18:20, December 24 223 0 theguardian.com

2017-12-24 18:20:04
Ex-Texas Congressman says he was abused at ranch for at-risk children

A former Texas Congressman has said he was among the teens who were abused at a ranch that houses at-risk children in the Texas Panhandle, just days after allegations of abuse at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch first surfaced.

Former Texas Congressman Bill Sarpalius told the Amarillo Globe-News in a report published late Saturday that he was sexually abused when he lived at the ranch in the 1960s.

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that generations of former residents have come forward to allege physical and sexual abuse at the hands of staff and other residents from the 1950s through at least the 1990s.

Sarpalius said he believes the abuse happened because judges sent violent teens to be housed alongside low-income boys who had no family. He characterized the conditions at the time as “violent boys versus kids that had nothing”.

Sarpalius said older boys abused him in the secluded feed room at the ranch’s dairy barn. He also remembered staff tying him and other boys to a chin-up bar and spanking them probably “more than we should’ve been”.

Sarpalius served in the Texas Senate for eight years then in US Congress for six years.

He said he doesn’t believe abuse still happens at the ranch, and that he’s grateful for a teacher there who taught him how to read at age 13. His autobiography is titled The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch.

The Child-Friendly Faith Project, a nonprofit that works to expose religious groups that abuse children, took the allegations to The Guardian. Some of those stories included escape attempts, whippings with ropes, being chased by guards on horseback, bloody beatings and rape and sexual assault by older boys or staff members.

A statement from the organization said it was aware of the claims regarding “harmful encounters” in the past.

Dan Adams, president and CEO of Cal Farley’s, stressed that practices had changed, including the phasing out of corporal punishment since he took over in 1996.

Some residents have asked for a formal public apology. Adams told the Guardian: “I think [a public apology] can be disruptive, because I’ve got 260 kids out there that we’re working very well with, and we have a lot of younger people whose experience has been good at Boys Ranch, and a lot of families that count on us.

“I don’t say it’s hearsay and I don’t deny it. It’s not that I don’t believe it, it’s just that it’s past.”

The ranch is a privately funded, faith-based residential program for children ages five to 18. The ranch is about 36 miles (58km) north-west of Amarillo.