IM this article to a friend!

March 5, 2003

Abuse Allegations Update

From: KSFY, SD - 05 Mar 2003

An abuse investigation is underway at The South Dakota School for the Deaf, but some counselors say investigators could have a difficult time finding out what happened, especially if the sexual abuse case goes to court.

A lawyer for the parents says the victims are not only young, they're also deaf. Counselors say that could make an already difficult situation even worse. Abuse allegations against an older student at The South Dakota School for the Deaf surfaced Monday, but parents say they've known about it for weeks. They say counselors interviewed younger students, but will they be able to determine exactly what happened?

Child therapist Kristi Miller says they might have trouble, "You have to work with more people to get to help the child or get to the source of the problem." Miller says children who are victims of abuse have a difficult time talking with one person. If you add interpreters, counselors, and investigators, they may shy away from telling their story. "It doesn't feel like a very private situation when you're having to work through different individuals,"she says. Miller adds they might have to work through even more individuals if the case goes to court.

A Study by Prevent Child Abuse America says prosecuting child abusers can be difficult in general. In a courtroom, communication in non-standard forms, such as through an interpreter, is often questioned as reliable. Not because the witness isn't credible, but instead a juror may not have experience dealing with children who are deaf.

Miller says, if in fact there was abuse at the school, parents and administrators should work to rebuild a sense of safety. She also says parents in general shouldn't be afraid to educate their children about sexual abuse, but warns they should be non-threatening when they do.

As for the investigation, we're still unaware of any criminal charges. The South Dakota Board of Regents, which oversees the school, has not returned our repeated phone calls about the accusations.

By: Tom Powell

© Copyright 2000 - 2003, WorldNow and KSFY, a Raycom Media station. All Rights Reserved.