Boys & Girls Clubs and Sexual Abuse: Leon Willsey

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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 camp counselor at the Troy Boys & Girls Club in New York is accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy during summer camp more than 50 years ago.

Leon Willsey, a then-counselor at the club-run Camp Barker, allegedly abused the boy on two separate occasions in 1969, according to a lawsuit filed in July in Supreme Court in New York under the Child Victims Act against the local club and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The act has provided a limited window extending statutes of limitations in sexual abuse cases. Willsey is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

After the first assault, the boy grabbed Willsey’s testicles until the man released him, and then he ran back to the main campground, according to the lawsuit. Willsey allegedly told the boy he would kill him and bury his body in the woods if he ever did that again, the lawsuit claims.

Database: Child sexual abuse at Boys & Girls Clubs

The boy was abused a second time during a nature walk, where other campers allegedly pinned him against a boulder face down and pulled his pants down so Willsey could rape him, according to the lawsuit.

After the second assault, the boy disclosed the abuse to a nurse at the camp, and Willsey was briefly removed from the camp, according to the suit. However, the lawsuit claims the abuse was never reported to police.

Justin Reuter, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area - which now oversees all Albany-area clubs - said the organization is aware of the recent lawsuit and that current policies are designed to set boundaries for staff and volunteers to ensure kids are safe.

“Although the alleged incidents took place a long time ago, we understand that time does not erase their impact or pain,” Reuter said. “We are treating this allegation with the seriousness it deserves, and will work diligently to have this matter resolved in a manner that provides support and comfort to the victim and their family.”

All club employees and volunteers undergo a thorough background check and training before they work at the club, Reuter said.

“We train our staff and volunteers to support any child or adult who comes forward with concerns about misconduct,” he said. “We also educate them on how to identify signs of abuse and to report it.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of America has said it can’t comment on specific cases.

Leon Willsey did not respond to a mailed letter seeking comment.