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Child Sexual Abuse Survivor Sues Salvation Army Under New York Child Victims Act

Nicole Sprout, a teacher, wife, and mother of three, filed a lawsuit against the Salvation Army and its officers, alleging sexual abuse starting when she was 13 years old, under the New York Child Victims Act.

Manhattan New York – Nicole Sprout, a teacher, wife, and mother of three, and her attorneys announced the filing of a child sexual abuse lawsuit against the Salvation Army, a Salvation Army Commander, and his wife.

The lawsuit alleges sexual abuse by Gary Crowell, a commanding officer at the East Northport Corps of the Salvation Army, beginning when Nicole was 13 years old.

According to the complaint, Nicole Sprout’s mother introduced her to the Salvation Army when she was a young child. Her mom received help from them after her father left the family, and she was a single mom struggling to raise her two kids.

The lawsuit alleges that Gary Crowell and his wife, Carol Beth, were the commanding officers at East Northport Corps. Ms. Sprout formed a relationship with them when babysitting for their two young children. By the age of 10 or 11, she was often sleeping over at their house. It is alleged that Gary Crowell began to groom Ms. Sprout at age 11 or 12, engaging in horseplay which progressed to inappropriate touching of her private areas.

According to the lawsuit, Nicole’s mother continued to struggle with depression and financial problems and eventually signed an agreement to have the Crowells care for Nicole as her legal guardians. Shortly thereafter, it is alleged that Gary Crowell began to make sexual advances towards her. By the age of 13 through 15, Gary Crowell engaged in full sexual contact and intercourse with Nicole.

Documents supporting the lawsuit reveal that more than 20 years later, Gary Crowell contacted Nicole on Facebook and apologized for his abuse. In his apology, he admitted that he had disclosed his abuse to higher-ranking officials within the Salvation Army. He was removed from his ministry, but these officials did not report him or his child sexual abuse to authorities as required by law.

Carol Beth Crowell is still working with children, supervising the youth program at the Salvation Army facility at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

The lawsuit was filed under the New York Child Victims Act, which opened a one-year window in the statute of limitations allowing victims of past child sexual abuse to bring claims.

Ms. Sprout said, “Sexual abuse leaves a mark of shame on the abused as it did for me. Despite years of counseling, I was left with a feeling of inadequacy, eating disorders, relationship difficulties, abandonment at the age of 16, and so much more. My greatest fear during the abuse was losing the family that had taken me in. I loved the Salvation Army and all that it represents. I trusted them as the church I grew up in but felt incredibly betrayed when the leaders I once admired did nothing to hold my abuser accountable. It's broken my heart to walk away from an organization that I love but that held too many painful memories.”

Attorney Sarah Klein, working with Ms. Sprout, said, “It is clear from the information provided to us by our client and the admissions by her abuser that her abuse was known by others in the hierarchy of the Salvation Army. They did nothing to stop it and they did nothing to hold her abuser accountable. In fact, they continue to allow him to participate in Salvation Army religious services and other activities where he has access to children.”

Salvation Army organizations throughout the United States and the world have been investigated, sued, and settled claims for hiding child sexual abuse.

In 2016, The Guardian Newspaper reported that widespread child sexual abuse in Salvation Army homes throughout Australia often went unreported because the victims didn’t think they would be believed. A Royal Commission investigation on abuse found evidence that thirteen former residents of Salvation Army homes suffered shocking instances of physical and sexual abuse. One man reported that he was abused at least 200 times beginning when he was just seven years old.

The Salvation Army confirmed that they reached settlements with 418 alleged victims in Australia between 1995 and 2014.

Years earlier, the Salvation Army in Los Angeles was criticized by police and prosecutors for putting up $2,000 in bail for a former commander who had been convicted of molesting girls at the organization's Burbank headquarters.

In addition, the organization hired a private detective to help prepare the offenders trial defense and provided money for his attorney’s fees. The girls were between 11 and 16 years old at the time of their abuse.

Victims attorney John Manly said, “Because of recent actions by state attorneys general, we now have much more information about clergy abusers in the Catholic church. However, there have been allegations of sexual abuse by pastors, teachers and coaches working within the Salvation Army for decades. Yet the names of those credibly accused of sexual misconduct have never been made public and they should.”

Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is California’s leading law firm representing child victims of sexual abuse. The firm has represented more than 150 victims of clergy sexual abuse in California and hundreds of others throughout the United States. The firm also represented plaintiffs in the $140,000,000 settlement against LAUSD in the Miramonte case, the largest sex abuse settlement against a School District in the US. The firm currently represents more than 180 alleged victims of former Michigan State University and U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Team doctor Larry Nassar. Michigan State University has settled this case for $500,000,000, this is the largest settlement of any personal injury case against a University.

Dalton Law Firm is a Delaware based law firm representing victims of child abuse, medical malpractice and automobile accidents. Founding partner Bart Dalton is a former Delaware Deputy Attorney General and past president of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Mr. Dalton holds the largest Medical Malpractice and automobile accident verdicts in the history of Delaware.

Krantz & Berman LLP is a distinguished civil and criminal litigation boutique founded in 1998 by Larry Krantz and Marjorie Berman. It handles white-collar criminal and regulatory matters, business litigation, civil rights and employment litigation and FINRA Arbitrations. Larry H. Krantz is a former federal prosecutor with over thirty years of trial and appellate litigation experience. He is a Fellow and Regent of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Director of the Federal Bar Council (Ex Officio) and a Director (former) of the New York Council of Defense Lawyers.

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Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is regarded as America's leading law firm for sexual abuse cases. As a firm that exclusively handles sexual abuse cases, our California law firm offers experienced representation to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors, harassment, and discrimination.

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