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More than 200 people across 30 states say that they were sexually abused as children by people with ties to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which serves more than 4 million children as the nation’s largest youth development nonprofit.
Boys & Girls Clubs’ employees, volunteers, and even other minors all abused 250 children, who were sometimes as young as 6, according to an investigation by Hearst Connecticut Media published Thursday. In some cases, administrators didn’t report the abuse to law enforcement, didn’t run adequate background checks on staffers now accused of abusing children, or didn’t follow the Boys & Girls Clubs’ safety guidelines.
Some of the 95 civil and criminal cases filed over the alleged abuse stretch back to the ‘70s; others are still ongoing as of this week.
One of the most egregious cases discovered by Hearst involves a California man named Paul “Dwayne” Kilgore. A civil lawsuit alleges that a fifth-grade boy tried to report Kilgore, in both 2007 and 2010, for recently sexually abusing him. But Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley employees didn’t tell police. In 2012, the club’s leadership found Kilgore had slept naked with children in a bed on an overnight trip, but once again, no one told police.
Kilgore left that club when, in 2013, he was told he couldn’t take boys offsite. He was soon hired at a Boys & Girls Club in Petaluma, only a few miles away.
In 2016, Kilgore was arrested and ultimately convicted of child molestation." After his arrest, Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley told the media that they didn’t know about any previous complaints involving Kilgore.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which serves at-risk children, has 4,600 local affiliates and a mission that’s been approved by Congress. But the organization doesn’t keep a public list of abuse allegations or perpetrators, as many Catholic dioceses have begun to do in the wake of the Roman Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse crisis.
The Boy Scouts of America have also recently been hit with an avalanche of allegations that the organization covered up years of child sex abuse. The Boy Scouts have long kept files popularly known as the “perversion files,” which list the names of people who have been barred from participating in their programs due to suspected pedophilia. While at least some of those files are now publicly available, critics charge that the Boy Scouts continue to conceal the scope of the abuse.
“Any single incident is too many”
John Miller, senior vice president of field services for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, declined to tell Hearst how many allegations have been relayed to headquarters since 2014, when that reporting became a requirement. Bit since 2014, adults associated with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America failed to report abuse to law enforcement in two instances, according to two civil lawsuits uncovered by Hearst.
“I can say that that number is not a large number, and the average that results in arrests is probably in the single digits every year since 2014,” Miller said, adding that the public can find reports of abuse through local media or law enforcement. “Any single incident is too many. Our goal is to get to zero.”
“We’ve created the layers so that it’s not about one person holding the list,” he went on. “It’s about the whole movement, whole network, ensuring kids are safe.”
Four of the civil and criminal cases reviewed by Hearst involved abuse that took place in New York state, which, as of Wednesday, opened up a one-time, one-year window in which any survivor of child sex abuse can sue their attackers and the institution they represented, no matter how much time has passed.
That might be a pricey proposition for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America — particularly given the fact that three people have already filed lawsuits alleging that said they were abused by Reginald Archibald.
Archibald, who is now dead, was an endocrinologist who volunteered at the Madison Square Boys’ Club in the 1940s through the 1960s and later belonged to its board. Rockefeller University Hospital, which employed Archibald, has concluded that Archibald abused children through his work at the hospital. Lawyers for his victims say he may have abused hundreds of children.
“Youth service organizations fill a void in a kid’s life, especially if that child comes from a broken home,” Jason Amala, a Seattle-based lawyer representing former Boys’ Club members who say they were abused, told Hearst. “There were very fond memories for a lot of people there. But the flip side is they find out later the organization didn’t protect them.”
In a statement after Hearst’s report, the Boys & Girls Club of America said that sexual abuse is always reported to law enforcement and its first priority is children’s safety. The organization also said it plans to publicly release a “top-to-bottom review of our safety processes” conducted by an independent third party. Local clubs will also be independently reviewed.
“Any abuse of children is horrific, and we are very sorry and heartbroken that any child was ever harmed,” the group said. “We will do whatever it takes to ensure the safety and protection of the youth we serve and continue to improve our policies that protect young people.
Update 8/15 4:36 p.m.: This story has been updated with a statement from the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Cover image: (iStock / Getty Images Plus)