Visit To Mother’s Grave Triggers Child Sexual Abuse Memories

“Two men broke down in tears during the third day of the civil trial in U.S. District Court of a doctor accused of molesting a boy beginning when the boy was 10 years old and the doctor was a student at University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Richard B. Edison, now a plastic surgeon living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., allegedly sexually abused Timothy Clark, now of Charlton, for several years beginning in 1974.

Mr. Clark’s oldest brother, Michael Clark, testified today that he and other youths regularly smoked the medical student’s marijuana and listened to his high-end stereo while his youngest brother and Mr. Edison disappeared into Mr. Edison’s bedroom.

Michael Clark, two years older than the plaintiff, testified that his divorced mother had at least two jobs. Asked about adult supervision over those years, Michael Clark said, “We didn’t have any.”

He said, “It was my job to watch after him” as he shook with emotion, burying his eyes in his hands.

Later, Howard Gallant, a childhood chum of Timothy Clark’s, testified that he went only one time to Mr. Edison’s apartment in Shrewsbury with Timothy Clark. The witness was about 11 in 1977 and said he had never before skipped school, as they did that day, or smoked anything, but the three of them smoked marijuana after Mr. Edison took the boys from Lincoln Village in Worcester to his apartment in Shrewsbury.

Mr. Gallant said that Mr. Edison got atop him on a sofa and tickled him until an asthma attack was triggered. Mr. Edison stopped, and then Mr. Edison and Mr. Clark went into Mr. Edison’s bedroom while Mr. Gallant continued listening to Led Zeppelin in the living room.

When they emerged, “They didn’t look the same,” he said. “They were quiet. It wasn’t right.”

The boys got in trouble and Mr. Gallant said he obeyed his mother’s dictate to never again see Timothy Clark. But more than 30 years later — after Timothy Clark recovered his repressed memory in 2008 of what happened to him, according to Mr. Clark’s testimony — Mr. Gallant began receiving telephone calls but not answering them when his caller ID told him they were from Timothy Clark.

He relented and picked up the phone and told Mr. Clark that he was not the Howie Gallant who lived in Lincoln Village.

“I didn’t want anything to do with the past,” Mr. Gallant testified.

But after seeing Mr. Clark on cable Channel 3 in connection with his automobile business, Mr. Gallant said he changed his mind and approached Mr. Clark. “He asked me if I remembered the incident,” Mr.Gallant said before weeping before Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV.

“I have young children,” he said, choking…”

“Harrison G. Pope, a clinical psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School, testified for Richard B. Edison, a plastic surgeon who is being sued by Timothy Clark. The Charlton resident alleges that the doctor sexually abused him for several years, beginning in 1974, when the doctor was a student at University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Mr. Clark was a 10 year old in Shrewsbury.

Mr. Clark returned to the witness stand today to say that he had no memory of his sexual abuse in the 70s until he visited his mother’s grave in 2008. If so, that would reset the 3-year statute of limitations, allowing him to pursue the allegations against the doctor.

Stephen J. Gordon, Mr. Clark’s lawyer, got Dr. Pope to acknowledge that he made “possibly more than $100,000” by testifying or consulting on repressed memory cases last year, more than he got for working half-time at Harvard. Dr. Pope said he testified or consulted for the Roman Catholic Diocese in Indiana on about 10 cases and two other cases for the Diocese in Minnesota.

James Hopper, an expert for the plaintiff, gave more subtle testimony. The Harvard Medical School psychologist testified that an abuse victim can forget a traumatic event, deliberately or otherwise, and then be unable to recover it until there is a “password” such as a similar event or someone questioning the victim about the event.”

I wish Dr. Hopper had used a different term for what can trigger a deeply repressed memory of trauma. Calling it a “password” is somewhat misleading because it is not always something someone says, or even just one word.

Traumatic recall is often a series of events or it can happen when someone watches a film. Even a smell can trigger the past.

In this case, the victim’s memory returned after visiting his mother’s grave. It is highly likely that Timothy Clark repressed anger towards his mother for not protecting him with supervision. It often takes the death of the parent, who did not protect the child, to trigger abuse memories. Sometimes a person remembers child sexual abuse after their perpetrator dies, or after giving birth.

There so many varying triggers for the recall of child sexual abuse memories.

Nevertheless, this man’s story sounds very credible.


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2 Responses to Visit To Mother’s Grave Triggers Child Sexual Abuse Memories

  1. jim says:

    why was this case filed in a civil suit rather then a criminal trial
    in the civil suit if found liable the perpetrator has to pay money and face no jail time but in a criminal trial they would be sent to prison if found guilty?

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