AMARILLO, Texas (AP) — 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 Saturday that he was sexually abused when he lived at the ranch in the 1960s. Britain's The Guardian newspaper reported 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 U.S. 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" and apologized. Dan Adams, president and CEO of Cal Farley's, told The Guardian that corporal punishment has been phased out since he took over in 1996.
The ranch is a privately funded, faith-based residential program for children ages 5 to 18. About 250 boys and girls are currently housed at the ranch about 36 miles (58 kilometers) northwest of Amarillo.