For many, “the Y” is a nonprofit organization that provides programs and opportunities that help youth, adults, seniors & families to succeed and realize their full potential. It serves more than 45 million people in 119 countries; and specifically, in the United States, the Y engages 9 million youth and 13 million adults each year. Sadly for some though, “the Y” only reminds them of trauma, pain and suffering as it is the place that led to them or a loved one being sexually abused and/or assaulted.
Sexual assault and abuse is a colossal problem in our world today; and unfortunately, perpetraters can even be found in places and organizations that are trying to do good and provide protection for their members. Even though the YWCA offers educational programs and support services to victims of sexual assault and violence, they aren’t exempt from their fair share of abuse and assault allegations and instances in their own organization.
According to RAINN, based on the National Crime Victimization Survey, on average each year in the United States, there are 433,648 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault. The Children’s Assessment Center of Houston, Texas states that “Child sexual abuse is often predicated on silencing the victim, and as a result, reporting and disclosure is low. Even without knowing the full scope of child sexual abuse instances, most experts will agree that 500,000 children will be impacted by child sexual abuse per year.”
Child Sexual Abuse Facts, provided by the YWCA, state that “A common myth is that child sexual abuse is perpetrated by strangers and pedophiles. But most people who sexually abuse children are our friends, partners, family members, and community members. About 93 percent of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. Less than 10 percent of sexually abused children are abused by a stranger.” And, “One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.”
Sadly for some though, “the Y” only reminds them of trauma, pain and suffering as it is the place that led to them or a loved one being sexually abused and/or assaulted.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Michael Todd Pegram, a former North Carolina YMCA counselor, allegedly invited boys on trips and sexually abused them once they were away. Pegram is now currently serving a 30-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a first-degree sex offense just last year. The lawsuit included eight victims between the ages of 9 and 15, who alleged that the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina “knew, or should have known” about the abuse.
Dwain Sykes, a former driver for the YWCA, was charged in October of 2019 with multiple instances of sexually assaulting a woman with a mental disability whom he was transporting to and from work. Sykes was a driver for one of the programs called JobRide, for the Madison YWCA, which provides transportation for low-income residents. In a statement, CEO of YWCA Madison, Vanessa McDowell said “The driver’s actions are not representative of the values of the YWCA Madison and were in direct violation of our code of conduct.” She continued on to say, “ We immediately contacted law enforcement and are cooperating with their investigation.”
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that an investigation was conducted immediately and he was fired on September 25, 2019. The investigation included video surveillance from inside the van of three separate instances, in September of 2019, where Sykes was inappropriately touching the victim. Also during the investigation, Dwain Sykes admitted to the police that he touched the woman inappropriately, stating “Yeah. I did. I shouldn’t have, but I did.” Sykes is currently being charged with a felony – second-degree sexual assault of a mentally ill victim- punishable by up to 25 years in prison and 15 years of extended supervision.
On April 26, 2019, Michael Begin, a 19-year old, former teacher’s aid for the YMCA of Greater Louisville, Kentucky, was sentenced to 120 years in prison for 20 counts of level 4 child molestation. After having been released pretrial, from his first arrest in October 2017 for two counts of level one felonies of child molestation, 20 additional charges were filed related to multiple more victims. Parents of the 17 girls, who were between the ages of 3 and 8, that Begin molested, allege that the YMCA failed to protect their children; claiming in the lawsuit that they filed, that after learning that Begin was being investigated, the YMCA did not immediately fire him. However, according to the President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Louisville, Steve Tarver, Begin was immediately suspended and they reported the allegations to the authorities.
The families of the victims requested that the judge pass down the full punishment of 120 years. According to a News & Tribune article, “they believed that because he was so young when the continued abuse occurred, that he was beyond rehabilitation and would always be a danger to children if released.” Michael Begin was ultimately charged with 27 level 1 felonies, but he entered a plea agreement in January to 20 of the charges, all modified to level 4 felonies.
At a Greenville YMCA after-school program a 5-year-old girl is alleging that she was sexually assaulted by a 7-year-old child. The lawsuit that the mother of the 5-year-old girl filed alleges gross negligence on behalf of the YMCA for lack of adequate supervision. It claims that only two teenage supervisors were responsible for more than 50 children in the program. However, the YMCA’s executive director, Scot Baddley provided the Greenville News with payroll records for the day of the alleged incident that show five staffers were working. The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office did not find any criminal violations during its investigation in November of 2017 and closed it in February of 2018. The mother is suing the Greenville YMCA for $100,000 stating that her daughter required psychological treatment after suffering permanent mental anguish and, in the future, is expected to need additional treatment.
If you or a loved one is a victim of the sexual abuse perpetrated by an employee, volunteer or member of the YMCA or YWCA, even if the abuse or assault occurred years or even decades ago, please contact Greg Jones Law at 855-Jones-Law (855-566-3752) or contact us online.