Man charged for sex with girl, 13

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98,500 children were sexually abused in the US in 1999, the last year for which data is available. As many YMCA professionals know, abuse, sexual and otherwise, occurs nearly everywhere. Yet, there is a natural inclination to believe abuse won’t happen in our own communities, not to mention our own YMCA. Awareness of the threat is key, and reinforcing proven abuse prevention strategies is an essential element in protecting the kids in our programs. Both are the goals for our “Abuse Alert” program. Each is a brief treatment of the topic, focussing on one real, recent, public event, gleaned from the media… reprinting the article about the event in its entirety (omitting names and identifying references to the YMCA) and providing a few important teaching points for you to share with your staff. As always, if you need additional guidance on this topic, please call us at 800-463-8546.


“Man charged for sex with girl, 13”

SMALL NEW ENGLAND CITY: 03/11/2003 - A young man is accused of lying about his age and having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl who frequented [city’s] YMCA recreational center, police said yesterday. [Accused], 21, told the alleged victim he was a volunteer at the YMCA, and pretended to be 17 years old when he participated in YMCA programs, police said.

[Accused], who is formerly of [city, state], and lives with a friend at [address], applied last Wednesday or Thursday to become a YMCA volunteer, but had not been accepted as a volunteer, YMCA President said.

[Accused] developed a relationship with a 13-year-old girl in late January or February, police said. They had sexual intercourse four times over several weeks, police said. He also is accused of giving the girl marijuana. While the sex was consensual, the legal age of consent under [State] law is 16, police said.

After the girl’s parents learned of the relationship, they contacted authorities.

Police said they arrested [accused] at the YMCA last Friday. [Accused] was arraigned in District Court Saturday on four counts of felonious sexual assault and one count of dispensing a controlled substance, authorities said.

No pleas could be entered on the five felony charges. A probable cause hearing is set for March 20. [Accused] is being held at the [name] County House of Corrections on $50,000 cash or surety bail.

[Accused] participated in the YMCA’s Teen Nights, a supervised program for teenagers up to 18 years old held Friday nights, [YMCA President] said.

[Accused] said he was a 17-year-old student at a [City] high school when he began attending Teen Nights in January, he said. [Accused] applied to become a volunteer mid-week last week, [YMCA President] said.

The application process includes providing the names of three references and having state police do a criminal background check on the applicant, he said. But YMCA staff never finished processing [accused] application, in part, because he gave two different birth dates on the forms, [YMCA President] explained.

[YMCA President] said YMCA staff [sic] were unaware of the alleged relationship with the teenager. “We didn’t know anything about any of his relationships. There was no knowledge that we had about anything that he was doing,” he explained.

He said a YMCA staff member contacted police Friday when they saw [accused] at the center and knew he was “under suspicion” by the police.


“YMCA: Volunteer lied about age in sex case”

SMALL NEW ENGLAND CITY: 03/12/2003 - Officials at the YMCA said they are re-evaluating their policies and procedures after a man who applied to be a volunteer there was accused of lying about his age and having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl who participated in the YMCA’s teen program.

“The [City] YMCA is deeply concerned and upset about the circumstances surrounding [accused] arrest for sexual assault,” the YMCA said in a statement released yesterday.

“We continually re-evaluate our policies and procedures regarding our volunteers and will work to identify any internal weaknesses in our processes so that we, too, can learn from this situation.”

Police arrested 21-year-old [accused] at the YMCA on Friday, charging him with four counts of felonious sexual assault and one count of dispensing a controlled substance.

According to the YMCA, [accused] began participating in the organization’s teen program in late January, claiming he was 17-years old and a student at [City] High School. Later, he offered to assist the staff with some of the activities in the teen program, which YMCA officials said is a common part of being in the program. “He was never a part-time or full-time employee of the YMCA. He was never an authorized volunteer of the YMCA,” the YMCA’s statement read.

But, police said [accused] told his alleged victim that he was a volunteer at the YMCA. They said he and the girl had sexual intercourse four times since they began a relationship in late January or February. [Accused] is also accused of giving the girl marijuana.

Police learned of the relationship when the girl’s parents found out about the relationship and contacted them.

The YMCA said [accused] had mistakenly been given a YMCA Leader’s Club shirt by a part-time staff member. [Accused] also began the application process to become a volunteer last Thursday, the YMCA said, and he received a staff access card as part of the process. Later that day, the YMCA learned [accused] was wanted for questioning by police, and the [YMCA] branch director [name] called police immediately.

