A few weeks ago CJG filed a lawsuit against the YMCA of the Triangle Area, Inc. and its former employee Justin Taylor. Taylor worked in the after school program at Jones Day Elementary School in Raleigh as a counselor, and then later as a supervisor. One afternoon, another counselor at the YMCA who was new in her job got suspicious when she saw Taylor put a boy on his lap, and when she looked closer she saw him commit a sexual assault.
The worker reported what she saw, and not long after that Taylor was arrested for committing sex crimes against several minor children at the YMCA. Two of those children are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Taylor eventually pleaded guilty to molesting several boys and was sentenced to serve time in the Wake County Jail.
Some people ask why we sue a pedophile’s employer when this kind of thing happens. Why don’t we just stick to suing the perpetrator? There are several reasons, having to do with the conduct of the after-school program and the needs of the victims.
FIRST: Child molesters go where the children are. The people who run schools and programs that provide services to children should be well aware of this and they should do everything they can to protect the safety of their participants. They should have guidelines for the prevention of sexual abuse, and they should have guidelines for conducting effective background checks. And, once the company has guidelines and procedures, they need to make sure they are followed, no exception.
In this case we have reason to believe that Taylor’s conduct with his victims was so open and obvious that someone should have seen that either the guidelines in place were not effective or that the guidelines were not being followed. Taylor had his “favorites” and ended up molesting a lot of boys. How did he get away with it? We want to know. And we want to make sure it never happens again.
SECOND: When children are molested by people they trust and look up to, it is even more damaging than when they are harmed by a stranger. The violation of trust by someone who knows them often causes children to question their entire world view, about what they perhaps did wrong to make the relationship turn into something that hurt them. They are usually told not to tell anyone, and because of the relationship, which may make the perpetrator larger than life in their eyes, they often don’t. Then the silence combines with the questioning and things get worse for the kids.
All of these factors cause children in these situations often to have behavior problems and to need therapy. Therapy is expensive. Sometimes it is not covered by insurance. Sometimes the need for therapy is continuing, and pops up at various stages in future life, such as puberty, heading to college, getting into a first serious relationship, and having children. Every survivor of child sexual abuse handles it differently. We want to make sure our clients are protected in the future.
I understand it the YMCA currently has sex abuse prevention guidelines. However, we do not know whether they are being followed as closely as they should. For example, a Raleigh mother recently walked into the gym at the A.E. Finley YMCA and found that her six-year-old boy was pinned to the ground and being assaulted by two other boys. According to the mother, one of the boys was holding her son down on the ground while the other boy pulled his genitals out of his gym shorts and set them on her son’s face. The mother of the victim, who suffers from several disabilities, reported that she was told by the camp director not to contact police.
Child molesters also present themselves as the nicest people you will ever meet. That is how they gain the trust of victims and their families, and it’s how they avoid suspicion. That is another thing that people who run these programs should know. Taylor was not only an employee of the YMCA, he was a seminary student. That may have influenced people to trust him. The important thing about guidelines and standards is that they apply to everyone, charming or not.
*Please understand this is just the beginning of the lawsuit, and no court has yet found that the YMCA was negligent. Both sides have a right to explain their versions of the facts.