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An Arkansas couple on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in Utah against a Hurricane ranch for troubled teens, alleging that a therapist sexually assaulted their then-16-year-old daughter last year.
A therapist employed by Diamond Ranch Academy touched the teenager inappropriately, asked her for details about her sexual interests and told her about his sex life in April and May of 2016, according to the lawsuit filed in 5th District Court. The teenager enrolled in the academy and lived on the campus from March to October 2016, according to the suit.
Diamond Ranch declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Students are "assigned an individual therapist" to attend to their behavioral development, according to the school's website. The defendant was assigned to be her mental health counselor and therapist in April, less than two months after he received his license, the suit states. When hired, the therapist signed an agreement to not touch students.
In addition to the alleged inappropriate touching and conversation, the defendant disparaged the teen's relationship with her parents, described dreams he had about her, gave her massages and told her he had a crush on her, the lawsuit states.
Therapists at the academy are allowed to put paper over the windows in their offices for patient privacy, creating, the lawsuit alleges, "a perfect environment in which sexual grooming and sexual abuse could occur."
A different female student accused the therapist of "inappropriate physical contact" in May, and he was fired. After hearing about the abuse of her fellow student, the teenager told an academy staff member about her story of abuse, the suit says, but the employee didn't report it to law enforcement.
The lawsuit alleges that the teenager was told by a staff member to renege her story and tell law enforcement that she had lied about the abuse.
The teen remained at the school until October.
Communication with her parents was limited while the girl attended Diamond Ranch Academy, the lawsuit states. Students are allowed to talk to their family once a week, during a session supervised by a therapist. If a student has something negative to say about the academy, he or she would have to say it in the presence of a therapist, the lawsuit stated. Students can write letters and emails, but those are routed through the academy. In-person visits are awarded to students, but they are limited.
The parents request in the lawsuit that the academy post on its home page the names of anyone associated with the ranch past or present who is a known sexual abuser or offender. They asked for the academy to pay for two years' worth of mental health treatment for anyone sexually abused by an employee of the academy. The parents also want the academy to fund independent workshops that detail anything that allowed sexual assault at the academy, what has been done to prevent future abuse and ways to protect children from sexual predators.
The parents also have requested that a task force be formed to investigate and monitor the academy.
The Salt Lake Tribune is not releasing the name of the teenager because she is a minor. The Tribune is not naming the defendant because he has not been charged.