Publication: THE RECORD
Day: Thursday
Edition: All Editions
Date: 10/20/2005
Page: L03
Section: LOCAL
Source: North Jersey Media Group

Cliffside mom alleges rape of son, 10

Suit says center left boys alone for too long

A Cliffside Park mother sued a central New Jersey treatment center Wednesday, alleging that employees allowed her disabled 10-year-old son to be raped in the shower by another boy.

The 35-year-old mother, whose name is being withheld by The Record to protect the identity of the child, said her son was being treated for learning and behavioral disabilities at the Somerset Hills Residential Center in Warren Township when he was sexually assaulted Oct. 1 by another resident.

In a lawsuit filed in state Superior Court in New Brunswick, the mother says the incident happened because the staff at the center's dorm left the two children unattended for too long. The boy was then sent to bed without any medical attention to his injuries, which later required several visits to the hospital, she said.

The mother said she didn't learn about the incident until the next day, when a center employee called to tell her that the boy was found having "consensual sex" with another.

"Why didn't they call me as soon as it happened?" the woman said in an interview Wednesday at her lawyer's office.

Officials at the center didn't return two phone calls Wednesday.

Warren Township police had interviewed the child the day after the incident, before the mother was informed, said the woman's lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold.

In an Oct. 11 letter, police Detective James Hurley told the mother her son had denied being sexually assaulted.

"I have yet to receive any medical documentation or a subsequent statement or information from your son that contradicts his previous statement," Hurley wrote.

Hurley didn't return a phone call Wednesday.

Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest said he was unaware of any complaints relating to the Oct. 1 incident.

Arnold said the boy denied being sexually assaulted in his statement to police because he feared retaliation from the alleged attacker.

After he was removed from the school, however, the boy told his mother that an "older and bigger" boy approached him in the shower, told him to lie face down on the floor, and sexually assaulted him.

"Why were the police called if this were 'consensual' sex?" Arnold said. "They allowed this child to be violated in the worst possible way."

She added that there is no such thing as consensual sex between underage children, and that the center was at fault for leaving the boys without supervision.

The mother said her son's mind operates at the level of a 6-year-old's because of his learning disabilities. The boy was placed at the center last year after he constantly argued with his mother and became increasingly aggressive, she said. He is now attending another treatment center in Dover, she said.

Somerset Hills is a day center for 7- to 14-year-old boys who need residential treatment for emotional, behavioral and learning disabilities. The center has been fairly compliant with state regulations and most recently renewed its license this spring, said Andy Williams, a spokesman for the state Division of Youth and Family Services.

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