically: Is there a built-in time period after which the effects on the victim miraculously just disappear?
Common sense tells us such a supposition is ridiculous. Anecdotal evidence continually reveals to those of us who litigate against accused abusers that the devastating effects on victims can linger for entire lifetimes.

An ongoing scholarly study seems to show precisely how observable the damage to victims can be. It’s being conducted among subjects in Puerto Rico: interesting given that the Caribbean island probably isn’t the first place many think of when the topic of child sexual abuse is brought up. Here, then, from a 2011 article in the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times, is a refresher:

“SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A lawsuit filed Monday in a Puerto Rico court accuses a St. John’s Abbey [a Minnesota institution] monk of sexually abusing a teenager in 1978 at a boarding school in [the Puerto Rican city of] Humacao.
“The lawsuit accuses the Rev. Raymond Francisco Schulte of abusing the boy at the San Antonio Abad boarding school that was run by St. John’s Abbey. Schulte was assigned as a monk, priest, teacher and principal at the school from 1977 to 1981.

“The lawsuit accuses Schulte, who also was known as Father Ray or Father Francisco, of sexually abusing at least two other students at the school and of recruiting at least one boy to attend St. John’s Prep School.

“The lawsuit accuses Schulte of continuing the abuse at the Prep School when the student enrolled there and when Schulte returned there in 1981 to serve as Prep School chaplain.

“Mike Ford, the attorney representing St. John’s Abbey, said last week that the abbey would discuss resolution to the case even though the decades-old allegations might put the case outside the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations in civil cases is the time in which a victim must file a claim or be barred from doing so.

“The complaint filed Monday against Schulte indicates that the victim didn’t ‘have knowledge of the injuries relating to the sexual abuse‘ until June, 2010. In May, 2010, an investigator interviewed the man related to a case involving another possible Schulte victim. The man described what had happened to him with Schulte in an affidavit, and then ‘began to think about the sexual abuse by Fr. Schulte and the ways that these acts had injured him,’ according to the complaint.

“‘Plaintiff also, for the first time, was aware that Fr. Schulte had sexually abused more than he and his friend, while at (San Antonio Abad boarding school). This knowledge led the Plaintiff to believe that the Defendant St. John’s may in some way be responsible for failing to supervise Fr. Schulte, for failing to protect Plaintiff from Fr. Schulte, and that St. John’s may have defrauded the Plaintiff.’”

The above, then, given the Ford quote, indicates how a statute of limitations can shield an alleged perpetrator.
Now to the abstract for the scholarly study being conducted at Carlos Albizu University in San Juan: ”This study explores dissociative symptoms in three different groups of Puerto Rican children. Data were collected on 40 children with documented sexual abuse history, 39 children with psychiatric disorders but without a history of sexual abuse, and 40 community control children.
“Dissociative symptoms were assessed with the child using the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC); a social worker answered the Child Dissociative Checklist (CDC). Results indicated that children with sexual abuse obtained significantly different scores on both the TSCC and the CDC.
“Further analysis indicated that child and social worker reports of dissociative symptoms were highly correlated . . . Furthermore, 30 percent of the children in the sexual-abuse group scored at or above the cutoff point of 12 on the CDC, which is indicative of a dissociative disorder. None of the children in the other two groups obtained such a score.
“The results suggest that children with documented sexual-abuse victimization demonstrate a significant number of dissociative phenomena that not only are subjectively experienced but also can be observed by a non-family member.
“Finally, as nearly a third of the abused children obtained a score of 12 or higher on the CDC, the next step is to prepare clinicians to conduct a proper and formal diagnosis assessment of dissociative disorders.”
Meanwhile we await a way to assure such victims and their friends and loved ones that, someday, a statute of limitations will magically make their agonies go away.

Our attorneys are highly experienced in childhood sexual abuse law  and offer free initial consultations to potential clients. We are also willing to assist other attorneys in sexual abuse cases. Please call 206-257-3590, or email us directly. Conversations will be kept confidential, and even if you are unsure about a lawsuit, often we can direct you to the assistance you need. You will be treated with compassion and respect.

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