Police arrest YMCA supervisor

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Approximately 87,000 children were sexually abused in the US in 2001, according to the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Human Services. 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. Although the following incident does not involve a Redwoods insured YMCA, we want to impress upon you the role each of us plays in providing a safe environment.


“Police arrest YMCA supervisor”

MID-SIZED SOUTHERN CITY: 07/03/2003 - Metro police arrested a former [branch] YMCA staff member Wednesday in connection with the alleged rape and fondling of a teen-age boy who participated in programs the staff member conducted.

[Accused], 32, who had worked at the YMCA for 15 years, was named in a [county] Grand Jury indictment on charges of one count of rape, one count of statutory rape and two counts of sexual battery of an authority figure. He was arrested at the home of a relative at [street]. His bond was set at $75,000 (elsewhere cited as $300,000). [Accused] has no previous convictions.

“It’s very sad,” said [name], spokesperson for the YMCA [association]. “And it’s a shock.”

Officials at the [branch] contacted police last May in reference to allegations that [accused] had inappropriate sexual conduct with teen-age boys who were participating in the “Leaders Club” program that he was supervising. He was fired on May 13, the same day the allegations surfaced. The indictment alleges that [accused] molested a teen-age boy over several months beginning in 2001 when the victim was 13. The incidents took place during overnight “Leaders Club” activities. [Accused] allegedly would place his sleeping bag next to the boy’s.

[YMCA spokesperson] said the YMCA’s Department of Human Resources, which has “strict and ongoing background checks,” would use the incident to brainstorm on how to tighten the existing policies. “We have been looking at all those things and have been doing a thorough re-evaluation right after this came to light to see how we can enhance those policies,” [spokesperson] said.

Staff at the [branch] YMCA, [YMCA spokesperson] said, sent out letters to roughly 20 parents going back three years to uncover any previous incidents. “This is just to say ‘Look, we want this out in the open,” said [spokesperson]. Counseling, said [spokesperson], is being made available to all members and families of the Leaders Club as well as any other YMCA members who wishes to avail themselves of the service.

Metro police have identified two other victims but due to the statute of limitations, [accused] cannot be prosecuted for the alleged offenses. The Police Department is urging parents of children who have participated in programs [accused] has supervised to ask if [accused] may have engaged in any inappropriate behavior with them and report the incident to the department’s Youth Services Division at [telephone number].


“Police Investigate YMCA Sex Case”

MID-SIZED SOUTHERN CITY: 07/03/2003 - A [branch] Y employee is fired, and police prepare to arrest him for inappropriate sexual contact with minors. A Metro Police Department investigation was expected to lead to the arrest Tuesday night of longtime [branch] YMCA employee [accused], who was fired six weeks ago after allegations were made that the assistant teen director had inappropriate sexual contact with an unspecified number of minors under his supervision.

Police spokesman [name] confirms only that an investigation is underway. “The police department's child abuse investigative component… began an investigation in mid-May into allegations of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature by a now former employee of the [branch] YMCA,” he says.

A source at the [branch] YMCA's says [accused] was fired May 13 after individuals involved in the Y's Teen Leaders Club came forward to report that [accused] had molested them and an investigation was launched. [Name], director of communications for the YMCA [association], wouldn't identify [accused] by name, saying only that an employee of the [branch] Y was fired on that date after company officials conducted an internal investigation of allegations.

[YMCA spokesperson] says some of the incidents allegedly happened several years ago at a Y overnight “lock-in.” The unspecified employee–whom a [media] source confirms is [accused]–is alleged to have had contact with “one or two individuals who are no longer minors and one or two who are,” [spokesperson] says.

[Spokesperson] also says Y officials have mailed letters about the investigation to the families of children [accused] instructed going back three years. According to [spokesperson], police are investigating allegations of “several instances” of “inappropriate physical contact” with “a very few male minors” “over a period of time.”

But while police charges will address criminal conduct going back three years, a source close to the investigation says at least one victim was molested six years ago, and that the victim recently came forward to notify Y officials of the past abuse. The source says charges aren't expected to be filed based on that incident, however, because the statute of limitations doesn't allow prosecution in cases that far back.

[Spokesperson] says that the Y's “first concern is for any teens or parents who might be affected.” Asked why letters weren't sent to families of children under [accused]' care going beyond three years, he says the Y accessed the best records it had. “We have good records going back three years for folks who have been involved in the programs,” [spokesperson] says. “We had information from the allegations I mentioned and turned all that over to Metro Police. We don't know what leads they followed or how their investigation ensued. If we were aware of an allegation from someone going back five years or 10 years, we would turn that over.”

[Accused], who is in his early 30s and is known by the nickname [moniker], was employed by the YMCA for 15 years. Considered a trustworthy character, he has coached basketball, soccer and baseball at both the Y and area schools. “There's always been two people–there's [accused], who's done so many wonderful things for so many people, and there's [moniker], who's done some horrible things,” says the [media] source.

[YMCA spokesperson] describes the terminated individual as “a longtime employee with no criminal record.” He adds that the Y had “no indication that he might do the things he is alleged to have done.”


What we do know:

  • the YMCA said it had no indication that accused might do the things that he allegedly did and yet it terminated him on the very day the allegations surfaced…he had been with the Y for15 years
  • the YMCA proactively contacted parents of children who had been involved with the accused during the previous three years and yet it had notice of alleged abuse going back six years… a limitation for filing criminal charges doesn’t erase the possibility of harm to undiscovered victims
  • the police, not the YMCA, identified the two additional victims

What we don’t know:

  • the extent of screening that the accused received when hired
    • abuse prevention protocols were not nearly as developed or prevalent as now
    • he was a minor (about 15) at the time, severely limiting access to data
  • the scope and amount of abuse prevention training that the accused received
  • the extent of the damage to children (number of victims or degree of abuse)
  • what was meant by the comment “there’s always been two people…[one] who’s done so many wonderful things…[one] who’s done some horrible things”… were there red flags that might have forewarned this behavior?

What we must remember:

  • Abuse screening should not be a one-time check-box but an on-going activity
  • Everyone changes… knowing someone then is not the same as knowing them now
  • Everyone has a private life… knowing someone long is not the same as knowing them well
  • Negligent behavior consists of acts that are either improper or inadequate given what was known (or should have been known)… it includes both over and under reacting
    • No prior indication or warning but termination rather than suspension…possibly over reacting? We must protect the children without violating the rights of the accused.
    • Six years of alleged abuse but three years of contact…possibly under reacting? We must find and protect the potentially damaged, not choose the easy pathway.

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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