Two months after Maryland’s Child Victims Act of 2023 went into effect, another 20 people have filed a lawsuit against the state and its department of juvenile services alleging years of sexual abuse at the hands detention officers during their incarcerations as children.

The women behind the lawsuit, all adults ranging in age from 23 to 50 years old, say they were repeatedly sexually abused during their time as children in the state’s Thomas J.S. Waxter Children’s Center in Laurel.

Detention officers routinely forced the then-teens, some as young as 12, to perform sexual acts while threatening them with solitary confinement, longer incarceration, loss of food or to have members of their family killed if they did not comply. One guard allegedly threw scalding water on the girls while abusing them in the showers, according to the lawsuit.

A representative for the Maryland Attorney General’s Office said they were unable to comment on pending litigation. In a statement Thursday, the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services acknowledged allegations.

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“DJS takes allegations of sexual abuse of children in our care very seriously and we are working hard to provide decent, humane, and rehabilitative environments for youth placed in the Department’s custody,” the statement said. “The Department is currently reviewing the most recent lawsuits with the Office of the Attorney General.”

Two law firms, Levy Konigsberg LLP and Brown Kiely LLP, are representing the plaintiffs in the suit filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

“The women we represent have courageously stepped forward to seek justice for these horrific acts of sexual abuse,” said attorney Jerome H. Block, of Levy Konigsberg, in an email Thursday. “All of them were once young girls who entered the Waxter facility needing help. Instead, they were scarred for life by acts of sexual abuse enabled by a broken Maryland juvenile justice system.”

The lawsuit follows another set of lawsuits filed earlier in October on the same day the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023 went into effect that name the Waxter center. Together, the lawsuits are part of a new wave of litigation stemming from the act’s elimination of the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse to file complaints against institutions they say enabled harm.

Lawmakers earlier this year approved the Child Victims Act and Gov. Wes Moore signed the bill into law, paving the way for decades-old allegations to resurface against major institutions like the Archdiocese of Baltimore as well as the state itself.

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