Bitter Pill 

Rape is alleged at an embattled youth treatment facility

Metro police and the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) are investigating claims of rape by several boys who live at Hermitage Hall, a youth treatment facility for sex offenders that’s tucked away off Eighth Avenue South. According to incident reports, the assaults happened Jan. 29 after a staffer left four residents alone for a half-hour.

Metro police and the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) are investigating claims of rape by several boys who live at Hermitage Hall, a youth treatment facility for sex offenders that’s tucked away off Eighth Avenue South. According to incident reports, the assaults happened Jan. 29 after a staffer left four residents alone for a half-hour.

Nearly 100 male sex offenders ages 9 to 17 from across the country are treated at Hermitage, a place familiar to state officials because so many reports of residents being roughed up by staff there have trickled into Tennessee regulatory offices over the years. Other reports of boys who have been forced into heavy sedation, made to sleep in the facility’s hallways or sent to isolation rooms for weeks also surfaced recently (“Bad Medicine,” Dec. 13).

On Jan. 29, a Hermitage staffer identified as “Mr. Quick” left four residents alone and headed to the bathroom—where he stayed for nearly half an hour. DCS incident reports reveal sordid snapshots, written with clinical detachment, of what happened in his absence.

According to the reports, Hermitage Hall’s video surveillance shows the boys flashing and fondling each other. One boy was reported to have rubbed his exposed genitals on another. Others engaged in oral sex. The reports say footage from about 8:30 to 9 p.m. also shows the boys having anal sex in two different places: in a room near what is only described as “the unit refrigerator” as well as in the “quiet room,” which former staffers say is used to isolate residents who break the rules.

Because the boys’ names are redacted from state documents, it’s difficult to tell who did what to whom. But there is no question of force or intent. Reports were filed for each of the four boys involved, and three of the documents characterize the incidents as “rape.” The fourth report was categorized only as “sexual misconduct.”

Universal Health Services Inc., the Pennsylvania corporation that owns the facility, and officials at Hermitage declined comment, even refusing to say whether the alleged rape victims were taken to a hospital for treatment.

DCS spokesman Rob Johnson says that “Mr. Quick” has been fired but couldn’t comment on the ages of the boys involved or where they are from. He says only that none was placed at Hermitage by the state of Tennessee. (DCS stopped placing children at Hermitage in 2006.)

Even though Hermitage houses high-functioning residents as well as children who are mentally retarded and have special needs, the scant incident reports do not divulge the boys’ mental capacity. In December, one employee told the Scene that, although residents should be housed according to age, mental capacity and the severity of sex offenses they had committed, staffers made mentally retarded residents room with the most serious sex offenders because the lower-functioning residents were “too hard to handle.”

DCS says it began its investigation of the most recent incident on Jan. 30, though police say they weren’t notified until the afternoon of Feb. 8—nine days later. This despite a Feb. 7 email to the Scene from a Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (DMHDD), which licenses Hermitage, paralegal who wrote that state investigations were on hold until Metro police could determine “if there are any criminal penalties.” When the Scene called Metro police that same day, they said they had yet to be notified.

When asked about the discrepancy, a DMHDD spokeswoman said the paralegal was “probably confused on what was going on.” But she couldn’t say for sure whether the incident had been reported to Metro police. “Um, that is DCS’ job.”

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