A $10-million lawsuit has been filed against a state-funded sex clinic in upper Manhattan, where a controversial penile device is used to measure the arousal of juvenile offenders as they listen to tapes that recount sexually deviant acts.
Ralph Paladino, a Westchester attorney, filed the lawsuit, which is set for trial in February. The suit was filed on behalf of a client, now 18, who was treated at the Sexual Behavior Clinic in Washington Heights three years ago. The client was required to go to therapy sessions there after he was charged with sexually abusing his younger sister.
At the clinic, the youth was told he would undergo “sexual behavior testing,” and when he resisted, he was told that he would go to jail if he did not participate, the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, “his pants were lowered around his ankles and (he) was forced to place a round, mercury-filled plastic device around his penis, and further forced to wear earphones and listen to pornographic tapes including descriptions of sex between adults and children, and between children and children, violent rape, forced sex and other abnormal sexual acts.” Afterward the youth was encouraged to masturbate, Paladino states.
“The test is an abomination -- they make you feel that because you question the test you are supporting child molestation,” said Paladino...“I didn't know there were people all over the place using this on kids.”...
Dr. Lawrence Hartmann, past president of the American Psychiatric Association and a professor at Harvard University who is a renowned expert on adolescent sexual behavior, said he has reservations about using the plethysmograph on youths... “using it as a diagnostic tool on unwilling young subjects has many problems scientifically”...the general public is unaware that such testing is going on. “There are not good studies with adults and there are even less good studies involving teenagers.”...
Richard Herman, an administrator with Community Service of the New York State Office of Mental Health, which funds the clinic, says it is an established, ethical program that has been supported by studies...Herman said. "They've all admitted to sexual offenses. These kids can either go through the program or go to jail."...He said since the state took over funding the 15-year-old clinic about three years ago, they have treated about 100 boys ages 13 to 18 each year... A letter describing the clinic's work details a number of different kinds of therapy, including "satiation," which continually exposes the offender to his deviant sexual fantasies until they become so boring that the fantasies are no longer erotic...
Many of the clients are first-time sexual offenders and most are black and Hispanic youths. “They kept poor records - it looks like most of the boys are black and Hispanic, probably no more than a dozen white kids,” said Paladino, whose client is white. “My guess is that why people haven't complained is because they're poor kids from the ghetto and they have no one to complain to.”