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Sex abuse victim from Long Island finally has chance to get justice

Rich Klein, a former Massapequa Park resident, says

Rich Klein, a former Massapequa Park resident, says he was abused by a Manhattan doctor for 15 years. Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon

Almost from the time Rich Klein learned to walk, his mom worried about his small stature. 

When he was just shy of 2, in 1963, she took him to Dr. Reginald Archibald, a growth specialist at Rockefeller University Hospital in Manhattan.

For the next 15 years, Archibald examined the young Klein once or twice a year for his research. The checkups — just the two of them in the doctor's private office with the door closed and his mom in the waiting room — went on for an hour or so. Archibald had Klein strip naked and sit in his lap facing the doctor. He took pictures. He fondled him. 

“As a 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8 year-old-kid, you don’t think about it,” Klein said in an interview. “Oh, he’s examining me because of my height.”

Klein, now 58, never mentioned the touching to anybody. Not even his mom, who diligently made the train ride from Massapequa Park. She had even signed a release so Archibald could take the photos.

Time passed. By the time Klein was ready to talk about the sexual abuse, the statute of limitations to take legal action ran out. 

Now, decades later, Klein is still living with the full weight of what Archibald did — but he is finally going to have a chance at getting justice. 

On Wednesday, a special one-year “look back” period opens so sexual abuse victims can sue their perpetrators or the institutions they worked for regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

Rockefeller University, the Catholic Church, other faiths, the Boy Scouts, private and public schools across the country, sports groups, hospitals — they're all bracing for an onslaught of lawsuits that child sexual abuse expert Marci Hamilton estimates will number at least 3,000 and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to settle. 

“The public needs to be ready to find out that there are trusted adults in many situations that have put their children at risk and they had no idea,” said Hamilton, a lawyer who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and heads the think tank CHILD USA. 

Rockefeller University employed Archibald as a doctor, researcher and professor for roughly four decades, from the early 1940s until 1980. During those years, the doctor studied thousands of children, most of them boys, according to advocates, attorneys and the university. He died in 2007.

“He was doing all kinds of things in that room, horrible things to children,” said Jennifer Freeman, an attorney in the White Plains office of Marsh Law Firm, which is representing 200 of Archibald’s former patients, including Klein. 

“I do believe he will turn out to be the most prolific pedophile” in the history of New York, if not the United States, she said.

Last year, the university commissioned a law firm to investigate Archibald. Hundreds of his former patients came forward to tell their stories of everything from fondling to rape.

The findings, summarized in a 27-page report released this spring, concluded Archibald, “taking advantage of his position as a trusted and respected physician and researcher, engaged in a widespread pattern of misconduct and sexually abused many children at the Hospital over the course of many years when offering patients medical care and treatment.”

In response, the university pledged to do right by Archibald's victims. 

“Rockefeller University is committed to acting responsibly and working constructively with former patients of Dr. Archibald,” the school said in a statement. “We profoundly apologize to his patients who experienced pain and suffering as a result of his reprehensible conduct.”

Already, the university has started a program to assist Archibald’s victims with counseling by offering to pay for weekly therapy sessions.

For Klein, though, an apology isn't enough. He wants a more thorough investigation that delves into allegations against Archibald as early as 1961, two years before he became a patient. A grand jury investigated the patient complaints but no charges were filed, according to the report. 

“When I learn there were victims younger than me it upsets me because I feel like if they had done something … so many victims could have been saved,” Klein said. “What I want … is justice, not just for me but for every victim that was assaulted by him.”

Klein somehow managed to bury his hurt — or he thought he had until the fall of 2017, when actresses came forward to allege sexual abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Then came a steady stream of accusations against other high-profile men: actor Kevin Spacey, chef Mario Batali, journalist Charlie Rose, and the list went on and on.

“My memories came flooding back with more details than ever,” he said.

Klein, who now lives upstate, recalled how Archibald made him stand against a wall, naked with his palms forward, and took his picture. And he remembers how the doctor was so friendly, always smiling and asking him about school.

“He would have a conversation about your life, almost like a distraction to what he was doing,” Klein said.

But he never questioned what Archibald was doing. And neither did his parents.

“At that time, in our culture, people didn’t question authority as much," Klein said. "They didn’t question doctors or clergy … it was like, they know what they are doing, right?”

Over time, the emotional fallout from the abuse has taken a toll on his personal relationships, even his ability to interact with others he doesn't know well.

“It’s something," he said, "that will be with me for the rest of my life.”


 

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