A 34-year-old man has filed a lawsuit against Columbia Community Mental Health, alleging he was sexually abused by a counselor there in the 1990s.
According to the civil suit filed in Columbia County Circuit Court last Wednesday, June 21, the victim, identified only as G.R., was preyed upon by Dean Alby, a counselor who worked at the nonprofit CCMH when the victim was a child patient there between the ages of 8-10 from 1990-92.
The plaintiff alleges Alby "developed mixed motives and became sexually attracted" to the child, and later manipulated the child into cooperating with the counselor's sexual advances.
"Alby, during routine business hours and while working at the clinic's office, committed numerous acts of sexual abuse … and engaged in a course of conduct in which he, over a period of several months, routinely and habitually touched [the plaintiff's] private parts, engaged in oral sex, and compelled Plaintiff to touch Alby's private parts..." the suit alleges.
The lawsuit was filed as a civil case because the sexual abuse was never reported to authorities and criminal charges were not filed in time. Because children often do not report instances of abuse until they are much older, the statute of limitations has elapsed, Barbara Long, an attorney with Vogt & Long PC, explained.
Court records show Alby was convicted of sexual abuse and sodomy in 1993 in an unrelated case involving a minor.
G.R.'s lawsuit names the mental health facility as a defendant because Alby worked as a counselor at CCMH at the time, and the abuse occurred during working hours, while Alby was working in his capacity as a professional counselor, according to the lawsuit.
Long said Alby's employer can be held liable "If the grooming took place within the employment relationship."
"It started out as a legitimate counseling session and just spiraled into this," Long said, noting civil cases against sexual abusers are often successful.
"By and large, people don't make up allegations of sexual abuse," Long said.
The victim alleges CCMH did not properly screen Alby before hiring him and was negligent in allowing him to serve as a counselor to children. CCMH failed to adopt policies and rules establishing professional boundaries between counselors and minor patients, according to the complaint. CCMH also failed to enforce "rules of professional ethics" for counselors
The victim, now an adult in his mid-30s, is seeking $1.1 million in damages. Part of that money will cover the cost of years of counseling services, the suit states.
A request for comment from CCMH was not returned before press time.