Former students suing college, YMCA
Victims say RA used post to prey on teens in 1980s
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.
The campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown.