South Carolina Agency Sued For Placing Teen with Alleged Abuser

South Carolina Agency Sued For Placing Teen with Alleged Abuser

A South Carolina state agency, responsible for protecting vulnerable children, is facing a significant lawsuit for allegedly leaving a teenage girl in the care of a suspected predator. Gregg Martin, who has been facing over a dozen sex crime charges since 2022, is accused of grooming, drugging, and abusing the teen for six weeks, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed against the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS) and individual caseworkers, claims they ignored the victim’s mother’s repeated requests to remove her daughter from Martin’s home. The mother had expressed concerns about the environment even before the abuse allegations surfaced.

“What that child suffered at the hands of a monster was just incredible,” said the family’s lawyer, Debra Butcher, in a recent interview.

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The DSS has declined to comment on the case, citing ongoing litigation. Martin, 56, was arrested by the Richland County Sheriff’s Office on warrants for alleged sex crimes against a minor in Georgia, adding to his charges in South Carolina. The charges in Georgia include the use of computer services to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child to commit illegal acts, electronically furnishing obscene material to minors, and obscene internet contact with a child. This brings the total criminal charges against him to 14 in South Carolina and at least three in Georgia.

The teenager was initially placed in Martin’s home as the DSS investigated allegations of abuse and neglect against her father. Despite the mother’s objections, the state placed her with Martin, a family acquaintance, after allegedly threatening to place her in foster care. This decision, the lawsuit claims, led to the girl being abused without any agency follow-up for weeks.

During her time with Martin, the lawsuit alleges that he took explicit photos of the victim and subjected her to both physical and mental abuse. Text messages between the mother and a caseworker show the mother’s desperate attempts to get her daughter back, which were largely ignored. In multiple texts from late February to mid-March 2022, the victim’s mother pleaded with the caseworker to return her daughter home, offering to have the girl’s father move out to facilitate her return. Despite these efforts, the DSS did not remove the victim from Martin’s home.

After about six weeks, a new caseworker intervened and moved the child out of Martin’s home. It was then that the victim disclosed the abuse she had suffered, leading to Martin’s arrest. The trauma from the abuse continues to haunt the victim, her lawyer said. “She spoke about this recently, and when she finished, she had to get up and leave, overwhelmed with tears and shaking,” Debra Butcher explained. “It’s still very traumatic for her.”

The Foster Care Abuse Law Firm, representing the family, has filed additional lawsuits against the state agency for allegedly conducting unnecessary and invasive exams on children without allegations of abuse. These legal actions seek to stop the agency and medical professionals from performing such exams without proper cause. The lawsuits allege that the DSS and associated medical professionals conducted invasive exams on children under the guise of checking for sexual abuse, even when there were no allegations or physical symptoms to suggest such trauma.

The legal actions include serious allegations that the procedures conducted were “essentially rape,” according to the lawyers, and call for an end to these practices. The lawsuits argue that children have been harmed physically, psychologically, and emotionally due to these unnecessary exams. Robert Butcher, another lawyer for the family, expressed concern over the large number of images of children’s genitalia that are reportedly in the possession of Prisma Health, one of the defendants named in the lawsuits. “It’s concerning that there are possibly hundreds of thousands of images of children’s genitalia in their possession,” he said. Prisma Health has also declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

The alleged exams described by the lawyers are graphic and disturbing. According to the lawsuits, children’s bodies were exposed and physically probed without any allegations of abuse. “Sometimes, in the process of wanting to do good, some of these folks are doing harm to these kids,” Robert Butcher said.

The lawsuits highlight serious concerns about the DSS’s practices and the potential ongoing harm to children in its care. The legal actions call for an end to these invasive procedures and better protection for vulnerable children. The Foster Care Abuse Law Firm has three, soon to be four, other lawsuits alleging the state agency conducted unnecessary, invasive exams on children under the guise of checking for sexual abuse. The language and allegations in these lawsuits are similar, and the victims are young girls and boys.

These lawsuits implore the courts to prohibit the Department of Social Services and Prisma Health from performing these types of exams without allegations. They argue that as a direct result of longstanding, well-documented failures by the defendants, children have been and continue to be harmed physically, psychologically, and emotionally, and continue to be placed at ongoing risk of such harm.

The case against the DSS and its practices has drawn attention to the critical need for reform within the agency. Advocates for child welfare are calling for stricter oversight and accountability to ensure that children in the care of the DSS are protected from harm. The lawsuit against Martin and the DSS highlights a severe failure in the system designed to protect vulnerable children. The case underscores the importance of rigorous checks and balances within child protective services to prevent similar incidents in the future.

As the legal proceedings continue, the hope is that the case will bring about necessary changes to prevent further harm to children in state care. The victim’s family and their legal team are determined to seek justice and ensure that the agencies involved are held accountable for their actions. The trauma experienced by the victim serves as a stark reminder of the need for vigilance and compassion in the protection of children. The case against the DSS and its practices has sparked a broader conversation about child welfare and the measures needed to safeguard the rights and well-being of vulnerable children.