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Developmentally disabled men's group home sued over controversial sex policy

TAMPA — Guardians for a developmentally disabled man have sued the group home where he lived for eight years, alleging that the nonprofit's controversial and permissive sex policy led to abuse.

Kevin Rouse's guardians filed suit this week in Hillsborough County Circuit Court against the Human Development Center and Kim Church, the nonprofit group home's clinical director, alleging operators never should have sanctioned sex between residents including those without the intellectual ability to consent.

They also claim the group home pushed the practice on the center's men as therapy then failed to stop another resident's attack and unwanted advances on Rouse.

"This is for Kevin and the men that are there," said Eileen Taylor, a St. Petersburg nurse and Rouse's co-guardian. "The fact is these are vulnerable people, and they were using treatment methods they made up that were inappropriate and no one was taking any accountability or responsibility. It's not about money. It's about doing the right thing."

The Human Development Center, based in Tampa with homes across Hillsborough County, specializes in housing developmentally disabled men accused of sex crimes. For several years, the men were allowed to have sex with each other under a policy Church developed where they would first ask the staff for permission. The staff's job was to make sure the sex was safe and consensual. The men called it "quiet time."

The practice was revealed in several St. Petersburg Times stories beginning in December, where former staffers, residents and experts on the disabled said the policy fostered a sexually charged atmosphere. The center's own records acknowledged a rape occurred in 2005. Rouse claimed a man demanding "quiet time" assaulted him in a bathroom in 2008.

That allegation prompted the state to end "quiet time," but the group home, which relies on Medicaid funding, faced no sanctions.

Any money from the suit would go to Rouse's care, said Taylor, who didn't specify a financial figure that she was seeking. A spokesman for the Human Development Center declined to comment Wednesday because the lawsuit was pending.

Accused of molesting a boy in South Florida, Rouse, now 42, was sent to the Human Development Center in 2003 under a judge's order because he was deemed incompetent to face criminal charges. Almost the moment he arrived, he and his mother, Rose Rouse, wanted him moved because of their objections to "quiet time" they said the state ignored.

After years of negotiations between the group home's overseeing body, the Agency for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, as well as Rouse's guardians and the court system, Rouse was moved in July to another group home in St. Petersburg.

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Developmentally disabled men's group home sued over controversial sex policy 08/31/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 11:35pm]
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