By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
A new complaint in the lawsuit against YDC contains horrific allegations backed by a former guard saying staff encouraged one resident to kill himself by slipping razor blades under his door, orchestrated a campaign that led to him being raped and then recruited older residents to rape the former guard who is now speaking out.
“There is so much that is appalling about the state’s history of child abuse, but this is exceptionally disturbing testimony that gives a vivid sense of the violent, corrupt culture that infected YDC for decades,” said attorney David Vicinanzo, who formerly served as First Assistant U.S. Attorney before joining the Nixon Peabody firm.
“And explains why the victims are among the walking wounded of our society. It is time to take care of them, to show them some kindness and respect.”
Vicinanzo and attorney Rus Rilee represent about 700 men and women alleging physical, sexual and emotional abuse as children in state custody at the Youth Development Center in Manchester, now called the Sununu Youth Services Center, and private contract facilities.
The victims’ attorneys have been at odds with the state over a $100 million settlement fund Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law saying it is not enough, and the number of former state employees charged with crimes related to the abuse. Eleven former state employees have been charged with related crimes.
Mike Garrity, spokesman for Attorney General John Formella, said the office learned of the new complaint from the media, although it was filed in court on Friday.
“The Attorney General’s Office takes all allegations of criminal activity and abuse very seriously. Our YDC Task Force continues to review all allegations of YDC abuse that are reported to our office and will continue to follow the facts, investigating and prosecuting individuals as appropriate,” Garrity said.
The complaint, filed under the pseudonym John Doe 441, is the latest addition to the master lawsuit; it says the plaintiff is now around age 49 and lives in Belknap County. He was between the ages of 11 and 17 while in and out of state custody.
The former guard, identified in the lawsuit with the pseudonym Rachel Roe, avoided being raped while still employed by YDC decades ago, but was seriously injured during an attempt to rape her, the lawsuit said. The attack was meant to penalize her for complaining about the mistreatment of the residents by staffers.
She was ordered to never speak about it or a hearing that was held about her allegations and was told she would be violating the law if she did, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiff, John Doe 441, was adopted as a child, but his adoptive father beat him with objects including a 2” by 4” and threw knives and forks at him at the dinner table.
“After one particularly bad beating, plaintiff went to the police and reported his father’s abuse,” the lawsuit said.
Police did nothing and he ran away from home. He was 11 years old.
A Child in Need of Services petition followed, and from the ages of about 11 through 17, he was in and out of state custody, including several stays at YDC where he was severely depressed, abused and fearful of authority, the lawsuit said.
At YDC, a group of guards spit in his face, spit in his food, locked him in his room for long periods of time, urinated on his bed, and often kept him stripped to his underwear.
The staff often beat him and enlisted a strong older resident to persecute the plaintiff, who was then 13 or 14 years old and small and thin, the lawsuit said.
The guards placed the older resident in the plaintiff’s cell “where, foreseeably, the older resident anally raped plaintiff. The staff then spread the word that the plaintiff ‘liked it,’ meaning enjoyed the rape,” the lawsuit said.
The plaintiff cut his wrists trying to kill himself, survived and was transferred to a privately operated state contractor facility where he disclosed the rape to a counselor. Almost immediately, the state ordered him to be returned to YDC, the lawsuit said.
According to Rachel Roe, the guard who witnessed but did not participate in the abuse, guards constantly taunted the plaintiff to “just do it”—i.e., commit suicide and other taunts. according to the lawsuit.
“According to Rachel Roe, the malicious guards actually moved plaintiff from a secure cell to a cell with a crack under the door. Through that crack, they pushed razor blades into plaintiff’s cell.
“Eventually, plaintiff used one of the blades and cut his wrists. Someone pulled plaintiff from the cell before he bled out. He survived.”
After the teen recovered from his suicide attempt, he and other residents learned that several staffers were conspiring to “jump Rachel Roe and sexually assault her to teach her a lesson” and tipped her off, according to the lawsuit.
Eventually a disciplinary hearing was held. One guard claimed the plan to assault her was “just a joke,” according to the lawsuit.
“Not long after the sham hearing, three older resident males cornered Rachel Roe in a remote space she had been sent to inexplicably, and tried to sexually assault her. Fortunately, she pushed one into a sharp object and screamed loud enough to attract other personnel before the assault could be completed.
“Nonetheless, Roe suffered serious injuries to her neck, back, and head, including the loss of numerous teeth and a broken nose. She left YDC shortly after,” the lawsuit said.
The plaintiff was retaliated against for “ratting” on the guards who wanted Roe punished. Soon after a group of guards wedged the plaintiff’s fingers into a door jamb, while one of them slammed it shut. He tried to pull his hand away door, but his small finger was crushed, the lawsuit said.
“Plaintiff screamed in pain, and the guards started beating him, telling him to shut up. Blood was everywhere,” the lawsuit said.
He was taken to a doctor but warned to say the injury was the result of an accident.
“The doctor repaired the crushed finger as best he could, removing bone fragments and stitching the incision. The finger is still deformed three decades later,” the lawsuit said.
The beatings continued totaling 100 separate incidents.
“For warning Rachel Roe of the scheme to harm her, plaintiff was treated as a pariah subject to particularized and severe abuse until he ‘aged out’ of YDC,” the lawsuit said.
Garrity said the Attorney General’s Office is committed to providing YDC victims with a trauma-informed, victim-centered alternative to litigation for the efficient and fair resolution of claims of abuse at YDC and are actively working to finalize a claims process and guidelines that helps YDC victims.
“YDC victims who file a lawsuit will also be able to file a claim in this YDC Settlement Fund process. If a victim does not agree with an offer, they will have options. They will be able to: negotiate for a higher amount; ask the settlement administrator to choose an amount that resolves the difference; or withdraw their claim and resume their court case. No victim is required to use this settlement process, but it was established by the Legislature and the Governor to provide an avenue for much needed healing and compensation for many of these victims,” Garrity said.
He asked that anyone with information regarding criminal conduct at the YDC to contact the N.H. Attorney General’s Task Force hotline at 603-271-4000.