Former Children’s Village Residents Allege Sexual, Physical Abuse

By Rick Pez­zullo
October 28, 2020

Ten for­mer res­i­dents of The Chil­dren’s Vil­lage res­i­den­tial treat­ment cen­ter in Dobbs Ferry have taken le­gal ac­tion, ac­cus­ing staff, ad­min­is­tra­tors and older res­i­dents at the home for trou­bled boys of sex­ual and phys­i­cal abuse over a 25-year pe­riod.

The vic­tims, who were all emo­tion­ally dis­turbed young boys when they were placed at the Chil­dren’s Vil­lage by courts or child wel­fare agen­cies, al­lege in law­suits they were phys­i­cally bru­tal­ized, raped, and hu­mil­i­ated by older res­i­dents, while sim­i­lar sex­ual abuse was per­pe­trated by staff, in­clud­ing teacher aides, coun­sel­lors, and a for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

When the boys com­plained to so­cial work­ers or other staff about the phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse, they al­lege were ei­ther ig­nored or threat­ened with vi­o­lence.

“These chil­dren were typ­i­cally brought to The Chil­dren’s Vil­lage to re­move them from abu­sive or ne­glect­ful con­di­tions in their fam­i­lies’ homes with the goal of heal­ing their trau­mas. In­stead, their vic­tim­iza­tion con­tin­ued and es­ca­lated to hor­ri­fy­ing pro­por­tions,” said at­tor­ney Robert Green­stein of Green­stein & Mil­bauer, LLP. “These vic­tims have en­dured—and con­tinue to ex­pe­ri­ence—fear, shame and pain. It has taken them years to step for­ward and tell their sto­ries.”

The law­suits ac­cuse The Chil­dren’s Vil­lage of neg­li­gence in its hir­ing, train­ing, and su­per­vi­sion, among other fail­ures, from about 1970 to 1995.

The cases, which are be­ing heard by Jus­tice Steven M. Jaeger at the Nas­sau County Supreme Court in Mi­ne­ola, were filed un­der the pro­vi­sion of the Child Vic­tims Act. Last year, Gov­er­nor An­drew Cuomo signed the Child Vic­tims to en­sure sur­vivors of child­hood sex­ual abuse had a path to jus­tice, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to file a case which had al­ready been time-barred or ex­pired for a one-year pe­riod. The win­dow to file an ex­pired or time-barred case was set to close Au­gust 14, 2020, but due to the dis­rup­tion of the le­gal sys­tem by the pan­demic, the dead­line has been ex­tended un­til Au­gust 14, 2021.

One of the plain­tiffs, Scott Sar­tory, who was in at­ten­dance at a re­cent press con­fer­ence with other al­leged vic­tims, ar­rived at The Chil­dren’s Vil­lage when he was six years old around 1985. He claims he was forced to shower and ex­pose his rec­tal area to em­ploy­ees. He was even­tu­ally be­friended by a Chil­dren’s Vil­lage em­ployee who adopted him around 1989 and then moved him into his home in Queens, where Sar­tory al­leged he was bru­tally sex­u­ally abused. He ran away from the home and be­came a home­less youth un­til he reached adult­hood.

An­other plain­tiff, An­thony Bruno, ar­rived at The Chil­dren’s Vil­lage when he was about five years old around 1989. The same em­ployee who adopted Sar­tory also be­came Bruno’s fos­ter fa­ther. Bruno al­leges he was forced to make porno­graphic videos by his fos­ter fa­ther, who also bru­tally sex­u­ally abused him at his fos­ter fa­ther’s home. Like Sar­tory, Bruno even­tu­ally ran away from home.

When con­tacted about the al­le­ga­tions, Pe­ter So­bel, a se­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer at The Chil­dren’s Vil­lage, is­sued the fol­low­ing state­ment: “As a lead­ing child wel­fare agency, the safety of chil­dren in our care is our top pri­or­ity. We are heart­bro­ken by these al­le­ga­tions. Every child de­serves and needs to feel safe, se­cure and sup­ported, and that’s what we work hard to achieve every day.”

At The Chil­dren’s Vil­lage cam­pus in Dobbs Ferry, ap­prox­i­mately 300 chil­dren, ages 12 to 20, live at any given time, with lengths of stay rang­ing from 30 days to 12 months. The cam­pus also has apart­ments for staff, which house ap­prox­i­mately 114 staff fam­i­lies. There is a pub­lic school that serves the res­i­dents and chil­dren from the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties; a job train­ing pro­grams that give res­i­dents ex­pe­ri­ence in dog train­ing, bar­ber­ing, cook­ing, and other skills; a record­ing stu­dio; full recre­ation cen­ter; green­houses and com­mu­nity gar­den; and other fa­cil­i­ties.


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