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Correction: Boys Ranch-Abuse-Lawsuit story

June 4, 2019

DALLAS (AP) — In a story May 29 about a lawsuit filed against a Texas ranch for at-risk youth, The Associated Press reported erroneously the age of one of the plaintiffs when he was enrolled at the ranch and when he was exposed to the sexually aggressive behavior that’s described in the lawsuit. He arrived at the ranch at age 11, not 13. The lawsuit says he was exposed to sexually aggressive behavior by an older resident after being placed in an adolescent home at the ranch instead of within days of arriving at the ranch.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Lawsuit: Texas ranch didn’t protect 2 boys from sexual abuse

A young man and a teenage boy who lived at a Texas ranch for at-risk youth in the last decade have filed a lawsuit alleging the staff didn’t protect them from sexual abuse by older residents

By JAMIE STENGLE

Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — A young man and a teenage boy filed a lawsuit last week accusing the staff at a Texas ranch for at-risk youth of not protecting them from sexual abuse by older residents, an advocate for child abuse victims said Wednesday.

In recent years, an increasing number of former residents have come forward to say they suffered physical and sexual abuse at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch near Amarillo decades ago. But too many years had passed for legal recourse.

But the plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit filed May 21 in Potter County District Court lived at the 80-year-old facility within the past decade. One plaintiff was 11 years old when he was enrolled at the ranch by his parents in 2010. The lawsuit says he was exposed to sexually aggressive behavior by an older resident after being placed in an adolescent home there when he was 13. The other plaintiff was enrolled in 2015 at the age of 9 and the lawsuit says he was exposed to sexually aggressive behavior by an older resident within days of arriving.

The plaintiffs, who are seeking a jury trial, want more than $1 million in damages.

Ranch spokesman Cary Varnado says they’re in the process of gathering more information and he’s unable to say more other than they’ll “defend the rights” of the ranch. He notes they continue to provide counseling for any former resident who says they were hurt in their time there.

The lawsuit says the boys’ exposure to sexual activity by older residents “resulted from the continuation of a long-standing and deeply entrenched dangerous condition” at the ranch.

That accusation mirrors allegations made by men who lived at the ranch dating back to the 1950s who said they were subjected to brutal whippings with belts for infractions such as forgetting a Bible verse or getting a bad grade. Some said they were molested or raped by older boys. Many struggled with homelessness, drug addiction, suicide and prison after leaving the ranch.

The lawsuit says the boy who had arrived at the ranch when he was 11 became “severely anxious and depressed” after the abuse. It says the younger boy started acting out sexually and has since been hospitalized in a residential treatment center for child victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse.

The lawsuit also includes the testimony of older former residents who say they were abused.

“I think that these survivors, in talking to the attorneys, felt that this was their way of allowing their suffering from their childhood trauma to help two kids in need,” said Janet Heimlich, whose Austin-based nonprofit The Child-Friendly Faith Project advocates for victims of child abuse.

Heimlich said Wednesday that those who talked about their experiences in support of the lawsuit did so to achieve transparency and to ensure current residents at the ranch are safe.

The lawsuit says the ranch hasn’t implemented adequate safety measures or security to protect those in its care from sexual assault by other residents.

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