Washington state will pay $1.7 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a woman who said it failed to protect her from abuse as a child.
The woman, identified in court records by the initials K.H., was 13 when a man in his 30s started physically and sexually abusing her, a press release from her attorney said Tuesday.
“Over and over, (the state Department of Social and Health Services) received glaring reports that K.H. was being physically and sexually abused, but over and over, DSHS ignored them,” attorney Michael T. Pfau said in the statement. “I do not understand how you can fail to take action when you receive reports that a man in his mid-30s has impregnated a teenage girl and is feeding her crack cocaine. As a result, K.H. suffered years of unspeakable trauma and abuse that should never have occurred.”
The state Department of Children, Youth and Families, the agency that now oversees child protective services, settled the lawsuit, which was filed in Pierce County Superior Court.
“The Department of Children, Youth, and Families hopes this settlement allows KH to lead a life that will provide the support she needs,” Ross Hunter, secretary of the agency, said in a statement.
According to the statement from K.H.’s attorney:
The lawsuit argued that the state should have investigated in January 1991 — when a teacher reported that K.H. was pregnant and lived with the older father — and that such an investigation would have showed that a 37-year-old drug dealer was abusing K.H.
The man provided cocaine to control K.H.’s mother, K.H. and K.H.’s siblings, the lawsuit alleged. She said the state didn’t do much to investigate earlier complaints that the mother’s drug addiction was putting K.H. and her siblings in danger.
K.H. gave birth to the man’s child in June 1991 when she was 15. Records a couple months later show the state started calling the man her boyfriend.
In addition to the teacher, a police officer later reported that the teenager had a baby with a man in his 30s and that she was living with him.
The man had drug charges and violent felonies in his criminal history, such as aiming and discharging a firearm, that K..H. argued would have shown up in a background check.
The abuse continued, she said, and she had two more children.
K.H. said it stopped when the man went to prison in 1994 for drug trafficking. Meanwhile, she said she struggled with drug addiction, homelessness, prostitution and other abusive relationships.
She started to get help after the man died in 2016.