Aiken Boys & Girls Club peer mentor accused of child molestation

By: Lynnsey Gardner
By: Lynnsey Gardner

The Boys & Girls Club is supposed to be a safe haven for children...but now investigators are looking into possible child molestation.

It is not all fun and games this summer at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in Aiken. Leaders are dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct at the center.

A nine-year-old boy says he was sexually molested by a peer mentor at the Club. Neither investigators nor leaders at the club are playing around as they work to sort facts and get answers.

Capt. Luis Viera, corps officer for the Salvation Army, says his phone has not stopped ringing since Sunday. Concerned parents keep calling, wanting to know if their children are safe at the center.

The grandmother of a nine-year-old boy says the child was sexually abused by a teenage mentor at the Boys & Girls Club. The child says other children were also forced to perform sexual acts. The Aiken Department of Public Safety is now in charge of the investigation; no arrest has been made.

The Boys & Girls Club is run by the Aiken Salvation Army.

"The main thing I can tell you is this incident did not happen on the Boys & Girls Club property or during the Boys and Girls Club hours," says Shawn Risher, officer for the Boys & Girls Club.

Risher said the teenager was in fact a peer mentor at the Boys & Girls Club, but no events were going on at the club during the night in question. In fact, Capt. Viera says the youth program took place inside on June 6 because of rain.

The victim says the teenager tried to pull him and other boys into the woods. The victim also says the accused was his basketball coach at the center, a claim both directors deny.

There is no such thing as an organized team," Capt. Viera says. "We don't have teams. We don't have basketball teams. Where did this come from?"

Risher says the Boys & Girls Club has issued a statement assuring parents the kids are safe at the center.

But Capt. Viera says no investigators have called him yet.

"My concern is this investigation is not accurate. It's sad because we want to protect everybody here and we are concerned. We are very concerned," he says.

Viera says he has known the accused for two years and says he can't believe the teen did anything wrong.

Aiken Public Safety says they have a suspect in this case and are continuing their investigation.


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