YMCA and YWCA Sexual Abuse and Assault Allegations: Who’s Affected?
Were you or someone you love abused or assaulted by a YMCA or YWCA employee, volunteer, or member?
There has been a disturbing increase in nationwide reports of sexual assault. While many reports involve religious organizations, other entities — such as the Young Men’s Christian Association (“YMCA”), Young Women’s Christian Association (“YWCA”), and other popular youth organizations across the country — have also faced allegations.
A growing number of YWCA and YMCA lawsuits include the complaint that these organizations are failing to properly recognize and address abuse that takes place at their facilities and is committed by its leaders.
The attorneys working with Top Class Actions are looking to take legal action on behalf of victims of YMCA and YWCA sexual assault or abuse to help survivors receive the compensation and the justice they deserve.
Sexual Abuse at “the Y”
While youth organizations can be a great method of providing after-school programs for children, providing a space to grow and develop, they may also lead to instances of sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse is a widespread problem in the United States, with Child Protective Services finding evidence for claims of child sex abuse every 9 minutes, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the largest anti–sexual violence organization in the country.
An alarming 93% of child sex abuse victims knew their perpetrators prior to the crime; of these, 34% of perpetrators were family members whereas 59% were acquaintances—which include family friends, coaches, teachers, priests and youth program leaders, employees, and volunteers, according to RAINN. Because the YMCA and YWCA offer programs for both children and adults, the interaction of these two groups of individuals is inevitable.
YMCA and YWCA Historical Overview
The YMCA, which was founded in London in 1844 by Sir George Williams, has the stated goal of improving the lives of young men by joining Christian principles with the healthy development of the body, mind, and spirit. The YMCA has grown considerably in the 177 years since its inception and includes locations in 120 countries.
The first YMCA in the United States opened in 1851 in Massachusetts; now, there are over 2,700 separate organizational entities based in 10,000 locations across the country. “The Y” has a staff of 19,000, a volunteer network of 600,000 and works with 21 million people. The YMCA offers after-school activities, daycare, and physical fitness programs.
The first YWCA opened in New York City in 1858. Currently, the YMCA has 225 associations, more than 1,300 locations across the country and serves more than 2.3 million women and families through 12,500 employees and 52,000 volunteers.
Rather than focusing on physical services, the YWCA concentrates on human service programs in their communities. One of the major components of the YWCA’s work in communities across the nation is its domestic and sexual violence services. The YWCA’s website notes that it is the “largest network of domestic and sexual violence service providers in the nation.”
Indeed, the YWCA has a long history of providing sexual assault education. In 2017, after Candice Jackson, the acting head of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, suggested that most instances of campus sexual assault were illegitimate, the YWCA released an official statement: “Believe Sexual Assault Survivors.”
“Victims of sexual assault have already faced incredible trauma,” said YWCA USA interim CEO Casey Harden. “When they make the courageous decision to come forward, they deserve—at the very least—to be believed. Ms. Jackson has done considerable harm by continuing to legitimize the myth that the majority of sexual assault reports are lies. This illustrates once again how crucial it is that we have women in leadership who stand up for and with other women. We must continue to believe survivors and champion women leaders who do the same.”
Yes, the YWCA says it believes all victims—but will that belief extend to victims that claim their abuse occurred at the YWCA itself?
YMCA Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Litigation regarding the YMCA and YWCA’s liability for sexual abuse has already commenced. In one YMCA lawsuit, a former North Carolina YMCA counselor invited boys on trips, and, once away at a YMCA facility and while acting as a YMCA employee, he sexually abused the innocent boys. This YMCA employee, Michael Todd Pegram, perpetrated these crimes throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2019, Pegram (now age 48), pled guilty to a first-degree sex offense and is serving a 30-year prison sentence. The current YMCA lawsuit includes eight victims between the ages of 9 and 15, who argue that the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina (NWNC) “knew, or should have known” about the abuse.
“We are saddened to hear and learn more about what these victims and their families experienced more than 25 years ago,” said a spokesperson for NWNC in a statement, “but we are unable to comment on pending legal matters.”
Another YMCA lawsuit was filed in Clark County Circuit Court claiming that 18-year-old Michael Begin, who had been working as a teacher’s aide for the YMCA of Greater Louisville, molested 17 children between the ages of 3 and 8. Parents in this suit similarly allege that the YMCA failed to protect their children from this molestation. Plaintiffs also note that, after learning Begin was being investigated by the police for molestation, the YMCA did not immediately fire him—thereby allowing the abuse to continue for several more weeks.
According to Steve Tarver, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Louisville, the YMCA immediately suspended Begin and reported these allegations to the authorities. However, the organization has declined to clarify the timeline of the alleged incidents and detail the YMCA’s response.
Begin is currently being held at the Clark County jail on over 20 charges of child molestation.
In a separate YMCA lawsuit, parents allege that their 5-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted at a YMCA after-school program by a 7-year-old child due to lack of adult supervision. The mother of the young victim is suing Greenville’s YMCA on behalf of her child. In response, the YMCA maintains that there were more supervisors than required by the state.
“The Y is a strong advocate for all families, and safety is our number one priority,” said Scott Baddley, the YMCA’s executive director. “We constantly strive to provide an environment where everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office who are trained in these matters and were able to talk with everyone involved informed us that they could not confirm anything inappropriate happened in this situation and closed their case.”
YWCA Lawsuits Filed Over Sexual Assault
The YWCA has witnessed similar complaints of sexual abuse. In October 2019, a driver for the YWCA was charged with multiple instances of sexual assault on a woman with a mental disability whom he transported to and from work last fall, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal. The driver, Dwain Sykes, was quickly terminated by the YMCA and has admitted to some of the allegations in the YMCA lawsuit.
“The driver’s actions are not representative of the values of the YWCA Madison and were in direct violation of our code of conduct,” said Vanessa McDowell, CEO of YWCA Madison. “We immediately contacted law enforcement and are cooperating with their investigation,” continued McDowell.
Because the YWCA offers services for sexual assault and abuse survivors—including crisis intervention, counseling, and education for sexual assault prevention—allegations against the YWCA carry a unique dose of painful irony.
Join a Free YMCA and YWCA Sexual Assault Class Action Lawsuit Investigation
If you or someone you love suffered from sexual assault or sexual abuse at the hands of a volunteer, employee, or member of the YMCA or YWCA, you may qualify to join investigations into potential class action lawsuits and pursue a monetary recovery.
Many states are expanding their statutes of limitations and opening look back windows for survivors of sexual abuse, so even if the abuse took place years or even decades ago, you may be able to file a lawsuit and pursue both compensation and justice.
Filing a YMCA lawsuit cannot undo the pain and suffering caused by child sexual abuse. However, taking legal action can provide monetary compensation while at the same time holding those responsible—including organizations that may have ignored, allowed, or covered up the abuse—accountable for their actions.
See if you qualify by filling out the free form on this page.
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