A young woman is suing a Los Angeles maternity home that provides transitional living for pregnant teens, alleging a staff member sexually abused her despite a video system that should have alerted security personnel that her assailant was entering her bedroom.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit brought against St. Anne’s Maternity Home seeks $5 million in damages on allegations of assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, sexual battery and negligence. The plaintiff, identified only as R.C., was born in 1999 and was a client at the facility at 155 N. Occidental Blvd. in 2014-16, according to the complaint.
St. Anne’s issued a statement regarding the suit, which was filed Friday.
“The health and safety of those in our care is a top priority, and at that time we took immediate action, including … terminating the accused employee and leading a proactive investigation of our own in addition to cooperating with law enforcement,” the statement says. “It is always our goal to provide a safe, nurturing environment for the families in our community and, while we deeply regret that the situation occurred, we do believe it was handled the right way.”
St. Anne’s, a nonprofit sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, serves at-risk girls ages 13 to 18 years old both during pregnancy and in the post-pregnancy period.
R.C. was pregnant when she was placed in the home in 2014 by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and her monthly board and care costs were about $8,000, the suit says. The plaintiff, who later give birth to a daughter, says she was told by St. Anne’s employees there that she would be safe there and that she had nothing to fear.
St. Anne’s has a video camera system that enables anyone monitoring it to see who would have entered the plaintiff’s bedroom, according to the suit, which alleges the video monitors were “not routinely or vigilantly monitored” while the plaintiff lived there.
A male childcare worker hired at St. Anne’s without any prior experience working with children began flirting with the plaintiff in her bedroom in 2015, according to the suit, which alleges he commented on her appearance and told her she shouldn’t be dating other men.
The worker often made comments that began with “if she were his girlfriend,” according to the plaintiff’s court papers.
The employee escalated his conduct to touching the plaintiff, and he asked her to set up social media communications with him, according to the suit, which alleges he then began sending her “salacious and suggestive text messages” as well as photos of his private parts.
The man later convinced her to meet with him in a supply closet out of range of the video cameras, where he kissed her and inappropriately touched her with his hands, the lawsuit alleges.
The man sexually assaulted the girl on Valentine’s Day 2016 in her bedroom, according to the complaint.
St. Anne’s had an “affirmative duty” to protect vulnerable young mothers such as the plaintiff and it was reasonably foreseeable that children the facility houses could fall victim to sexual abuse by employees who were not properly supervised, the suit says.
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