State to pay $3 million to victim of sex abuse

The Seattle TimesMarch 12, 2014 

The state has agreed to pay $3 million to a Tacoma native who contended officials did not properly investigate when she gave birth in Spokane at age 12.

As a result, the woman, who identified herself by the initials R.R., said she was made to suffer 15 more years of sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of the baby’s father – her mother’s boyfriend.

R.R., now living in the Midwest, will receive one of the biggest legal settlements from the Department of Social and Health Services in a single-plaintiff case, according to the state.

“This was an outrageous failure on DSHS’ part,” said Michael Pfau, who along with Jason Amala represented R.R. “They did virtually no investigation concerning a 12-year-old pregnant girl, which allowed her to essentially be held captive for over a decade and raped on a daily basis.”

The settlement averts a trial in a lawsuit filed in Pierce County Superior Court in April 2012.

“I’m glad it’s over,” R.R. told The News Tribune on Tuesday. “It’s been a long process.”

She said she was born in Tacoma and lived in the Hilltop neighborhood until her abuser abruptly moved the family out of town when she was 8. They drifted for a few months before landing in Ferndale, where the abuse began, R.R. said.

State officials said they did not acknowledge wrongdoing in the settlement.

The state did investigate after the 1995 pregnancy and provided parenting support to the preteen, who had given birth at a Spokane hospital. But the state was not informed by the sixth-grader or her mother of any sexual abuse, DSHS spokeswoman Mindy Chambers said.

The man, who moved the family out of Spokane shortly after the birth, has not been charged with abuse.

According to state documents provided by Pfau and Amala, a “summary assessment” completed in March 1996 noted “there has been expressed concern by an older daughter in the family of physical and verbal abuse by the mother’s boyfriend, and possibly sexual abuse.”

The document added “the whole situation raised lots of questions, but there was no evidence of any neglect of the infant.”

Ultimately, according to the document, “the caseworker had never pushed for a lot of information, as it was hoped to just get a foot in the door and establish a trust level.”

The family left the state shortly after R.R. gave birth. Pfau said R.R. gave birth in Boise to another child by her mother’s boyfriend 10 months later. After that, Pfau said, the abuse continued as the family moved around Washington, Idaho and Utah.

Pfau said R.R. was first allowed to use the Internet when she was 27. She left the family and filed the lawsuit after receiving encouragement from a friend she met in an online chat room, he said.

R.R. said she has a good job now, enough to provide for herself and her two sons. She said she’s still mentally processing the settlement.

“It’s just a number in my head, right now,” she said.

News Tribune staff writer Adam Lynn contributed to this report.

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