PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — More than a dozen people say they were sexually assaulted at a center for children. In August, a Philadelphia Inquirer investigation extensively reported on allegations of sexual abuse at the residential treatment facilities for children and teens.
That led the City of Philadelphia to remove 53 children from Devereux’s care last month and on Monday, a lawsuit.
Thirteen former Devereux clients — 12 female and one male — have jointly filed a lawsuit alleging they were sexually assaulted as children by staff members while they lived and received treatment at Devereux Behavioral Health Facilities in Pennsylvania.
The victims allege the assaults happened between 2004 and 2014 and one of the victims was just 8 years old at the time.
Attorney Kristen Feden of Saltz, Mongeluzzi and Bendesky, who is representing the complainants, along with Helm Law Group, says some of the victims were given sedatives before they were assaulted.
“They were sexually assaulted ranging from indecent assault all the way to penetrative assault, so they were sexually abused by the very people who were supposed to protect them,” she said.
Feden argues that Devereux recognized abuse was happening and did not do enough to stop and prevent it.
“These were red flags that Devereux has, we allege, has known about and should have put some safeguards in place to prevent what happened to our survivors as well as many, many other survivors of sexual assault at Devereux,” she said. “This could have been prevented.”
Several attempts to get a response from Devereux on the lawsuit Monday were unsuccessful. But in testimony before the Pennsylvania House Human Services Committee on Sept. 29, Devereux President and CEO Carl Clark apologized for past abuse that happened under the foundation’s care.
“Words will never adequately express our sorrow and remorse, but today I want to reaffirm our profound apologies for the abusive acts committed by former employees and the pain inflicted upon these children and their families,” Clark said. “They had a right to expect better from us and we remain deeply sorry for what happened to them.”
Clark went on to say that all Devereux facilities in Pennsylvania and nationwide are fully licensed and continue to operate while undergoing hundreds of random and thorough inspections within the past two months.