Man charged with sexually abusing boy at YMCA

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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 JCC 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 JCC. 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 alert is a brief treatment of the topic, focusing on one real, recent, public event…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 with sexually abusing boy at YMCA”

SMALL MID-WESTERN CITY – 05/22/02: Charges of child molestation are pending against a 17-year-old male who police say sexually molested a 7-year old boy at the [YMCA name].

[Alleged perpetrator] was arrested at 9:40 p.m. Monday at the YMCA after [city police] officers interviewed the victim and his mother, a police report said. [Alleged perpetrator] was in jail Tuesday on $10,000 bond.

[Alleged perpetrator] made the boy touch his private parts in the locker room at the YMCA, said [County district attorney].

“The defendant told officers it was only for a short time,” [district attorney] said in court.

The YMCA has launched an internal investigation into the incident and the facility’s security according to [YMCA executive director].

“We’re still gathering more details on the case,” he said. “We want to provide the safest facility for our members at all times. We take this very seriously, and we want to make sure that things like this don’t happen in the future.”

[Alleged perpetrator] has been living in a group home in [city] because he was on supervised release from [County] on drug offenses. He was due to be released later this year, [district attorney] said.

He added that [alleged perpetrator] was also caught molesting another boy at the group home last year.

What we do know:

  • the alleged perpetrator gained access to a boy 10 years younger
  • given the reports by the district attorney, his behavior was repetitive
  • the County was aware of his prior inappropriate behavior
  • children are to be supervised at all times
  • the County and the YMCA has an agreement to provide memberships to youth with prior criminal behavior who were in a group home

What we don’t know:

  • whether the alleged perpetrator knew the boy or his family prior to the incident
  • how long the alleged perpetrator has been using the YMCA
  • whether there was any behavior by the alleged perpetrator that should have triggered red flags
  • if the alleged perpetrator’s confession was truly voluntary or forced by the police
  • the extent of the alleged perpetrator’s prior deviant behavior
  • the extent of the YMCA’s knowledge of the alleged perpetrator’s prior deviant behavior
  • the extent that the YMCA protected itself via contract or collaboration agreement with the County

What we can learn:

  • child molesters will do whatever is necessary to gain access to children
  • although an estimated 96% of child molesters have no criminal record, this one did
  • there are “situational” abusers – those who take advantage of a situation, this appears to be an example of that
  • the JCCs aggressive response to suspicious, inappropriate, or illegal behavior sends a loud clear message to the community that they holds safety paramount

What we can do:

  • regular locker room sweeps should be performed and documented
  • install convex mirrors to allow visibility (within the locker room) of hidden areas
  • if possible, age appropriate or family changing areas where children can be adequately supervised should be provided
  • limit child “drop-in” times and have JCC staff monitor the locker room during these high volume times; JCC staff should escort children or monitor their movement in the building
  • parents who drop off their children should be required to attend a parental tour where they will learn the code of conduct, the rules, and regulations of the JCC (no babysitting, no gifts)
  • if children are not going to be supervised at all times, standards and notices to parents/members should be modified to state that fact
  • closely monitor and supervise any group of people who are not “regular” JCC members

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 JCC risk management issues.

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