When revelations came to light that Dr. Reginald Archibald, a well-respected pediatric endocrinologist at the Rockefeller University Hospital, had spent decades sexually abusing young boys under the guise of medical “treatment,” I was flooded with memories that I thought were tightly sealed away in a mental box from 60 years ago.
When the hospital’s own attorneys released a report recently confirming that Rockefeller University officials knew about the abuse but allowed it to continue, I got angry. I remembered being taken to a hospital by my mother and being led into an examination room by this white-haired doctor. I remembered being alone with Dr. Archibald and being told to take off all my clothes. I remembered being placed against a wall naked with my hands extended out towards him. And then I remember the picture-taking. Pictures of my naked 13-year-old body, followed by measurements of my penis. Then it all went blank.
Until recently, claims against Rockefeller University in New York State would have been time-barred by law, blocking victims today from bringing actions against perpetrators of past child sex abuse. However, the passage of the Child Victims Act now allows adults who were abused as children to renew these claims and finally hold institutions that served as breeding grounds for predators to account for their role in enabling and covering up the crimes of those they protected.
And while recent legislation will provide a limited opportunity for victims of Dr. Archibald and Rockefeller University to file a civil action, it’s also time for the Manhattan District Attorney to launch a full-scale investigation, starting with its own investigation in 1960, about who knew what and when, and who made the decision to cover it up.
For a long time, I used the distance of 60 years as a mental barrier to an otherwise traumatic event. But recently, I have become angrier. The false comfort that six decades brings has been tossed aside knowing that there are pictures—unaccounted for—that memorialize the trauma Dr. Archibald brought upon me. Pictures that Rockefeller University has yet to account for, but now admits that they exist.
As a parent, I am also angry about the guilt my parents would have felt had they known they had allowed their son to be abused by this monster. Recently, I received my medical records from Rockefeller and in them, there was a consent form, signed by my mother, that stated “I hereby consent that any “routine” procedure of “minor” operative character, that may be deemed necessary, may be performed upon my son.” What was an otherwise routine document was used as a sick permission slip to violate a child.
Throughout my decades-long career as a judge, I buried my own trauma as I came across victims in court who had faced similar abuse. I never told anyone what happened to me—not even my parents. But for the sake of justice, I cannot stay silent any longer.
There is still pain.
Pain in knowing that there are pictures out there, unaccounted for, of a 13-year-old me that were used, not for medical purposes, but for the sexual gratification of an institutionally protected pedophile.
Pain that Rockefeller University still has not revealed the complete truth about Dr. Archibald and the investigation it claims to have conducted 15 years ago.
Pain I carry for my parents, who had they lived, would have been racked with guilt for allowing this to happen to their child.
Pain in knowing that there are many former patients of Dr. Archibald who took this trauma with them to the grave, and many more who would have gone to the grave without obtaining justice and closure had the Child Victims Act not passed.
Pain in knowing, as an experienced judge and attorney, that Rockefeller University and their insurance carriers are capable of continuing to abuse us, this time as senior citizens with limited life expectancies, in a cynical attempt to run out the clock, so that many of us will never see justice done.
Just as Michigan State University knew what was happening in their own institution and did nothing to stop it, Rockefeller University also knew and did nothing. The university has now admitted liability in their public statements, writing, “We profoundly apologize to those patients who experienced pain and suffering as a result of Dr. Archibald’s reprehensible behavior.” But apologies and half-hearted internal reports are simply not enough.
Maybe we won’t live long enough to see the results of a full-scale DA investigation, but I can tell you this; this retired judge and hundreds of other victims are now more motivated than ever to stay healthy and to live long enough to see justice done.
Charles Apotheker is a former acting New York State Supreme Court justice.