How my brain protected me when you failed to do so

To: Rockefeller Institute

From: Judge Charles Apotheker (As told to Lauren Brill)

Do you want to become a better writer? Join our free writing workshop


Dear Rockefeller Institute,

My brain protected me when you failed to do so. Nearly 60 years ago, when I was 13 years old, I saw Dr. Reginald Archibald. He was a Pediatric Endocrinologist recommended to parents who worried about their children not growing.

I remember going to the hospital with my mother. The doctor was tall with white hair. He brought me into this exam room, told me to take off my clothes and had me pose on the back wall with my palms out. He took pictures of my naked body. Then, he measured my penis. I clearly remember everything up to that point but nothing after that. My memory goes blank. I don’t even remember leaving the room or the hospital.

Judge Apotheker as a young child, before his mother took him to see Dr. Archibold

Professionals with whom I have shared this story explained that I suppressed part of the memory because something happened to me in that room sixty years ago that was so traumatic that it caused my brain to turn off.

I went on with my life, which included going to college and law school. I became an acting New York State Supreme Court justice and a drug court judge for twelve years. A lot of the people who came through my courtroom in drug court were abused, especially women. I found that many people who are abused as children turn to alcohol and drugs to self medicate.

As a drug court judge, I would ask addicts, “What are you addicted to? What do you want out of this program?”

Enter Your Email to Unseal Premium Content

Log in to The Unsealed or enter your email below and subscribe to our free newsletter to read the rest of this letter

I specifically remember this one young man.

Before I had a chance to ask him one question, he said to me, “Judge, I want you to know that I was abused by a priest when I was eight years old.”

Something really hit me when he told me he was abused. I was more sensitive than I would normally be, but I did not know why. I forgot what happened to me. I forgot. There was no reason for me to think about it.

I suppressed part of the memory because something happened to me in that room sixty years ago that was so traumatic that it caused my brain to turn off.

]You, the hospital, sent me a letter nearly 60 years after the fact, out of the blue, asking me what I remembered about Dr. Archibald. You said you were investigating him. As it turns out, he allegedly abused hundreds, maybe thousands, of children. I hadn’t thought about the appointment with Dr. Archibald at all but when I spoke to you, the parts that I do remember came back to me like it was yesterday.

I thought about going to hypnosis or therapy to bring me back to that point. But why? I’m 73 years old.

According to the New York Times, Dr. Archibald has been accused by other victims of masturbating in front of children, masturbating children, and raping children. The stance he put me in when took the photographs of me was typical for the children he abused. He practiced at Rockefeller Institute from the ’40s to the ’80s. Who knows how many children suffered during that time. Some likely have passed away, others may continue to be affected. Dr. Archibald died in 2007.

Working as a drug court judge, I know all too well the direction my life could have gone in as a result of abuse. I have seen first hand the severe impact trauma can have on people. Change at institutions like yours is needed but sadly change is slow. While you publicly claimed you first learned of credible allegations in 2004, there were allegedly investigations in the early sixties about him. Nothing ever happened. That needs to change. A message needs to be sent to you and all institutions. That’s why I came forward.

Institutions like yours have to learn to keep their eyes and ears open. Children generally tell the truth. They don’t make these stories up. And if you aren’t punished severely for not protecting me, and others like me, these situations will keep happening and predators will continue to be protected. Look at Michigan State and Dr. Larry Nassar. The blueprint was already set for him. Nassar knew he could thrive as a predator if he dressed in white threads. He started abusing children decades after my interaction with Dr. Archibald.

He became an acting New York State Supreme Court justice and a drug court judge for twelve years.

I know how institutions and insurance companies treat senior citizens. They like to slow down the process to run out the clock. I’m not planning on dying prematurely. I’m working out and doing everything I can to stay healthy. I am staying alive to see justice served, and I am not alone.

You have accepted liability. You have even apologized but now their needs to be a punishment. When you are hit in your pocket, you and all institutions will get the message that you have to treat people, especially children, properly. You have to watch. If people complain, you have to not only investigate thoroughly but also take swift action.

And while you didn’t protect me, I hope that six decades later my truth will ensure you put the policies in place to protect the next generation of patients.


Judge Charles Apotheker
Share this letter

Leave a Reply

Tell us your story

Write a letter of your own and respond to letters from the Unsealed community.

Write A Letter Now

Find A Pen Pal

Mange push notifications