of Dr. Richard Gartner before the New Jersey Senate,
Subcommittee, January 26th, 2004.
The New Jersey Charitable Immunity Act protects any
charitable organization from civil liability for the
acts of its employees or volunteers. As it is worded,
a school, for example, could set itself up as a charitable
organization, advertise for pedophiles to teach there,
and not be held liable for their actions. A terrorist
organization could set itself up as a charitable organization
in New Jersey and not be held responsible for its
employees and volunteers planning another version
of the World Trade Center bombings.
recent years, the Catholic Church and several other
organizations, most notably the American Boychoir
School in Princeton (which does not contest the charges
that scores of boys 6th grade and older were abused
for decades while at the school) have been using this
law to contest liability for the crimes committed
by their employees. The Republican-controlled legislature
refused to change this law, but at the time of this
testimony the legistature was Democratic-contorolled.
As of this writing, and it looks like there is a good
chance that the law will be changed, possibly with
a certain amount of retroactivity.
spoke to the Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee in charge
of this bill on Monday, January 26th, 2004, as the
only professional. There were also about six other
speakers who were survivors of sexual abuse or assault
or their loved ones. Their stories were horrific and
Text of Comments:
Statement Concerning New Jersey Charitable Immunity
Richard Gartner, Ph.D.
want to thank the Committee for giving me the opportunity
to talk to you about the effects of childhood sexual
abuse on its victims. I am a psychologist and psychoanalyst
in New York City who has been treating men sexually
abused as boys since the mid-1980s. I am the Founding
Director of the Sexual Abuse Program of the William
Alanson White Psychoanalytic Institute in New York
City, the Past President of MaleSurvivor: the National
Organization against Male Sexual Victimization, and
the author of Betrayed as Boys:Psychodynamic Treatment
of Sexually Abused Men. While I have worked extensively
with sexually abused men, much of what I will say
applies to female victims of sexual abuse as well.
sexually abused children know their victimizers. Sometimes
they are abused by family members. But ,often abusers
are caretakers in positions of power and trust--a
priest, or a teacher, or a scout leader, or a babysitter,
or a coach, or a camp counselor, or a doctor, nurse,
or other health care professional. These victimizers
are all acting in loco parentis. Therefore, sexual
abuse by one of them is very much like abuse by a
parent. Predators like this betray children at a most
victims are not chosen at random by their abusers.
They are often children who are in some way already
vulnerable. They may be weaker than other children,
or smaller, or unathletic, or disabled. They may come
from troubled families, be separated from one or both
parents, or for some other reaon be set apart from
their peers. In some cases, their parents are alcoholic,
or absent, or physically abusive. Often, they look
to other adults in their lives for solace, comfort,
healing, advice, and emotional closeness.
predator has highly developed antennae that can identify
a child like this. Then the abuser offers the child
the consolation the child yearns for. By the time
the victimizer introduces sex into the relationship,
the child has been groomed to give whatever the predator
desires from him or her in exchange for continuing
what has become an important relationship.
betrayal is an interpersonal experience that has terrible
implications for a child's future relationships.
The abuser--someone whom the child has believed could
be counted on implicitly--has used a power relationship
to satisfy his or her own needs without regard to
the child's needs. The experience can be a defining
one for a young child. So, these children often grow
up distrusting people in power, believing they are
untrustworthy, malevolent, treacherous, and undependable.
the problems go beyond relationships with authority
figures. Adults abused as children often experience
problems in all close relationships. They are often
frightened about getting close to others and learn
to keep isolated and distant. Among the other common
aftereffects of childhood sexual trauma are anxiety,
depression, drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution,
ragefulness, truancy, poor grades, and even suicidality.
boys, there are added problems, because they believe,
as many of us do, that men are competitive, resilient,
self-reliant, independent, and certainly not victims.
So, right off the bat they have a dilemma conceptualizing
what happened to them. If a boy thinks of himself
as a victim, he may start to believe that he's
not really a man. This naturally makes it really hard
for him admit to himself that he was victiminzed.
So, he often minimizes the impact of his abuse for
as long as possible, often not acknowledging till
his late 20s--or more often his 30s or 40s--that he
was victimized. I've had men come see me in
their 60s who've never told anyone about being
abused in boyhood.
who were abused by men have an even harder time because
they wonder why they were chosen by a man to be a
sexual victim. Like rape, most childhood sexual abuse
is more about power and control than about the sexual
acts involved. But it doesn't seem that way
to the victim, who often thinks he somehow invited
what happened to him. This undermines his sense of
himself as a sexual person, whether he grows up straight
or gay. So, sexual problems of one sort or another
are frequent among adults sexually abused as children.
of child sexual abuse are often criticized and demeaned
for not having come forward at once, or immediately
after becoming legal adults. One reason they don't
disclose their abuse is that they do not have any
faith that they will be believed. And, in fact, they
often are not believed. I've heard of children
who were told they were telling dirty lies about a
pillar of the community, or, even worse, were blamed
for seducing such a person.
addition, abusers often impose silence as part of
the betrayal. They may tell a child that if the abuse
comes to light the child will be taken away from home
and put in foster care, or that a family member will
be hurt or even killed, or that the child will never
see the perpetrator again. This is a particularly
cruel aspect of the sexual abuse of children: the
love and affection a victim unreservedly gave to the
predator is used and distorted so that it becomes
a tool against the child, who is afraid that this
adult--who has abused the child, but whom the child
loves--will be taken away for ever.
a victim of child sexual abuse often tries to forget
that the abuse ever happened. The child may minimize
the effects of the abuse or just put it away in some
corner of the mind in order to go on functioning.
Sometimes the events are remembered but never thought
about, and sometimes they are forgetten for a long
has been a lot of controversy about adults recalling
memories of childhood sexual abuse. Occasionally these
recovered memories are false, but they are often true.
In fact, recently some investigators at Stanford University
and the University of Oregon published research in
the journal Science that confirms that a biological
mechanism exists to block unwanted memories.
when a victim finally does come forward and discloses
childhood sexual abuse, the insitutions in which the
abuse took place have usually stonewalled, denied
what happened, disavowed any culpability in it if
it did happen, and blocked any means for the victim
to come to peace with a traumatic hostory. We have
seen this from churches, schools, athletic organizations,
scouting and camping groups, and other charitable
institutions trying to protect themselves from consequences
of the behavior of people who work for them, whether
paid or voluunteer. When this happens, the original
victim is revictimized and betrayed once again. Not
only has the predator hurt him, but the institution
in which the abuse took place further victimizes him.
now we come to the larger institution, the State.
When a law like the Charitable Immunity Act protects
charitable institutions from culpability in the behavior
of those who work in their name and under their auspices,
the State revictimizes these victims yet again.
I ask you today to change this law. Right this wrong
for the future, and allow the people whose cases are
not yet adjudicated to get legal redress for the wrongs
that have been done to them. These men and women were
abused as children by sexual predators, and then again
by the institutions who countenanced the abuse. Please
make sure the State of New Jersey does not hurt them
yet again by continuing to protect charitable instituitons
in this way.