April 8, 2014

Summary: A San Diego-based sensei is facing felony charges after sexually assaulting at least one karate student.  The bravery of the abused teenagers likely prevented other students from being abused.  The karate dojo claims that rigorous training is provided to all instructors, but are they doing enough sustainment training in areas of institutional abuse?

The mission statement for the Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studio in Tierrasanta is to “provide life changing and character building experience through world class, personalized martial arts instruction.  If only all of their sensei’s there were on board… Juan Flores, a karate instructor at the Tierrasanta karate center, was brought into court this week as he faces 12 felony accounts for sexually abusing at least one teenage student in the San Diego dojo.  In too many cases, the nature of the counts is even worse than what the charges would indicate; this case is no different.

When one of the victims was 16, Flores began groping his genitals inside of the studio, which the student laughed off until it became a daily occurrence.  This escalated to the point where Flores performed a sexual act on the boy, which the boy immediately told the instructor he could get in trouble for what he did, and proceeded to tell his girlfriend, best friend, and his mother.  In another allegation, a second boy testified that he was molested multiple times, including at a sleepover at the dojo.  He told his mother the next morning.  Here’s where this predator is doomed; when his phone was apprehended, the detective found pictures of naked young men on it.  But the nail in the coffin is that the man’s DNA was found on a boy’s genitals.

Perhaps the first lesson children learn from adults is trust, which the learning begins at birth.  When a child can’t trust an adult, what is that child to make of the future?  What are they to make of life and the way it’s constructed?   Adults, we have a pivotal role to play in the development of our children.  This includes parents, teachers, coaches, mentors; all of us are leaders in society, placed in a special position – to cultivate the next generation.  When a pedophile like Flores is placed in a position of trust, our children learn all the wrong lessons and even unlearn basic truths in life, such as trust.  This is what makes institutional abuses so egregious; it truly ruins the child’s perception of life.

It begs the question, what is the hiring process to work at the Tierrasanta Karate dojo?  Well, on their ‘About’ tab on their page, they claim that all instructors are handpicked and trained by their board of masters.  They undergo rigorous training, background checks, CPR/First Aid certification, as well as methodologies in pedagogy (child learning).  However, we’d have to take them at their word because there is no other proof that this occurs on their website.  Assuming that everything they claim on their website checks out, how did this predator fall through the cracks?  There’s no one way of knowing the answer to this question, but in nearly all institutional abuse cases, there are multiple factors that come into play.  Their website claimed that they train their instructors weekly; were non-karate topics covered in these weekly training sessions?  Is there a two-person integrity program in place to ensure no sensei is alone with kids?  Once hired, are the instructors required to recertify in pedagogical teaching methods?  Are they trained and retrained on the warning signs of potential child sexual abuse?  There are a lot of questions to this problem, and very few answers.

Child sexual abuse is a no-win situation; what avenues of recourse are available for the victim?  One place is through the legal process, says Steve Estey, co-founder of Estey & Bomberger, and has significant experience in this practice area.   Especially as it relates to child victims of sexual abuse, the adult has all the power in the situation.  When a child is abused by an adult, there’s a sense of hopelessness and rage.  Make no mistake, the legal process is a stressor for child and adult alike; however, the psychological benefit of the legal process is that it allows the victim to take the control back from their assailants.  Also, it creates the possibility of recovery for the abused.  A 2009 Oxford Journal of Pediatric Psychology reaffirms the link of long-term physical damage resulting from Child Sexual Abuse.  The physical damage includes reproductive health, heart issues, and obesity among others.  These issues are often lifetime health issues.  Before we can claim that justice is served to these victims, the cost of their medical needs must be a top priority to all involved.

Cases like this are the exact reason we decided to specialize in the practice area of institutional abuse.  Our firm, Estey & Bomberger, has enjoyed strong and consistent success in providing victims of child sexual assault the monetary help they need to manage their many medical struggles as they move forward in their lives.  There are many reasons for our success, but the primary reason is our philosophy toward our clients.  Are clients are so much more to us than just a ‘client;’ they are real people with real problems – the individual is at the heart of why we practice law.  We don’t represent insurance companies or large institutions; we only represent individuals.  To us, practicing law is our civic duty; it is more than just a job – winning a case on behalf of our clients is the least we can do for the victim.



Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studio – Tierrasanta (About)

Oxford Journal of Pediatric Psychology (2009): Long-term Physical Health Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Meta-Analytic Review