Why Do Institutions Cover Up Abuse?

In many sexual assault and abuse cases, victims are surprised to find that – rather than helping and protecting them – institutions ignore and conceal their complaints. Even heinous crimes such as child sexual abuse are often covered up by institutions, including schools and churches. Cover-ups can make it more difficult for survivors to come forward and speak out against their abusers. If you have been sexually abused by someone within an institution, contact DRZ Law to ask an attorney for help.

To Escape Liability 

Institutions cover up alleged acts of abuse to prevent themselves from being held liable, or legally responsible, for these crimes. They are often more concerned with protecting themselves than those who count on them – even vulnerable children and the elderly. Institutions such as schools, universities, religious institutions, sports organizations, nursing homes, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the military and the foster care system can put their legal concerns over the needs of abuse victims. 

Institutions and their insurance providers will do anything to avoid liability, including dismissing abuse allegations and moving or relocating accused perpetrators rather than terminating their employment. This can lead to abusive teachers, priests, administrators and other offenders returning to positions where they can prey on others. Institutions avoiding blame for the actions of their employees by concealing complaints and permitting abusers to continue working keeps the abuse cycle alive and puts more people at risk.

To Protect Their Reputations 

Institutions do not want the bad publicity of a sexual abuse scandal. They fear damage to their reputations enough to keep them from doing the right thing – taking action against alleged abusers and strengthening their efforts to prevent abuse in the future. For example, a company whose employee is accused of sexual assault may try to cover up the incident to preserve the brand and avoid negative press. 

Brands and institutions are meant to inspire loyalty, but they cannot do so if they admit to having harbored a sexual predator. Preserving their brand image becomes a priority even over protecting youth. In the example of sexual abuse at a church or religious institution, keeping quiet is often about wanting parishioners to stay committed. They don’t want the congregation to think that the church is corrupt and for this to interfere with their commitment to the institution – leading to a loss in engagement (and their monetary support). Thus, they conceal reports of abuse.

To Save Money

Addressing sexual abuse means money lost for an institution, whether it is in the form of paying civil lawsuits and settlements, investing in additional abuse training and education, terminating and replacing staff members, or losing future customers and earnings due to reputational damage. Suppressing abuse complaints rather than reporting them to the police allows an institution to avoid these costs…at the expense of victims.

To Continue the Cone of Silence

Studies into why institutions cover up abuse have found a fundamental cone of silence, or a directive that prohibits speaking out about sexual abuse, at these organizations. Staying silent is ingrained in an institution’s fabric to the point where everyone working for the institution follows suit. No one is willing – or able – to break the cone of silence. This toxic workplace culture encourages future cover-ups, either to protect the institution’s profits or its standing in the community. A culture of tolerance leads to everyone looking the other way.

As a victim of sexual abuse in Kansas, you cannot trust an institution to protect you or stand up for your rights. Instead, turn to a sexual abuse attorney at DRZ Law for help. We are passionate about protecting survivors and giving them a voice in the justice system. We will believe you and help you hold an institution accountable for its complicity.

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