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Institutional Sexual Abuse

An abuser seeks to exert and maintain power over their victims. Whether it’s physically overpowering them, emotionally controlling them, financially coercing them, or manipulating and influencing them, abusers exploit their victims' vulnerabilities.

Being abused by a single person is traumatic and can be terribly damaging in itself. But if the abuse occurs within an institution, the power imbalance is magnified. Suddenly, there are more people (and more people with power) who may have an interest in ensuring victims’ voices are silenced.

People who are subject to institutionalized care are often among the most vulnerable people in society. From childcare, to healthcare settings, to schools, to assisted living communities for people with disabilities, to seniors homes, societies have built institutions to provide better, more affordable services to various groups of people than they could hope to receive individually based on their personal circumstances. When the trust we place in institutions is breached, it not only hurts the individual victims of abuse, but also the sense of safety and the obligation we have to protect one another in society at large.

Survivors of institutional sexual abuse who choose to come forward with their stories deserve respect, dignity, compassion, compensation and action to prevent future abuses. As fierce advocates for vulnerable members of our society, the institutional sexual abuse legal team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers is here to help you or your loved one when you’ve been the victim of a breach of trust and act of sexual violence.

Sexual abuse in institutional settings.

Examples of where abuse can take place.

Institutions are facilities or establishments in which a defined group of people live and/or receive some form of care. Often these institutions operate in a confined setting and the people being served may not have given or been able to give individual consent to be there.

Some examples of institutions where cases of sexual abuse have taken place include:

  • Residential schools.
  • Foster homes and group homes.
  • Day schools.
  • Daycare.
  • Hospitals.
  • Nursing homes.
  • Religious centres.
  • Youth sport activities and clubs.
  • Seniors residences.
  • Assisted living centres.
  • Youth corrections facilities.
  • Jails and prisons.

The sexual abuse that occurs in these settings may be perpetrated by organizational leadership, employees, volunteers, or fellow attendees. Although one or more individuals may be committing the abusive acts and assaults, the institutional hierarchy may have either given tacit approval to the abuse or permitted it to occur through negligence.

How common is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is overwhelmingly committed by someone who knows the victim. Cases of sexual assault within institutions tend to occur when there is an existing relationship between the abuser and victim. For example, incidents of abuse may take place between teachers and students, health care workers and patients, coaches and athletes, or among employees and management or institutional attendees themselves. Vulnerable populations, such as sexual assaults of a minor, within institutions are especially at risk.

  • Three out of five sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17.
  • Fifteen percent of sexual assault victims are boys under the age of 16.
  • Four out of five victims are women.
  • More than one in ten women sustain physical injuries from their assault.
  • Women with disabilities and Indigenous women are disproportionately likely to be victims of sexual assaults. Eighty-three percent of women with disabilities and fifty-seven percent of Indigenous women suffer assaults.
  • False reports account for only two to four percent of all sexual assault reporting 
  • Weapons are involved in twenty percent of sexual assaults.

What are the effects of this abuse on survivors?

Sexual abuse can have extremely negative effects on any victim. Institutional sexual abuse victims may be especially at risk for severe trauma because they are often already part of vulnerable or marginalized communities (people with mental and/or physical disabilities, the very young, the very elderly).

Sexual abuse can cause:

  • New or worsening mental health problems.
  • Challenges in forming or maintaining intimate relationships.
  • Greater risk of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Difficulties when parenting (for childhood victims).
  • Emotional challenges with low self esteem, anxiety or anger.
  • Difficulty holding down a job or performing at school.
  • Chronic poor health.
  • Physical injuries.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Victims of institutional sexual abuse can experience many losses and damages in their lives, including severe emotional pain and suffering and financial losses from the inability to work.

Help for institutional sexual abuse survivors.

If you or a loved one has experienced institutional sexual abuse, even if it occurred decades ago, you may be able to receive compensation for what your abusers took from you. There are no statutes of limitations for criminal or civil sexual abuse cases. Even if you fear too much time has passed between the abuse and your decision to pursue justice, a highly skilled legal team can often build a strong case.

Coming forward to report this abuse can be incredibly difficult for survivors – especially if they still have links to the institutions or individuals who committed this abuse. You should know that you are not alone in this journey. The institutional sexual abuse legal team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers is here to help. When you contact us for a no cost, no obligation consultation, you can rest assured we will receive you with the compassion, kindness and the attentive care you deserve. We understand and admire the strength it takes to come forward with your story, and will work tirelessly to show you that your trust in us is well-placed.

In addition to helping you connect with any support services or groups that may further assist with your recovery, we will clearly explain your legal options – including filing a tort lawsuit against individuals and/or institutions who harmed you.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may wish to pursue an individual claim for compensation and damages, or join or launch a class action or mass tort action if there are other victims of this abuse. Unlike lawsuits against individuals, naming institutions in a tort action based on the concept of vicarious liability (the liability of an institution or organization for abusive conduct by persons whom they employ, when committed in the course of their employment) can open up significant financial resources from which compensation may be due.

Beyond receiving financial compensation for what happened to you, legal actions can seek other remedies which may help you achieve a sense of closure, including official apologies, transformative institutional change, and disciplinary action against any professionals involved in the abuse.

Why choose Gluckstein Lawyers?

When choosing a legal representative for your institutional sexual abuse case, there are many factors to consider, including legal knowledge, experience with these types of cases, skillful negotiating, and a track record for getting results. As one of the country’s top personal injury firms, we are proud to provide all of these assets to our clients and so much more. But, our commitment to full-circle care is what truly sets us apart. 

Our sexual assault lawyers care about you as an individual and will always treat you as more than a just a case. We consider our clients to be like our family. In addition to our professional legal services, our lawyers and staff make a point to develop deep connections with you and your loved ones so that we can support you on your healing journey well beyond time spent on legal proceedings.

Ontario Institutional Sexual Abuse Lawyers.



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Compassionate advocacy when you need it most. You are not alone.

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