By: Elizabeth Irazabal, Managing Editor, J.D. Candidate, May 2018, St. Thomas University School of Law.

We are living in troubling times. It seems as though for the last several months, we constantly wake up to new allegations. We wake up to new stories of victims coming forward after years of silence to confront his or her perpetrator. These victims are regaining the control that was once taken from them by the individuals who committed these horrific crimes. It is about time that these victims came forward and felt comfortable enough to confront the person who has silenced them all these years.

Sexual assault statutes, like Florida’s statute, provide the severity and the punishment that is faced by someone who is found guilty of such grotesque accusations. However, the question remains of what liability falls onto those who know of these allegations and refuse to report them? Brave victims have brought down these Hollywood powerhouses, while the individuals and powerful executives who likely knew of such sexual misconduct remain silent. Should they bear any liability for failing to report or even acknowledge such behavior that may have been made aware to them? Does the lack of reporting by others lead to more misconduct? Should those who remain silent also be held liable to the victims?

The same questions of liability should be asked of other individuals being accused of sexual assault. A prime example being the recent sentencing of former athletic doctor Larry Nassar, the former doctor for USA Gymnastics. Should USA Gymnastics along with Michigan State University and the like, be held liable for not reporting such behavior from their resident doctor if they knew about it? Most would argue that yes, if there was any indication that the organization was aware of the sexual assaults that were being committed on their athletes, they should have reported it and lack of reporting should make them also liable for this inexcusable behavior by their representative.

Liability for those who were aware of the crimes committed and failed to report them would stem from accomplice liability. In which case, a person is an accessory if they assist the principal, either before the fact or after the fact, and know that the offender committed the crime and his or her assistance was made with the intention that the offender avoids or escapes detection or punishment. Through this concept we can find liability for those who knowingly turned a blind eye to the offender and the crime. If the Hollywood executives or USA Gymnastics were aware of the sexual assaults committed by others within their organization, and failed to report them to avoid any punishment to their organization or the offender himself, then they too should be held liable under the theory of accomplice liability.