The state of Washington will pay $3 million to a woman who alleged Child Protective Services agents failed to protect her from her mother’s abusive boyfriend in the mid-1990s, even after she gave birth at Deaconess Memorial Hospital in Spokane when she was 12 years old.
The man impregnated her again within two months. That time she gave birth in Boise.
The rape and captivity that marred her childhood should have been stopped in Spokane, according to her lawsuit against CPS that had been scheduled for trial this week.
The case highlights the protective mission of CPS against its own bureaucratic rigidity and malaise.
“In 1995, the state claimed they couldn’t do more because (the girl) did not personally report the abuse, despite an abundance of evidence that she was a child in danger,” said her attorney, Michael Pfau. “But that’s why CPS exists: to protect children from abuse, not to blame them for it.”
Deaconess workers sounded the alarm when they first met the girl for prenatal care in 1995, reporting that her pregnancy along with family dynamics warranted CPS intervention.
They weren’t alone. A teacher, school counselor and police officers in Bellingham highlighted “extremely alarming behavior on the part of (the boyfriend) and expressly identifying (the boyfriend) as the likely father of (her) child.”
CPS report forms include a narrative that outlines concerns about his “anger and possibly predatory nature,” along with worry by the family that CPS was “going to take away this baby, too.”
The lawsuit against CPS unfolded during the past two years in Tacoma and included allegations that suggested the girl was trapped for 15 years with the boyfriend who would become her stepfather as the family moved about in Washington, Idaho and Utah.
She said in court records that she was allowed to use the Internet for the first time in 2010 and befriended someone in an online chatroom.
As she shared her story, the friend helped her understand what had happened to her and she fled.
The case also picks at the long-simmering debate to abolish the statute of limitations of child rape.
Idaho abolished the criminal statute of limitations for child rape and Pfau said prosecutors may seek DNA testing and birth records to verify the woman’s allegations and press charges.
Proposed legislation to unravel statute of limitations for child rape in Washington has failed several times.
Pfau played a major role 10 years ago in the bankruptcy of the Spokane Catholic Diocese when he represented victims of clergy sex abuse.
The stepfather was not charged in this case.