When allegations came to light in August 2020 that dozens of children had been physically and sexually abused by employees of Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, the news left readers stunned.
But for many former patients, there was nothing shocking about the news of Devereux Foundation abuse. They knew what could happen to children left in the predatory grasp of abusers. They lived through it, too.
Even if the abuse you suffered at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health in PA happened years ago, it’s not too late to take a stand.
Despite prior allegations—despite supervisors’ promises that Devereux treatment facilities would fix the problems and protect residents’ safety—abuse continued, according to numerous allegations.
You deserve to finally hold accountable the people who harmed you and the institution that allowed abuse to happen over and over again. You may have felt powerless before, but now, you don’t have to keep silent. You can stand in solidarity with the dozens of other people whose trust was broken by what happened to them at Devereux.
You might have the grounds for a sexual abuse lawsuit against Devereux if you experienced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of staff or other residents while at any of the following:
When the abuse you suffered occurred, and how old you were at the time, may affect whether or not you can pursue a claim.
New state legislation passed in Pennsylvania in November 2019 extended time limits for pursuing both civil and criminal accountability for sexual abuse, according to TribLIVE.com.
Under the new law, child victims of sexual abuse that occurred in Pennsylvania after the law went into effect would have until age 55 to file a sexual abuse lawsuit. Young adults who suffered sexual abuse between the ages of 18 and 23 could sue until they turned 30.
What the 2019 law didn’t do was extend the time to file a lawsuit for survivors of prior child sexual abuse—only new instances of abuse. Older rules still applied to many victims of abuse, requiring people who were abused as children to file a lawsuit by age 30 and limiting those abused as young adults to just two years to take action.
Even if the abuse you suffered at a Devereux treatment facility occurred so long ago that you have missed the old statute of limitations, there’s still hope.
Not only can coming forward to share your story help inspire others to do the same—and make sure Devereux is finally held accountable for the abuse it allowed to happen—but it may also allow you to get justice, too.
Pennsylvania lawmakers and victims’ advocates are working to change the statute of limitations to allow victims more time to take action. As of early 2021, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania is considering House Bill No. 14. If passed, this bill could amend the state Constitution to allow for a two-year window during which childhood sexual abuse survivors could pursue claims that were barred under the previous statute of limitations.
Reaching out to a sexual abuse attorney to find out your options and better understand your rights under new and pending laws won’t cost you anything.
When the Philadelphia Inquirer first exposed the horrors going on at Devereux facilities to the general public in August 2020, the newspaper identified 41 instances of abuse dating back over 25 years. Boys and girls as young as 12 had been abused, according to the Inquirer’s investigation.
Some had reported the abuse. Occasionally, an abuser employed by Devereux—Jimmy Singleterry in 2013, Everol Brackett in 2017, Robert Flood in 2018, Marquis Bloom in 2019, and many others, according to ABC News—would face criminal charges. But there was, as Patch reported, “a pattern of systemic abuse over decades” at Devereux.
Many of the victims were at Devereux facilities to get treatment for past trauma, sometimes including sexual assault. Instead of helping them heal, the time these children spent at Devereux treatment centers only caused them more suffering.
The Inquirer article prompted the Philadelphia Department of Human Services and Community Behavioral Health to launch its own Devereux investigation. In late September 2020, the City of Philadelphia announced that it would remove 53 children from Devereux facilities, according to WHYY.
Now that victims’ voices were finally being heard, other survivors felt empowered to speak up. In October 2020, 13 former Devereux patients not counted in the Inquirer’s original tally filed a lawsuit against Devereux over abuse they suffered between 2004 and 2014, TribLIVE.com reported. That brought the total known victim count to 54. One victim represented in the lawsuit was only 8 years old when the abuse began.
Devereux abuse lawsuit claims are ongoing. One survivor of sexual abuse at a Devereux facility in Georgia was awarded $60 million—$10 million in damages plus $50 million in punitive damages—by a jury in November 2019, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
In late October 2020, Rep. Kristine C. Howard of Chester County released a statement about the Devereux child abuse scandal in which she said, “I cannot say that I expected these revelations, but I cannot say that they are surprising” and expressed concern about the “steadily decreasing qualifications for work with children, the disabled, in special education, etc.”
These decreasing qualifications are certainly part of the larger, industry-wide problem of abuse. But they aren’t the only factor. The Inquirer article shed light on some of the factors that historically allowed this culture of abuse to flourish at Devereux, including:
These issues allowed Devereux facilities to become, as the Inquirer reported, “hunting grounds for predators.”
In the same Inquirer article, Devereux’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer Leah Yaw was quoted as saying, “This is not an aberration that happens at Devereux because of some kind of lack of control or structure… This is an industry-wide problem.”
It’s true that abuse is all too common in residential care facilities and medical facilities in general. However, the fact that abuse was allowed to continue at Devereux facilities for 25 years, even through initiatives that were supposed to prevent abuse, is telling.
If you were abused at Devereux, now is the time to tell your story. All of us—lawyers, journalists, child advocates, fellow survivors, and more—are listening.