[Accused], who lives with a friend at [address], is being held at the [name] County House of Corrections on $50,000 cash or surety bail. A probable cause hearing is set for March 20.

YMCA officials said criminal background checks and reference checks are done on all volunteer applicants. They said [accused] completed only one portion of the paperwork to become a volunteer, where he gave some incorrect and conflicting information, which would have prevented the YMCA from accepting him as a volunteer.


“Another city teen alleges sexual assault at YMCA”

SMALL NEW ENGLAND CITY: 03/14/2003 - A second under-aged girl told police this week she also had sexual contact with a man who posed as a volunteer at the [city] YMCA, police said yesterday.

[Accused], 21, was arrested last Friday at the YMCA’s recreational center on four counts of felonious sexual assault and one count of dispensing marijuana to a 13-year-old girl he had developed a relationship with in late January or February, police said.

While the alleged sex was consensual, the legal age of consent in [State] is 16. He is being held in [name] County jail on $50,000 cash or surety bail. A probable cause hearing is set for March 20.

Another 13-year-old girl this week alleged she also had sexual contact with [accused] police said. They are investigating that allegation. No additional charges have been brought. The alleged incident occurred outside [city].

[Accused] allegedly met both girls at the YMCA, told them he worked there as a volunteer and lied about his age, claiming to be a 17-year-old [name] High School student, police said. “He has lied about going to school. He has lied about his age. He has basically lied and conned everyone,” [YMCA President] said.

[Accused] participated in YMCA programs and helped staff and official volunteers, but had not been accepted as a volunteer, [YMCA President] said. [Accused] applied to become a volunteer March 6, but his application had not yet been approved, in part, because he gave conflicting birth dates, [YMCA President] said.

A YMCA staff member, however, issued [accused] an identification card March 6 that allowed him staff access, [YMCA President] said. The card should not have been issued and the YMCA is conducting a review of its policies and procedures to determine how that happened, he said.

But [YMCA President] and police said the alleged sexual relationships occurred before [accused] received the identification card.

Police said [accused] is formerly of [City, State], and lived with a friend at [address].

[Female witness], 41, said [accused] became a frequent visitor at her [street name] home after her teenage son met him at the YMCA. [Accused] said he was homeless, she said. She said she only learned his real age when she located his mother in [City] last week and police were called. Police said the YMCA is cooperating in the investigation.


What we don’t know:

  • whether the offender had a prior history of abusive behavior with children
  • whether any abuse took place at the YMCA itself
  • whether other children were actually involved and if so, to what extent
  • whether there were any red flags present when the alleged abuser was involved with “teen-night” either as a participant or as an informal supervisor
  • whether the red flag raised by inconsistencies in the volunteer application would have eventually caused the retrieval of the staff accouterments erroneously given

What we do know:
in general…

  • Where children are, predators will come… a YMCA program for teenagers gathered his target audience for him… all he had to do was come
  • We don’t catch abusers abusing children, we catch them breaking the rules… he broke the participation rule by lying about his age… unfortunately the YMCA did not catch the lie
  • Abusers are often well-respected and influential individuals, people in positions of power and authority… he attempted to validate his presence and identity at the YMCA by applying to be a volunteer…
  • Policies and procedures to protect children are of little benefit if they are not strictly followed… he managed to obtain both a staff identification card and a Leader’s Club tee shirt before completing the volunteer application process

specifically…

  • an alleged abuser gained access to a child by enrolling in a program in this YMCA… his application to be a volunteer took place after the alleged sexually predatory behavior
  • an alleged abuser was provided with access and power by this YMCA… access granted by a staff id card and authority implied by a Leader’s Club tee shirt could have compromised many children both on and off premises if circumstances had not exposed him

What we should do:

  • YMCAs should verify the identity of everyone who participates in any of their programs. If the program is designed for a specific age group then the person’s age should also verified. Documentation acceptable would be driver’s license, school identification cards (if they have a photo), YMCA membership cards (if they are a member), etc.
  • Anything that identifies someone as a YMCA staff member should be closely controlled.
    • Fail-safe procedures should exist to prevent unauthorized access or distribution of such items
    • Fail-safe procedures should exist to ensure the return of such items when an employee or volunteer staff member leaves
  • Access to children should be withheld until all phases of the employee or volunteer application process are completed. These should include a written application, signed adherence to the code of conduct, criminal background check, reference checks, etc. (see also our abuse prevention standards and the Y of the USA’s code of conduct).

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.

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