Child Victims Act lawsuit: Boy was sexually assaulted in 1985 at Binghamton Salvation Army
By Anthony Borrelli
BinghamtPress & Sun-Bulletvia PressConnects
February 07, 2020
A Binghamton man has accused a former staff member at the Salvation Army's Youth Center of sexually assaulting him when he was a homeless 16-year-old during the latter months of 1985.
The now-51-year-old man's lawsuit, filed Monday in Supreme Court of Broome County under New York's Child Victims Act, doesn't name the suspected abuser but it refers to him as a "John Doe" — an agent, administrator and/or officer with the Salvation Army.
Alleged repeated acts of sexual abuse, including rape, harassment and violence, were committed between September and December of 1985, according to the lawsuit. Seven defendants are listed: the Salvation Army, its Open Door Youth Center now known as the Salvation Army of Binghamton, and five "John Does," one of them described as the "principal abuser."
The lawsuit accuses the abuser of grooming the 16-year-old victim while working as a counselor at the Youth Center, someone who became a guiding force in the victim's life.
At the time, the victim had been "out on the street" before getting involved with the Salvation Army's Youth Center due to a difficult home life, according to the lawsuit. He was at the time under legal guardianship of the defendants, the lawsuit says, and the center's after-school programs also helped the boy earn his GED.
The sexual assaults began in September or October of 1985 in a chapel of the Salvation Army's Youth Center, according to the court documents, which describe the alleged assault in graphic detail.
"This conduct was atrocious and transcended all bounds of decency," attorney Charles Horn of Nassau County said in the lawsuit, "such that this conduct would be utterly intolerable in a civilized society."
The lawsuit also claims the perpetrator controlled access to the center's chapel and homeless shelter, which allowed him to prevent being caught.
Using a claim that he'd been a convicted felon who previously spent more than 20 years in prison throughout his life, the lawsuit alleges, the perpetrator intimidated the victim into a feeling of fear and silence.
Horn said in the lawsuit that the perpetrator had a history of sexually molesting children, but the court documents don't include further details.
The lawsuit also alleges the Salvation Army should have known about the perpetrator's history at the time, a common argument raised in Child Victims Act lawsuits against entities or organizations such as the Boy Scouts or Catholic Church.
What the NY Child Victims Act means
Taking effect in October 2019, the Child Victims Act opened a one-year window to allow victims to bring a lawsuit against their abusers, and recently, lawmakers began considering whether to extend the window into August 2021.
New York has had more than 1,300 cases brought since August, according to the state Office of Court Administration.
The one-year window currently applies only to civil claims, but the law also extended the statute of limitations for criminal child sexual abuse cases.
Prosecutors now have until a child sex abuse victim turns 28 to seek a felony indictment, up from the previous age of 23.