YDC Rape Victim Tells Jurors He Knew He Wouldn’t Be Believed

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Michael Gilpatrick is pictured testifying in David Meehan's civil case against the state Department of Health and Human Services Tuesday in Rockingham Superior Court.

By Damien Fisher, InDepthNH.org

BRENTWOOD – Michael Gilpatrick had trouble telling his story on the witness stand Tuesday, pausing and holding back his emotions as he recounted for jurors the first time he was gang raped by Sununu Youth Services Center staff.

“It was kind of like an out of body experience. I kind of just hovered, I felt like I hovered over and watched it,” Gilpatrick said. “My body went blank, I guess.”

Gilpatrick began his testimony Tuesday afternoon in David Meehan’s civil trial against the state for the horrific abuse YDC staff inflicted on their charges, and which top administrators allegedly worked to cover up. Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester was formerly called YDC, the Youth Development Center.

Meehan is the lead plaintiff in what is expected to be more than 1,000 civil trials against the state for the YDC abuse in Rockingham Superior Court.

The state’s $100 million settlement fund for survivors has been criticized as inadequate by Meehan’s lawyers, who now represent 1,300 survivors. Meehan alone is seeking millions of dollars in damages.

Gilpatrick, now 40, was first sent to YDC when he was 14 after building a juvenile record as a runaway who stole to survive on the street. Gilpatrick’s broken home life included being abandoned by his mother at a young age, and a father with addictions to drinking, drugs, and gambling. He didn’t fit in with his stepmother and step-siblings, and was constantly being institutionalized at a young age for various mental health problems.

“I didn’t understand why my family didn’t want me at home,” he testified.

Staff at YDC frequently beat and mistreated the children in their care, Gilpatrick said. In the East Cottage housing unit, Gilpatrick said YDC residential staff manager Brad Asbury ruled through fear along with his subordinates Jeff Buskey, James Woodlock, and Stephen Murphy. The four men, known by the youth as “The Hit Squad” regularly went room to room to beat the children. At the time, Gilpatrick didn’t realize the beatings weren’t normal. The men would swipe the legs of the boys, knocking them to the ground and slamming their heads on the floor as part of their duties.

“They were grown men and we were children,” Gilpatrick said. “Anything they felt like, they did.”

All four men have been criminally indicted for their alleged abuses, though their criminal trials have not yet been scheduled. They are among the less than a dozen former workers to be charged criminally, despite hundreds of alleged abusers being named in the civil lawsuits.

Gilpatrick eventually ran away from YDC, living for a time on the streets in Derry near his father. Soon enough, police caught up with him and Gilpatrick was returned to YDC. His time at the detention center was about to get worse.

After his return, Gilpatrick was put in solitary confinement. At YDC, this meant he was kept locked in his room without anything. No furniture, no mattress, no clothing. He was alone throughout the day clad only in his underwear, occasionally forced to relieve himself in his room because no one would take him to the bathroom. This was standard procedure at YDC, he testified.

A couple of days after he was returned, Murphy and Buskey came to his room and pulled him out so that he could be formally disciplined by Asbury. Gilpatrick was expecting the worst as he was led down the stairs in his underwear. Asbury and Woodlock were in the office and Gilpatrick remembers exchanging insults with Asbury.

“I knew I was already doomed at this point,” Gilpatrick testified.

Murphy and Buskey knocked him to the ground and slammed his head on the floor, he stated. The four men then took him out of the office and brought him up the stairs again, slamming the child’s head against the wall and floor as they went. When they got to the landing, Woodlock and Asbury held the boy down while Buskey and Murphy simultaneously orally and anally raped him, he testified. The men then literally threw the boy back into his room and locked it.

Asked by Meehan’s lawyer, Rus Rilee, who at YDC he could have reported the rape to, Gilpatrick said there was no one. Prior testimony revealed that under the then current YDC policy, Gilpatrick would first have to report the rape to Asbury and Buskey.

“There is nobody, because they all took orders from him (Asbury,)” Gilpatrick said. “They weren’t going to believe us.”

Gilpatrick will continue his testimony on Wednesday, and likely be cross examined by the state’s legal team.

Jurors also heard more Tuesday morning from former YDC Ombudsman Rochelle Edmark, who said leadership wasn’t interested in pursuing complaints about staff. When she raised alarm bells about staffers throwing boys down stairs as a form of punishment, administrator Ron Adams dismissed her concerns.

“I don’t view this as an abuse problem,” Adams reportedly told her.

Because the staffers put mattresses on the floor at the bottom of the stairs, Adams reportedly told Edmark their intentions were good, even if they should not be throwing boys down stairs. Edmark said the administration kept tabs on her work, and tried to squash her investigations.

“They didn’t want it to be a bigger deal. I think they preferred we handled things in the realm of on site,” Edmark said.

Administrators would tell Edmark that some incidents she brought to them were already being handled by a special investigations unit so she did not need to pursue the complaints. However, there was no such unit, according to the testimony.

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