Taking advantage of his reputation as an expert on child eating disorders, left to his own devices by New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s negligence, a Manhattan doctor was able to repeatedly sexually abuse an 11-year-old female patient, according to a lawsuit.
Dr. Joseph A. Silverman was a premier expert on child-eating disorders when he recommended Susan Kryhoski for in-patient treatment, and then, over some two months, systematically isolated and abused her without any intervention from nurses or staff, said the lawsuit.
Now, thirty years later, Kryhoski is stepping forward. She says that the decision to file suit came when she recognized that her daughter would soon turn 11-years-old, a realization that hit her like a “gut punch.”
“Looking at my daughter was like looking at the 11-year-old version of myself,” Kryhoski said in a telephone interview. “I was sick, I was devastated, but I was also motivated to give myself a voice. To fight.”
The abuse took place in 1991, the lawsuit claims, and it’s taken thirty years for Kryhoski to feel confident and stable enough to pursue legal action. Much of those thirty years were spent in and out of hospitals, struggling with the mental health issues that stemmed from Silverman’s actions, she said.
“This absolutely could have killed me, should have at times, but that would be giving him the ultimate power,” said Kryhoski. “And I decided that was not going to happen on my watch.”
According to the lawsuit, Silverman subjected Kryhoski to steadily escalating abuse that was terrifying in its systematic nature. After isolating Kryhoski in a ward, and cutting off her contact with the outside world, Silverman would assault her weekly. Two months passed before her parents, concerned about her isolation, removed her. They did so “against medical advice.”
Silverman died in 2012, a “beloved” husband and father, according to his obituary, and a “distinguished pediatrician” for over forty years.
The lawsuit alleges that the hospital is partially responsible for his actions. Signs of abuse abounded: blood in Susan’s underwear; her utter isolation; depictions of Silverman, as a devil and monster, drawn on the wall as cries for help. Yet nurses did nothing, washing the underwear, taking down the drawings, and even ending Kryhoski’s calls with parents when she started to cry.
The lawsuit has been filed under the Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse in New York State, as long as the victim is under 55-years-old, and the lawsuit is filed before August 14th.
While Kryhoski is the second victim of Silverman’s abuse to step forward, such was the systematic nature of his actions, and the hospital’s negligence, that Susan’s attorneys believe there could be many more. “He had no concern or fear of getting caught, which means, to us, that it’s very likely that there could be hundreds of victims,” said Karen Barth Menzies, a partner at Gibbs Law Group, and Kryhoski’s attorney. She urged them to come forward before the August 14th deadline.
In addition to the hospital, Kryhoski is also suing twenty individuals, nurses and employees, as yet unnamed, who she believes are partially responsible for the abuse.
“It takes a village to construct something, and to support something, and to facilitate something,” said Menzies. “And that’s true in good things and bad things, in positive things and negative things, but even more so in truly evil things.”
New York-Presbyterian Hospital did not respond for comment at the time of publication.