For­mer stu­dents su­ing col­lege, YMCA

Vic­tims say RA used post to prey on teens in 1980s

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Cas­san­dra Day

MID­DLE­TOWN —Two for­mer Wes­leyan Univer­sity stu­dents are su­ing the col­lege and the lo­cal YMCA, claim­ing they should have pre­vented a res­i­dent ad­viser from sex­u­ally abus­ing and as­sault­ing them at his cam­pus dor­mi­tory more than 30 years ago.

The 47- and 48-year-old vic­tims al­lege the abuse be­gan in the win­ter of 1983, when each was in mid­dle school, ac­cord­ing to a law­suit filed Aug. 4 in state Su­pe­rior Court at Mid­dle­town. This news­pa­per does not name vic­tims of al­leged sex­ual as­saults un­less they have cho­sen to speak pub­licly about the as­sault.

The com­plaint charges a man, who at the time was a Wes­leyan stu­dent and res­i­den­tial ad­viser, used

bas­ket­ball fa­cil­i­ties to en­gage with and lure mi­nors into his room un­der the “guise of in­struct­ing them in ply­o­met­rics, stretch­ing and other phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to en­hance their ath­letic abil­ity.”

“In re­al­ity, it was a means to al­low him to com­mit sex­ual abuse, sex­ual as­sault and sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of mi­nors,” the suit claims.

The plain­tiffs charge Wes­leyan staff, ad­min­is­tra­tors, coaches, se­cu­rity of­fi­cers and other em­ploy­ees “knew or should have known” of the sex­ual abuse, failed to mon­i­tor and su­per­vise the RA and al­lowed him to be alone with the boys. The suit al­leges the RA ar­ranged for the teens to meet with him alone in his room to teach them ex­er­cises.

Cromwell At­tor­ney Ea­mon T. Dono­van, who rep­re­sents the vic­tims, said, to his knowl­edge, charges were never filed.

Mid­dle­town Po­lice Lt. Heather Des­mond said the depart­ment has no record of a com­plaint or ar­rest be­ing made in con­nec­tion with this case.

“They were very young when it hap­pened,” Dono­van said. “It was some­thing they were wrestling with for a very long time. I came to know one of my clients and he started dis­cussing it with me. He de­cided now was the time to take a stand and to speak out. It’s been a dif­fi­cult thing for both of them, some­thing they’ve both been dealing with through­out their adult lives.”

“We are aware of the suit and are look­ing into the mat­ter, but we don’t com­ment on pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion,” said Lau­ren Ruben­stein, Wes­leyan man­ager of me­dia and pub­lic re­la­tions. “We take this very se­ri­ously and con­demn any sex­ual vi­o­lence, es­pe­cially those in­volv­ing mi­nors.” Wes­leyan res­i­dent ad­vis­ers are ex­pected to mon­i­tor stu­dent ac­tiv­i­ties, re­port il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity and en­force dorm rules, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

The com­plaint charges Wes­leyan not only failed to alert par­ents to the dan­ger the RA posed to chil­dren but did not con­duct a “rea­son­able in­ves­ti­ga­tion or back­ground check that would have un­cov­ered the dan­ger” he posed to chil­dren.

Both men suf­fered bod­ily in­jury and se­vere emo­tional distress, some of which may be per­ma­nent, take med­i­ca­tions re­lated to the trauma and have un­der­gone psy­cho­log­i­cal treat­ment, court doc­u­ments say.

Also named as a de­fen­dant is the North­ern Mid­dle­sex YMCA of Mid­dle­town, which hired the Wes­leyan RA as a camp coun­selor for a camp pro­gram at the time. The camp in­cluded a 10-day bik­ing tour of Martha’s Vine­yard and Cape Cod in the sum­mer of 1984, the suit says, dur­ing which the coun­selor ar­ranged to be alone with the stu­dents.

Un­der the pre­tense of teach­ing the boys to stretch, he sex­u­ally as­saulted the youth, the com­plaint says.

“At the North­ern Mid­dle­sex YMCA, the safety and well-be­ing of chil­dren is a top pri­or­ity,” Michele Rul­nick, YMCA pres­i­dent/ CEO, said in a pre­pared state­ment. “The Y fol­lows strict best prac­tice guide­lines for child pro­tec­tion and safety. This al­le­ga­tion is 33 years old, and we don’t have com­plete records dat­ing back to that time. Be­cause lit­i­ga­tion is on­go­ing, we are un­able to com­ment fur­ther.”

Both plain­tiffs are seek­ing mon­e­tary dam­ages in ex­cess of $15,000.

The case will re­turn to court Dec. 14.

Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

The cam­pus of Wes­leyan Univer­sity in Mid­dle­town.

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