A former dance teacher at the now-permanently closed Haven Dance studio in North Port, Florida has been sentenced for sexually abusing a 15-year-old student. 41-year-old Lauren Debenedetta was sentenced to 26 years in prison on September 23 after a jury found her guilty of six counts of lewd and lascivious molestation in July.
An affidavit states that the student was 15 years old when Debenedetta sexually abused her in 2016. The teacher would call the student to her office during dance classes and allegedly kissed her and touched her private parts, according to the affidavit.
Incidents of abuse also occurred at Debendetta's home and the victim's home, according to prosecutors. The dance instructor was arrested after the victim's stepfather caught her in his stepdaughter's bedroom.
Debenedetta was the owner of Haven Dance, which was shut down following her arrest.
In addition to her prison sentence, Debenedetta will spend 5 years on sex offender probation after her release and must register as a sex offender.
Attorney contributor Michael Haggard represents victims of sexual abuse in civil lawsuits. We've asked Michael to add some information regarding the legal rights of dance instructor sex abuse victims and their families:
Businesses where adults are working with children must make sure that these children are protected from preventable dangers, including sexual abuse. When an instructor at a dance studio, martial arts studio, music school, or similar business sexually assaults a student, it's important to investigate both the accused instructor and the business itself to determine if any negligence was involved.
In some cases, negligence by the business is partially to blame for allowing an otherwise preventable case of sexual abuse to occur. For example, the business owner could be considered negligent if they were the perpetrator of the crime or if an employee was the perpetrator who committed the crime due to inadequate safety standards.
When negligence is involved, sex abuse victims and their families may have grounds for a lawsuit. If you or a loved one has been sexually abused by a dance instructor, you can learn more about your legal rights by speaking with one of our experienced sex abuse victims lawyers in a free consultation.