Pregnant at age 12: State to pay $3 million to sex abuse victim

SEATTLE - A woman who became pregnant when she was only 12 years old will receive $3 million from Washington state to settle her claim that Child Protective Services did not properly investigate the case or take steps to protect her from further abuse.

The woman, identified only by her initials R.R., became pregnant again at age 13 and says she went on to suffer years of continued abuse at the hands of the baby's father, who was her mother's then-35-year-old boyfriend.

R.R.'s attorney, Michael T. Pfau, says that over the next 15 years, the boyfriend continued to sexually and physically abuse her while he held her captive and she raised his sons.

The $3 million settlement will allow the state to avoid a jury trial that was previously set to begin this week in Tacoma.

The state's Child Protective Services initially became aware of R.R.'s case in 1995, when she was just a sixth-grader and had just given birth at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane, documents show. Given her age and a lack of prenatal care, the hospital’s workers asked CPS to investigate.

Records and testimony obtained during the litigation show that CPS workers quickly identified her mother’s boyfriend as the likely father, and R.R.’s sixth-grade teacher testified that she told CPS that the same man was likely the father.

Yet R.R. alleges that CPS did nothing to protect her from the boyfriend, but instead asserted that it could not intervene because the then-12-year old R.R. had not personally reported the abuse.

While the investigation was still pending, the mother's boyfriend moved R.R.’s family out of Spokane, and R.R. alleges CPS did nothing to try to find her or to warn law enforcement that Hamburg had the family on the run.

Ten months later, when the family was living in Boise, Idaho, R.R. alleges she gave birth to another child by the mother's boyfriend when she was only 13 years old.

Over the next 15 years, R.R. alleges Hamburg continued to sexually abuse her while he moved her family between various locations in Washington, Utah, and Idaho.

In 2010, when she was 27 years old, the boyfriend allowed R.R. to use the Internet for the first time, and she made friends in a chat room. One of those friends, R.R. says, helped her realize the gravity of the crimes that the mother's boyfriend had committed, and she left him shortly afterward.

“In 1995, the state claimed they couldn’t do more because R.R. did not personally report the abuse, despite an abundance of evidence that she was a child in danger," Pfau said. "Fast-forward 20 years, and the state was still suggesting CPS is not responsible because R.R. did not disclose the abuse. But that’s why CPS exists: to protect children from abuse, not to blame them for it.”

A CPS spokesperson issued a statement Tuesday saying that R.R. told officials at the time of her first pregnancy that the father was a student she met briefly at a school she had attended. Neither the child nor her mother disclosed any information that the child had been sexually abused, CPS says.

"DSHS focused on the welfare of the baby, by providing parenting skill support for the girl, who was living with her mother," the CPS statement said. "The family moved to another state in 1995. DSHS had no involvement with the family after that."

Yet documents filed by Child Protective Services at the time show that an older daughter expressed concern that the mother's boyfriend was the actual father.

Meanwhile, the mother's boyfriend is still on the loose and was never charged with any crime.

The legislature in Idaho, where R.R. claims she was abused her for many years, previously abolished its statute of limitations for child rape, but it is unclear whether police and prosecutors in that state will re-visit whether to charge the boyfriend with child rape.

It is also unclear whether similar legislation will be introduced in the Washington state Legislature to abolish the statute of limitations for child abuse.