ASHEVILLE, N.C. (CN) - A married couple claim in a class action that YMCAs, which advertise themselves as safe for families, with "Christian values," are actually "brothels" for homosexual men "cruising" for sexual relationships, who subject members to unwanted advances.
In his complaint in Buncombe County Court, Michael Keister claims he is one of many YMCA members who were victims of sexual assault and unwanted advances at YMCA facilities.
Keister and his wife, Susan Lewis-Keister, sued the National Council of the Young Men's Christian Association of the United States of America dba YMCA of the USA, YMCA of Western North Carolina and five North Carolina YMCA centers.
In a second complaint, Keister seeks damages for negligence and infliction of emotional distress from YMCA of Western North Carolina.
In the class action, Keister, of Asheville, says he decided to buy gym memberships for his family at the local YMCA "because of the YMCA's image as a safe place for families and children and as [a] place that champions Christian values, such as decency, kindness, and fairness."
But Keister says the YMCA misleads customers through its marketing campaigns, cultivating a false image of places with "high ethical standards and Christian values," when in fact they tolerate "cruising" for homosexual relationships and allow members to be subjected to unwanted sexual advances.
"In spring 2009, the image of the YMCA as a safe and protected environment came crashing down for plaintiffs on several separate visits to the facility," the complaint states.
"After renewing his membership at the facility, Keister experienced his first, in what would eventually become a series of unwanted sexual advances and activity taking place at the Asheville YMCA facility.
"Keister was showering in the men's locker rooms showers when two men entered the shower area together from the pool. As Keister stood there, only feet away, the shorter of the two men lathered up the other man and began to fondle the taller man's genitals. The showers were open and visible to anyone in the locker room.
"When the men noticed the shocked look on Keister's face, the shorter man replied. 'What?', with a menacing tone that made it seem as if Keister was the one who was acting inappropriately.
"'What?!' Keister responded, 'Not appropriate.' 'It's just not appropriate.'
"Unsettled by what he was seeing, Keister left the shower area immediately, got dressed, and reported the incident to the front desk.
"The employee responded, 'We are aware of this behavior and we're taking steps to address it. You're not the first to complain.' The employee assured Keister that it would not happen again.
"Shortly after this incident, Keister returned to the Asheville YMCA only to be subjected to yet another inappropriate incident.
"This time Keister was in the steam room. As members were coming and going, Keister sat alone on the upper deck with his elbows on his thighs and looking down at the floor.
"When the room had cleared of all but one patron, the man sitting across the room began to clear his throat as if he were trying to get Keister's attention.
"When Keister looked up at the man, the man revealed his erect penis to Keister and began masturbating energetically while staring at Keister.