A former Youth Interactive student claims an art mentor raped her during an overnight visit to the CEO’s home in 2014.
The 19-year-old plaintiff is represented by attorney Taylor Ernst of Ernst Law Group. Mr. Ernst filed the lawsuit on her behalf Oct. 22 in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court. The alleged abuse occurred when the plaintiff was 14 years old, according to the lawsuit.
Youth Interactive is a Santa Barbara-based afterschool youth mentorship organization that provides art, vocational and business skills curriculum. It was founded in 2012 by CEO Nathalie Gensac.
The lawsuit alleges in early 2014, Ms. Gensac was introduced to the plaintiff, who was an at-risk youth and who had been molested by her father and grandfather.
The plaintiff claims she moved into Ms. Gensac’s Montecito home in May 2014 and that occasionally 25-year-old art mentor Jonathon Hernandez would spend the night as well.
According to the lawsuit, sometime in spring 2014 Ms. Gensac and Mr. Hernandez were watching a movie with the plaintiff while drinking wine and smoking marijuana.
The plaintiff claims Mr. Hernandez raped her on a sofa in the movie room when Ms. Gensac left to go to bed.
Shortly after the incident, the plaintiff was transferred to the home of another Youth Interactive employee for around a week, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiff claims that employee provided marijuana to her.
Ms. Gensac allegedly told the plaintiff she was aware of the abuse and was not going to tell anyone about it in violation of her mandatory reporter responsibility.
“The mandatory reporting law is in place to prevent children from being abused and to end any possible abuse or neglect at the earliest possible stage,” read the lawsuit.
The plaintiff claims Youth Interactive continued to employ Mr. Hernandez after the incident at Ms. Gensac’s house. The lawsuit alleges Mr. Hernandez groped the plaintiff at a Youth Interactive office months after the initial abuse.
The plaintiff claims she formally reported the 2014 abuse to Ms. Gensac in 2017. The lawsuit alleges one or more Youth Interactive board members advised Ms. Gensac not to report the abuse because she would be held personally responsible and the allegations would “destroy the good work she had done through Youth Interactive.”
Youth Interactive attorney Robert Forouzandeh said the organization is launching an independent investigation into the allegations.
He added that it is not a Youth Interactive policy to house students at employees’ homes.