If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.
CONCORD, N.H. — A judge has partially dismissed two lawsuits alleging abuse at New Hampshire’s youth detention center, saying one complaint “consists of nothing more than invective and bald conclusions.” But attorneys who have filed hundreds of similar cases say they will fill in the details soon.
Nearly 450 men and women have sued the state alleging they were abused as children at the Sununu Youth Services Center, formerly the Youth Development Center. Their allegations span six decades and involve more than 150 staffers at the Manchester facility, but most of the lawsuits are nearly identical and include few specifics.
Since late December, the state has filed motions seeking to have claims against the state and the agency that oversees the center dismissed in more than 40 cases. Judge Andrew Schulman agreed in two cases this week, leaving intact claims against individual former employees of the center.
“The complaint does not describe the facts that constitute any of these categories of harm. What was the physical abuse? What excessive restraints were used?” he wrote. “If there was sexual abuse, what happened? The plaintiff did not say anything about what he specifically experienced.”
The plaintiff in that case is Michael Gilpatrick, who also is suing five of the 11 men who were arrested in April and charged with either sexually assaulting or acting as accomplices to the assaults of more than a dozen teenagers. Two of them are charged with restraining Gilpatrick while he was sexually assaulted by two of the others.
The Associated Press typically does not name victims of sexual assault unless they have come forward publicly as Gilpatrick has done.
Gilpatrick, who spent three years at the center in the 1990s, wouldn’t discuss that episode in an interview with The Associated Press in September. But he said in addition to being subject to physical and sexual abuse, he was held in solitary confinement for as long as three months.
“There was nobody you could go to at YDC to talk to. You were literally stuck in your own thoughts, in your own fear every single day,” he said.
The judge’s order in the second case wasn’t available Friday, but he also dismissed claims against the state in another case brought by an anonymous plaintiff, according to the attorney general’s office.
State officials have said that filing the dismissal requests should not be considered a lack of support for crime victims, but the plaintiffs’ attorney disagreed. Rus Rilee, said Friday he plans to amend all 450 lawsuits in the next 60 days but that there is no “legal or other need to force the victims to disclose all the details of their painful abuse in public.”
“This is nothing more than a continued effort by the State to try to silence these crime victims and deter others from coming forward in order to avoid accountability for decades of systemic governmental child abuse,” he said. “It is becoming clear that the State doesn’t really sympathize with or care about these child crime victims – it just wants them to shut up and go away.”
Story by Holly Ramer