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Jonathan Rosenfeld

March 2, 2023

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There is no benchmark of acceptability involving sexual abuse or sexual molestation. This despicable crime should not happen to anyone, and one time is one time too many.

Unfortunately, it frequently happens in places where we wouldn’t expect it—and lately, there has been a rash of incidents [1] involving the YMCA (the Young Men’s Christian Association), identifying a more widespread problem among staff and paid members.

A YMCA Sexual Molestation Attorney Can Help

The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC have experience prosecuting cases involving large organizations, such as YMCA staff. Were you, or your child, abused or assaulted? If so, contact our office for a free review of your legal rights and options to discuss legal action and with an experienced YMCA sexual abuse lawyer.

Youth Organization Molestation Is a Serious Problem

In August of 2019, as USA Today reports [2], a nineteen-year-old YMCA employee in Indiana pled guilty to molesting twenty young children ages 3-8 over seventeen months.

The teen had been arrested two years with accusations of inappropriately touching two girls on the YMCA youth organization premises, but he also confessed to further counts allegedly took place at a local elementary school, where he worked as a teacher’s assistant. The defendant now faces between two and 120 years in prison for his crimes.

Earlier in August, the athletic director of a YMCA [3] in Iowa was arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a girl in her home. In July, another teen was arrested in Wisconsin on charges of first-degree sexual assault of a 5-year-old under his supervision in a local YMCA’s childcare area.

Reports of sexual molestation have been investigated in at least three Texas summer camps [4] administered by the organization.

YMCA Sexual Assault FAQs

Below are some frequently asked questions raised by victims of abuse that occurred at a YMCA facility or by staff there. We appreciate the sensitive nature of these cases and welcome you to contact our law firm for a free consultation with an experienced sexual abuse attorney to discuss your legal rights and options for pursuing a civil claim or lawsuit.

How Can You Tell If a Child Is Being or Has Been Sexually Abused?

Sexually molested young children might exhibit a wide array of behavioral and emotional responses to the trauma they experienced. Some of the responses they might display include:

  • Unexpected outbursts of unexplained anger
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Nightly difficulties with sleeping or experiencing nightmares
  • Avoiding being left alone with specific individuals
  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Unexplainable age-inappropriate knowledge of sexual activity, behaviors, or language

Not every child who has been sexually molested will exhibit unexplained emotional or behavioral changes. Parents must openly discuss healthy body boundaries and safety when around others by encouraging an open dialogue with their children about sexuality.

Why Do Children Not Tell Others about Sexual Abuse?

Many sexually molested children fail to disclose the trauma they experienced due to numerous reasons, including:

  • The predator’s threat of causing bodily harm to their victim or the victim’s family
  • To keep an agreement with the predator to hold their shared “secret” in silence
  • Living in fear that the authorities will remove the child from the home
  • Unbearable guilt or shame feeling responsible for what happened
  • Fear that their parents, family, siblings, friends, or others in authority will not believe what occurred

What Can You Do If a Child Tells You They’ve Been Sexually Abused?

While your initial reaction will likely be rage and retaliation, staying calm is crucial to your child’s health once they disclose that they were sexually molested. Instead, listen carefully and avoid blaming the child at all costs.

Tell the child you are thankful that they spoke up and provide reassuring words of support. Report what you know to law enforcement or the Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 422-4453.

What Is Child Sex Abuse?

Healthcare professionals define child sexual molestation as a sexual stimulation interaction between an adult, an older child or observer, and the victim. Abuse typically involves inappropriate sexual touching behavior that might involve touching the breast, penis, vagina, buttocks, anus, sodomy, sexual intercourse, or genital-oral contact.

Child sex assault can also involve non-touching behavior, including exhibitionism, voyeurism, pornographic exposure, or sexual humiliation/harassment. Some molesters never use physical force but instead victimize the child with threats, deception, playing, or coercive activity.

Is Child Sex Abuse Rare?

Unfortunately, the molestation of the young and old is not a rare experience. Research statistics show that twenty-five percent of girls and seventeen percent of boys report they were sexually molested before turning eighteen years old.

Sadly, the nature of molestation of the young is secretive, meaning many incidents of sexual assault are never reported.

How Can I Protect My Child from Sex Abuse?

There are useful tools that every parent can use to protect their child from sexual molestation. Some of these protective measures include:
  • Teaching your child the accurate names for their genitals
  • Not placing the child in fear of using “stranger danger.” Instead, children should recognize that sexual molestation usually occurs by someone the family knows and trusts
  • Empowering the child to know that they control their body alone and allowing them to refuse hugs, inappropriate touching, and non-consensual physical contact
  • Teaching your child about the best hygiene care for their private parts while using the toilet, bathing, and washing to avoid relying on older children or adults for assistance
  • Teaching your child how some secrets are good (i.e., surprise party), and some secrets are bad (Never speaking of inappropriate sexual behavior)

Talk with your child about sex molestation once they have passed their pre-school years.

