FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Nine former residents of a shuttered orphanage in Fort Lee have filed a lawsuit claiming they were abused by employees of the home during the 1960s and 1970s.
“The level of abuse in this home was disgraceful, the worst I’ve ever seen,” attorney Rosemarie Arnold, who represents the plaintiffs, said.
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The Christian Home for Children closed its doors decades ago, but the scars of alleged sexual and physical abuse exist to this very day, one of the alleged victims told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports
“They took my innocence, my childhood,” the man, identified in court papers by the initials J.C., said. “They were sadistic.”
The 53-year-old North Bergen man said he was 6-years-old when his parents made the difficult decision to place him in the home. His family was homeless and hoped the orphanage would provide him with a better life.
J.C. said within a week the beatings began.
“She’d make you strip fully naked, she had a hand paddle and if you spoke out you were back out in the street,” J.C. said of one of the employees. “She’d put one hand on your bottom, she’d look at you for a while, it wasn’t a beating, it was an assault.”
He claims the abuse grew more sexual as he got older.
“I don’t remember doing anything wrong to this day, I don’t know what the hell I did wrong,” J.C. said.
Arnold said the alleged victims repressed their memories of abuse until recently finding each other online, Sandberg reported.
“When they realized that it was happening to other children as well it became apparent that they weren’t imagining their flashbacks,” Arnold said. “They were told if you try to tell anybody what’s going to happen [is] we’re going to deny it.”
The plaintiffs were all under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged abuse, according to the lawsuit. Between 1963 and 1978 the plaintiffs underwent “unspeakable acts” of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of the employees of the home, according to the lawsuit.
More than a dozen former employees of the home, which was located on Palisade Avenue and closed in 1978, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The Evangelical Free Church of America, an association of approximately 1,500 churches, is also named as a defendant. The orphanage was apparently operated by the church.
A call to the church has not been returned.