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Lawsuit alleges supervisor at Dorchester day program raped deaf, disabled woman

A supervisor at a Dorchester day program for people with disabilities is accused of coercing a 26-year-old deaf woman into a bathroom and raping her in 2018 in a negligence lawsuit filed by the woman’s mother in Suffolk Superior Court.

The lawsuit says the woman couldn’t call out for help during the attack because of her disability and waited a day before confiding in another staff member at Strides Day Habilitation Program on Beach Street, the lawsuit said. (The Globe does not identify victims of sexual assaults.)

According to the lawsuit, the state Department of Developmental Services launched an investigation on Sept. 6, 2018, and closed it three months later with a finding that substantiated the sexual assault allegation against the supervisor, referred to in the lawsuit as John Doe. It is not known whether the DDS investigation resulted in disciplinary action.


DDS would neither confirm nor deny the investigation after the Globe made a public records request. No criminal charges have been filed.

The lawsuit alleges that there were delays in reporting and investigating the incident. After the victim told of the attack, several hours elapsed before she was taken to a hospital, according to the lawsuit. Once there, hospital workers could not communicate with the woman because no one there knew sign language, prompting another day’s delay before a rape examination took place, the suit said.

According to the 18-page lawsuit, the examination showed evidence of penetration. The victim, who is deaf and suffers from developmental, emotional, and mental disabilities, was “legally incapacitated” and unable to consent to sexual intercourse, the suit said.

The woman’s mother, who lives in Randolph, is suing the supervisor accused of rape and WORK Inc., the company that runs the state-funded educational training and instruction program for disabled adults where her daughter was enrolled. Her daughter resided in another program at the facility, lawyers said.


Lawyers for WORK, Inc. did not respond to requests for comment. Court records from Jan. 24 show they intend to seek a dismissal.

“Like everyone else in that program, [the victim] was trusting the adults that were caring for her and that were supposed to be looking out for her,” said Michaela Weaver, the mother’s lawyer. “When those adults turn on these vulnerable individuals, it’s just atrocious.”

“These are places that some of the most vulnerable members of our society, who suffer from mental and physical disabilities, go to seek safety, to seek help, and to seek services,” Weaver added. “And when places like WORK Inc. fail to provide a safe environment for those services, and when the state fails to provide a safe place for those types of services, it’s unacceptable.”

An amended complaint alleges assault and battery, gender and disability discrimination, gross negligence, and significant mental, emotional, and physical harm. The lawsuit demands a jury trial and seeks $1 million in damages.

Tonya Alanez can be reached at Follow her @talanez.