A former resident of a Riverhead group home for boys is suing the facility, claiming he was beaten and raped by several older teens there nearly 25 years ago.
The suit alleges that Andres Alex Ramos, now 36, was repeatedly sexually assaulted in 1995 when he was 12 years old at the Timothy Hill Children's Ranch — and that ranch officials said the abuse was "punishment from God for being homosexual."
The lawsuit filed last week in State Supreme Court in Suffolk County asks for unspecified damages from the ranch, which manages a residential group home for children ages 10-17 who have struggled with issues of abuse, neglect, homelessness and addiction using "Christ-centered values.”
The suit alleges the facility “carelessly and negligently failed to adequately supervise” Ramos and protect him from abuse. It names as litigants the founders of the ranch, a former Suffolk social worker, a facility staffer and the estate of the ranch's late deputy executive director.
"Every day I felt like I was in a torture chamber," Ramos said Friday. "I have been battling and struggling with nightmares for years. Every day is a struggle."
Regina Calcaterra, Ramos' attorney, said he was only now coming to grips with his abuse.
"They did whatever they could to control Alex and abuse him for their own purposes," said Calcaterra, a one-time chief deputy to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and the author of a book detailing her own abusive childhood.
The lawsuit was filed under the state's new Child Victims Act, enacted in February. The sweeping legislation suspends statute of limitations conditions for filing molestation claims, allowing litigation no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred; victims have a year to file a lawsuit.
Thaddeus Hill, executive director of Timothy Hill Ranch and the son of its founders, Jerrell and Fern Hill, said he had only recently begun to investigate the claims.
"The safety of our young people is our top priority," he said Friday. "I am saddened by any claim that a young person was mistreated or abused. We are seeking to understand the claims and to work through the legal process."
The lawsuit said Ramos, who lives on Long Island, was placed in a group residence in 1995 with at least 10 older boys. The native of El Salvador spoke little English and was the youngest and smallest child in the facility.
The complaint alleges that Ramos was "repeatedly beaten, threatened and tortured" and sexually assaulted by the older boys, particularly late at night when there was little adult supervision. One attack by a 16-year-old boy, the lawsuit says, left Ramos with internal injuries and excessive bleeding that required hospitalization.
While at the hospital, ranch staffers told Alex his experience was "punishment from God for being homosexual" and that he could only be cured through prayer, the suit says.
The abuse claim was reported when one of Ramos' teachers noticed him walking with a limp.
A 16-year-old boy was charged with misdemeanor sexual abuse for the attack, Calcaterra said. The alleged abusers' names were not disclosed.
After Ramos left the hospital, he lived in Jerrell and Fern Hill's home, where the couple, Calcaterra said, shamed and blamed him for the assault.
"I have not had a chance to review the claims," Jerrell Hill said Friday. "But we are doing our own internal investigation."
Ramos says he sees a psychiatrist regularly and has begun working with the Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk, which assists the survivors of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault.
"They robbed me of my childhood but I refuse to give up that power any more," Ramos said. "This needs to be a lesson that when you take care of children they must be kept in a safe environment."