From the moment Paul* was sent to Excelsior Youth Center for substance abuse treatment as part of his probation requirement in November 2016, he says staff member Yessenia Alvardo Cruz began grooming the 17-year-old for sexual abuse. In the months that followed, he says Cruz sexually assaulted him, helped him run away from the center, and gave him illegal drugs. On July 31, Paul filed a lawsuit in Spokane County Superior Court against Excelsior and five unnamed employees alleging they received reports of Cruz’s abuse but failed to protect the minor.

According to the lawsuit, Cruz began sexually abusing Paul within a month of his arriving at the facility. Their sexual encounters occurred at both the center and the apartment Cruz shared with another employee. On several occasions, Paul would run away from the facility, and Cruz would meet him, pick him up, and take him to her apartment where she would give him drugs.

Paul’s lawsuit alleges that Cruz was in a relationship with another Excelsior employee and after they broke up, Cruz targeted Paul to make her ex jealous. Cruz’s ex also allegedly knew about Cruz’s relationship with Paul but didn’t immediately report it to the center’s management.

Excelsior fired Cruz in February 2017 not long after news about the relationship came to light. Her ex-boyfriend was fired sometime afterward. In June 2018, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services was notified of the incident by a case worker who was told about an affair from another resident. A month later, DSHS launched an investigation and determined that Paul’s claims of sexual abuse were “founded.”

Around the same time, DSHS also investigated a report by another resident of the facility of sexual abuse by a different staff member. The department determined the report to be unfounded, but the worker was fired in February 2017 after another employee saw her engaging in inappropriate behavior with a resident.

Although her conduct is discussed in the lawsuit, Cruz is not a subject of the suit. Paul’s lawsuit does name Excelsior for turning a blind eye to the abuse, and five other employees are named in the suit listed as simply John or Jane Doe.

Sexual Abuse litigation

Sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape and sex trafficking are catastrophic acts that wound those who are victimized for a lifetime.  This conduct is so atrocious that Survivors not only have to overcome physical injuries, they are also left to suffer from substantial psychological and emotional injuries.  Survivors often need to seek therapy to overcome the traumatic experience associated with sexual abuse and routinely incur lost wages or loss support associated with their terrible ordeal.  The perpetrators of this type of conduct can be arrested and prosecuted with criminal charges, however, criminal proceedings do not award financial damages to victims.  Fortunately, in many instances, Survivors may also be able to file civil claims to recover significant financial compensation as damages. If you have been a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape, or sex trafficking, we can help. Contact our lawyers, Lance Gould or Larry Golston, for a free consultation.

* The name of the plaintiff is changed to protect his identity.

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