Sexual Abuse at the Hands of Teachers are Running Rampant: Are We Ignoring It?
In the last year, the media has begun steadying its focus on the topic of sexual assault. It appears that not a day goes by without a news story surrounding a victim outing his/her perpetrator. With most of these stories involving celebrities, it is almost too easy to lose sight of the fact that sexual abuse is not just exclusive to the moguls of Hollywood—it runs rampant among school-aged children.
According to statistics provided in the 2015 Child Maltreatment Report from the Children’s Bureau, there were 4 million received reports of child maltreatment. The child abuse reports involved 7.2 million children, with 8.4% of those being victims of sexual abuse. If those numbers are not disturbing enough, consider the following statistics provided by the United States Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website: A rough estimate of 60% of the sexual abuse perpetrators are known to the child, but are not family members; roughly 30% of the perpetrators are family members; the remaining 10% of perpetrators are strangers. 35.8% of sexual assaults occur when the victim is between the ages of 12 and 17, and 82% of juvenile victims are female.
With 60% of perpetrators being non-relatives but known to the child, it begs the questions: “Who are these perpetrators and how are they getting access to the child?” Our often-overlooked sources are the very institutions we send children to for learning: Schools. Unfortunately, those to whom we entrust our children’s safety and education often miss or ignore obvious signs that a fellow school official is a danger to the safety of these youngsters. Los Angeles, alone, has suffered the blow of $300 million and counting in settlements due to such ignorance or negligence. Telfair elementary school in Los Angeles hired Paul Chapel III to be a teacher without having conducted any internal investigations on him. He was dismissed from his previous teaching job after allegations surfaced that he abused a boy. Court documents alleged that that teachers at his first district school in Northridge had warned of inappropriate behavior on his part (i.e., placing children on his lap and closing his classroom door with students inside during break times). With these complaints and others waged against him, he was still afforded far too much contact with children. Complaints against another former teacher in Los Angeles, Robert Pimentel, spanned as far as a decade. Back in 2002, his supervisor at the time expressed concerns over him touching female students’ calves as well as slapping their buttocks. Pimentel admitted to the actions, blaming his conduct on medication he was taking. It was not until 3 years later that the supervisor received a search warrant requesting Pimentel’s employment and personnel files, due to an investigation involving his alleged abuse of a minor related to him. Why initial concerns over his inappropriate behavior toward female students were not reconciled is a concerning mystery.
These stories are neither the only of their kind nor exclusive to California. These stories are widespread throughout the country. Unfortunately, it seems negligence and ignorance play major roles in how these perpetrators are able to gain access to our children.