The complaints were filed the same day the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023 went into effect, which eliminated the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases on civil lawsuits
Six new complaints allege a pattern of rampant sex abuse at facilities run by Maryland's Department of Juvenile Services.
The complaints allege that there were a staggering 401 cases of abuse, spanning from 1962 to 2012. At the Charles H. Hickey, Jr. School in Baltimore, Md., one complaint — which was obtained by PEOPLE — alleges more than 150 cases of sexual abuse. At Cheltenham Youth Detention Center in Cheltenham, Md., a second complaint alleges more than 100 cases of sexual abuse at the facility.
Four other facilities are also subjects of the complaints, which were reviewed by PEOPLE. They include: The Thomas J.S. Waxter Children's Center, Victor Cullen Center, The Montrose School and Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center.
All of the facilities are listed as secure detention facilities on the DJS website with the exceptions of Victor Cullen Center, which is labeled a treatment facility, and The Montrose School, which was shuttered in 1988.
The law firms Bailey Glasser, Walsh Law PLLC, Rhine Law Firm and DiCello Levitt are representing the plaintiffs. The complaints were filed the same day the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023 went into effect, which eliminated the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse cases in the state. Of the 401 allegations, the most recent is from 2012, and was ineligible to be heard until the new law went into effect.
“Finally, we see the law is catching up to what trauma experts have been telling us for years, which is child sexual abuse cases are unique,” Sharon Iskra, a partner at Bailey Glasser law firm who leads the Institutional Abuse and Neglect team, tells PEOPLE. “Not only is a child more physically vulnerable because adults are bigger, stronger and in control of everything, but they're more easily manipulated. And in this case, I hear it over and over again, our clients are told, ‘You're in this juvenile hall for a reason. You are a bad kid. You did something bad, and no one is ever going to believe you, especially you over me. I'm an adult. I'm a staff member here.’”
One survivor — labeled as John Doe 2 in the Hickey School complaint — was 14 years old when the alleged abuse began in 2000. According to the complaint, he was placed in multiple DJS facilities, including Cheltenham, Victor Cullen and the Hickey School, while awaiting transfer to a foster home.
John Doe 2 says he was raped and sodomized by staff at these facilities for approximately 15 months. He “was also and forced to engage in group sexual acts with other youth residents and perpetrators on multiple occasions,” the complaint states. “His perpetrators beat and threatened to kill their victims if they told.”
After the child reported the alleged abuse, the complaint claims the assailant escalated the abuse “to the point John Doe 2 thought he would die, and wanted to die.”
Another survivor — labeled as Jane Doe 2 in the Cheltenham complaint — was sexually abused numerous times by a male employee in 1990 when she was 15 years old, the complaint alleges.
The alleged abuser told Jane Doe 2 that “he knew her family’s addresses and phone numbers and would kill them if she told anyone,” according to the complaint. Jane Doe 2 also reported the alleged abuse “to individuals at Cheltenham, but to the best of her knowledge, nothing ever came of her reporting," the complaint claims.
Some of the facilities — including Hickey and Cheltenham — date back to the 1800s. According to Iskra, one of the oldest cases of abuse in the complaints is from 1962 when the survivor was 7 years old.
“What the statute now says is, if you were sexually abused before the age of 18, you can seek justice now, regardless of how old you are, regardless of when that was,” Iskra says.
The Department of Juvenile Services did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment about the complaints.
The Department of Juvenile Services mission statement reads in part: “By law, The Department of Juvenile Services is a child-serving agency responsible for assessing the individual needs of referred youth and providing intake, detention, probation, commitment, and after-care services.”
To Iskra, the change in Maryland’s law regarding the statute of limitations is a positive one, and she hopes victims of child sex abuse continue to come forward, tell their story and seek justice.
“We can't change the past, but we can improve the future, and I look forward to working with Maryland, so that happens,” Iskra says.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
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Read the original article on People.