ERIE COUNTY, N.Y., Aug. 27, 2020 / –A lawsuit filed this week in Erie County against the Young Men’s Christian Association of Buffalo Niagara alleges that a one-time Assistant Director of the LaSalle YMCA and staff member of the Niagara Falls Downtown YMCA, Donald James Andres, now deceased, groomed an 11-year-old boy for sexual abuse and molested him hundreds of times over four years beginning in 1954.
The wrongful conduct alleged includes a failure to establish or implement policies and procedures to protect children utilizing YMCA facilities from harm, and failure to respond to red flags that should have alerted leadership to a suspicious relationship between Dutton and his abuser, who was in his 20s at the time of the abuse. Andres was entrusted with keys to YMCA facilities and spent an inordinate amount of time with Dutton on YMCA premises without supervision and in unmonitored spaces, according to the complaint.
After Dutton’s father became suspicious about what he considered to be an unusual relationship between his young son and Andres, and questioned a top YMCA official about his concerns, he was assured he need not worry about Andres, according to the lawsuit.
The alleged negligent conduct on the part of YMCA served to enable Andres’s predatory behavior, and caused Dutton to endure repeated acts of sexual abuse and to be traumatized to a degree that has severely disrupted his life, according to the lawsuit. The abuse continued until Dutton and his family moved from Niagara Falls in 1959.
“Well-documented statistically significant studies, such as the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, have established that childhood sexual abuse survivors suffer increased rates of depression, suicide attempts, alcoholism, drug abuse, early death, and other physical health ailments in adulthood,” said Brenda A. Harkavy, a Janet, Janet, & Suggs attorney representing Dutton. Harkavy is a former sexual abuse prosecutor.
Andres created and led YMCA youth groups, including the YMCA Junior Leaders, of which Dutton was a member, and it was through that relationship that Andres began showering Dutton with gifts and gained his trust, according to the lawsuit.
“Photographs possessed by Dutton depict Dutton and Andres together, with Andres wearing a T-shirt that identifies his position as leader,” said Andrew S. Janet, Vice Chair of the Sexual Abuse Division of Janet, Janet & Suggs, and another attorney representing Dutton.
Dutton, who is now 77 years old, filed his claim under the Child Victims Act. The Act allows child sexual abuse survivors to bring lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that enabled the abuse for a limited period of time, even if they would previously have been considered expired under the statute of limitations. On August 3, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that extended the revival window period to August 14, 2021.
About Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC
The Sexual Abuse Division of Janet, Janet & Suggs has represented hundreds of men and women across the nation who were abused as children by trusted authority figures, such as clergy members, teachers, doctors, and coaches, and has represented thousands of men and women who were sexually abused as adults. Among the firm’s most prominent cases is an unprecedented $190,000,000 settlement against Johns Hopkins Hospital for sexually exploitative conduct by a staff OBGYN.
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