Hundreds of survivors have come forward with abuse allegations against a state-run youth detention center in New Hampshire. The survivors’ stories offer a grim view of conditions at the facility. Allegations include minors being forced into sex acts, competitions for food and isolation. Survivors also recount severe physical assaults.
Update: Six former staff members of the state-run detention center have been criminally charged in connection with abuse allegations. Several are facing rape and sexual assault charges.
Survivors Sue Sununu
To date, survivors have brought allegations against 150 staff members at Sununu Youth Services Center, formerly the Youth Development Center in Manchester. Victims accuse staff of physical abuse and sexual violence. Allegations against the detention center span six decades. The most recent allegations occurred in 2018.
The detention center is already the subject of a criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office. Now, 230 survivors are suing the state-run detention center, saying it didn’t do enough to prevent their abuse and lacked proper government oversight.
Youth Detention Center Under Investigation
The Sununu Youth Services Center is a state-run youth detention facility. In the past, the center has housed minors in the juvenile court system sentenced to a secure facility. However, due to recent changes in the law, only minors “accused or convicted of serious violent offenses” reside in the facility today.
In 2019, the state attorney general’s office launched a criminal investigation of the center. The investigation was initiated following 82 criminal rape charges filed against two former center counselors. The 82 charges were eventually dropped in order to expand the state’s criminal investigation.
“[The charges were dropped] in order to allow the investigation to proceed to completion and to ensure that any and all charges brought in connection with this matter appropriately reflect all the evidence and all the potential survivors and perpetrators.”
The expanded investigation is now run by a state-appointed task force which includes:
- 10 state police troopers
- An intelligence analyst
- Investigators from the attorney general’s office
“The extraordinary level of resources now devoted to the YDC [Youth Development Center] matter is without any recent precedent and reflects the seriousness with which the State takes these grave allegations.”
Many of the survivors who are currently filing lawsuits against the center have cooperated with the attorney general’s investigation.
6 Former Staff Members Arrested For Abuse
In April 2021, six former staff members of the New Hampshire youth detention facility were arrested in connection with the ongoing attorney general’s investigation.
Two of the individuals arrested were the two former counselors whose initial charges were dropped at the beginning of the investigation. In this recent arrest, these two individuals have each been charged with five counts of rape.
Additionally, two other former staff members face rape and sexual assault charges. The remaining two staff members were charged as accomplices to rape.
“Today’s arrests make clear that this administration is committed to holding these perpetrators accountable for their detestable actions. This is not over, and we will continue to investigate these horrific allegations.”
Lawsuits Name 150 Abusive Staff Members At Detention Center
More than 200 individuals have filed abuse claims against the Manchester-based youth detention center. Combined, the lawsuits claim 150 staff members physically or sexually abused children in the center. Victims in these cases ranged in age from seven to 18 at the time of the abuse.
Although abuse victims likely suffered some lasting emotional trauma from their experiences at the detention center, others battled physical trauma and disease. For example, several victims contracted sexually transmitted diseases as a result of the sexual abuse. At least one abusive staff member impregnated his victim.
According to The Associated Press, the attorney general’s office has declined to comment on the recent abuse allegations.
Time will tell if these victims receive the justice they deserve after experiencing traumatic institutional abuse. What these young people faced isn’t uncommon. When abuse occurs within large institutions, abusers rely on officials turning a blind eye to their crimes.
The survivors who were once held at this state-run facility have exposed their abusers, complicit supervisors and the institution responsible for their abuse. Survivors have the right to take action.
If you or a loved one are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, you may have legal rights. Our team of attorneys is here to help you seek justice against predators and the organizations that cover up abuse. Learn more about your legal options, the claims process and potential compensation.
Ramer, H. (2019, July 25). Ex-youth center workers accused of rape; state investigates. The Associated Press.
Ramer, H. (2020, March 11). Charges dropped as youth center abuse investigation widens. The Associated Press.
Ramer, H. (2021, March 1). Hundreds claim decades of abuse by 150 youth center staffers. The Associated Press.
Ramer, H. (2021, April 7). 6 charged in NH youth detention center sex abuse probe. The Associated Press.