Boys & Girls Clubs and Sexual Abuse: Don Whitman
The following is a summary of one of many cases across the country compiled in a Hearst Connecticut Media investigation of sexual abuse connected in some way to local affiliates of Boys & Girls Club of America, their staff, volunteers, members and/or attendees. Boys & Girls Club of America said that it does not keep a public list of sexual abuse incidents connected to clubs. If you have a story to share, or have information related to this or other incidents, contact us here.
A former employee at the then-Syracuse Boys Club is accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a boy at the club almost 50 years ago.
The alleged abuse at the hands of Don Whitman took place between 1971 and 1972, when the victim was 11-12 years old, according to a lawsuit filed in July in Supreme Court in New York under the Child Victims Act against Whitman, the local club and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The act has provided a limited window extending statutes of limitations in sexual abuse cases.
Also named in the lawsuit are Larry Adams, a former club director, and Jimmy Bivens, a former lifeguard at the club. The lawsuit claims there was ongoing sexual abuse in the pool, locker rooms, offices and hallways of the East Genesee Street club in the 1960s and 1970s. Whitman is only named in one of the instances of alleged abuse.
Many of the young boys were repeatedly touched and obligated to observe, perform and engage in sexual acts at the club with club officials or with each other, according to the lawsuit.
"The acts by the Defendants' employees were open, notorious, ongoing, widespread and flagrant to the extent and degree that the Defendant knew of these complaints or should have known of the same,” the lawsuit indicates about the then-Syracuse club.
Jeffrey Eysaman, executive director of what is now known as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse, said the club is aware of the recently filed lawsuits and takes any allegation that might impact the well-being of youth entrusted to its care very seriously.
“Although the alleged incidents took place a long time ago, we understand that time does not take away any pain inflicted on victims and their families,” Eysaman said in a statement. “We respect those who have brought forward these extremely serious concerns. Our legal counsel aims to work diligently to have these lawsuits resolved in a manner that provides support and comfort to the victims and their families.”
Boys & Girls Clubs of America has said it can’t comment on specific cases, but that safety is its number one priority and that it takes any allegation that impacts the well-being of children very seriously.
Don Whitman, Larry Adams and Jimmy Bivens did not respond to mailed letters seeking comment.