Examining the Problem: Sexual Predators Attracted to YMCAs

Under scrutiny and faced with numerous lawsuits over the years, the YMCA began an initiative earlier this year to raise awareness of child sexual abuse in general and help parents to know the warning signs.

However, this initiative fails to address the more significant question of how so many cases of sexual abuse have managed to occur nationally in an organization recognized as a “safe space.”

While we wouldn’t presume to make allegations on a systemic issue with the national organization without proper proof, we can say that sexual molestation is possible even when organizations like the “Y” seem to be taking every precaution against it. Some common reasons why:

  • Sexual predators gravitate to where children are, like daycare centers, after-school programs, and family-oriented organizations like YMCA. In private and group settings, a YMCA child member might be a prime target, much the same as when playing at a community playground.
  • Many predators have no prior criminal record. A perpetrator must be caught and convicted to be added to the Sex Offenders Registry. If the predator has no prior convictions, they might pass a background check the same as anyone else.
  • Sexual predators look like everyone else. The idea that we can identify a predator by appearance or some “creepiness” factor is a myth. In many cases, it can be the person you (or the employer) least suspect.
  • Sexual violence against the young happens when children and parents let them guard them. In organizations like the “Y,” a local church, community center, or other family-oriented institution, parents and children might be less on guard because they feel a false sense of safety.

Common Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse

Quite often, sexual abuse continues unabated for extended periods because children do not always know how to speak up. Sometimes their abuser might threaten them or their family with harm; at other times, children are manipulated into keeping “our little secret” because they do not know better.

For that reason, parents and organization employees should be aware of some of the common possible indicators of child molestation, including:

  • Nightmares and sleep problems
  • Reversion to earlier behaviors (e.g., bedwetting, potty accidents)
  • Mood swings or short tempers that appear out of character
  • Unexplained fearfulness
  • A drop in grades
  • Mimicking sexual behaviors in gameplay or pretending; shows knowledge of sexual behaviors that are not age-appropriate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained money or gifts in the child’s possession
  • Discoloration, discharge, or pain around the genitals

Dealing With the Aftermath of Abuse in a Youth Organization

Sexually molested victims typically face a long road to recovery, and some might never fully be the same. For children who are abused, their sense of innocence is taken from them, and if the pattern of molestation starts early and continues for years, it can warp the child’s sense of what is “normal.”

Abused victims might struggle with a wide range of issues as they approach adulthood, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, unabated anger, feelings of guilt, withdrawing socially, difficulty forming lasting connections, sexual problems, and more.

Many victims display a vulnerability that increases the likelihood of becoming repeat young adults and child victims. A few victims will one day become perpetrators.

Preventing or reducing these long-term effects might require the victim to undergo intensive therapy and medical care, sometimes lasting for years. The toll on a family might be felt emotionally, psychologically, and even financially.

Since sexual abuse is a crime, the first order of business when abuse is discovered is typically to bring the perpetrator to justice via criminal charges. In criminal cases, the state is the plaintiff, and victims and their families might testify in court as witnesses for the prosecution.

Sometimes, this process can re-open wounds and make the victim feel victimized all over again, but some willingly go through the process in the hope that it will stop the perpetrator from hurting someone else. Criminal charges aside, victims and their families might also be entitled to compensation by filing one or more civil personal injury lawsuits.

The perpetrator should be legally liable for apparent reasons, but if the sexual molestation took place on the premises of an organization like the YMCA, the organization might also be held to account for any negligence that might have enabled the crime.

A personal injury settlement might be used to cover the costs of long-term psychological care, pay any medical bills, and compensate for pain and suffering, which are both likely abundant. In cases of extreme negligence, the court might also assess punitive damages.

The recurring incidents of sexual molestation at “Y” facilities do not necessarily mean your local youth organization is unsafe. However, it should serve to make parents more aware of the issues and dangers so that they become the first line of defense for their children’s safety.

Do not be afraid to ask questions about their screening policies and hiring practices and err on the side of caution when you feel a sense of distrust about leaving a child with someone. Most importantly, if you notice the possible signs of sexual molestation, act quickly to stop it from happening again, and take steps to hold accountable the people responsible.

Do Not Go It Alone. Sex Assault Civil Lawyers Here for You

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has experience prosecuting claims and lawsuits involving sexual abuse in institutional settings. Our attorneys have successfully obtained compensation for individuals to provide for their past and future needs.

If you believe that you have a sexual assault case involving a YMCA facility, we invite you to contact our office for a confidential consultation.

Were you, or a loved one, sexually molested? Contact our law firm today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation. All discussions with our law office remain confidential through an attorney-client relationship.

Our sexual abuse attorneys follow social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

Resources: [1] Psychology Today , [2] USA Today, [3] Des Moines Register, [4] ABC13News

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