Demanding justice for sexual-assault victims

Judy Castille (above) said that after she reported sexual abuse by a female nurse, she was frustrated when hospital authorities would not believe her. She has worked hard to not feel like a victim.
Judy Castille (above) said that after she reported sexual abuse by a female nurse, she was frustrated when hospital authorities would not believe her. She has worked hard to not feel like a victim.
Posted: July 03, 2012

FOR CRIME VICTIMS, especially victims of sexual abuse, conviction of the assailant is only one point of satisfaction. There's something more basic.

Former D.A. Lynne Abraham put her finger on it in regard to the conviction of predator priest protector Monsignor William J. Lynn on (alas) a single count.

"This was really very much a victory for the victims," she said. "They came and testified and were believed."

She could have been speaking for Judy Castille, whose case was different in many respects, including the outcome, but it was the same in not being believed.

Unlike the victims of priests and Jerry Sandusky, Castille is female, an adult, and her attacker was a woman in Florida, where Castille has lived since moving from Philadelphia in 2004. She is married to former Philadelphia restaurateur Sal Montezinos and is the ex-wife of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille.

Like some of the boy victims of priests and athletic directors, Castille was angry and frustrated when she wasn't believed.

Here's what she told me happened to her on Dec. 15, 2009:

"I was assaulted and sexually molested by a female Intensive Care nurse at a hospital here in Naples. That hospital is part of a network of hospitals and care centers across the country. ... My case never even made it to a courtroom."

The attack — she was penetrated — was sudden, brief and sent her into shock.

Is this actually happening to me?

She reported the assault to police, but there were no witnesses because the nurse had drawn the curtains in the ICU cubicle. A detective was assigned to her case and conducted a three-month investigation.

He then asked Castille if he could come to her home to talk. She agreed. Glumly, the detective said that in the absence of physical evidence and with the nurse's denial, her case would be closed.

"I asked him why he spent so much time on this one case and he said, ‘Because I believe you.' That broke my heart; yet I felt so exonerated. How about that? I was the victim, yet I felt exonerated — somebody believed me."

That jumped out at me. It was exactly what Abraham said.

The head of the hospital refused to meet with Castille, sending her to the director of risk management, perhaps fearing a lawsuit. Castille says she never planned to sue, but did want the hospital to make a donation to a local rape-crisis center that helped her — and she wanted others protected from the predatory nurse. She got nowhere with the hospital, nor with the Florida Department of Health, which declined to accept a complaint from her against the nurse because there was no proof. The nurse got away clean, without even an accusation in her file, free to prey on future patients.

As a result of the assault, Castille, now 59, receives psychological therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, but is willing to have her name used because she is unashamed. "I did nothing wrong," she says. "After two-and-a-half years, I'm still trying to think like a survivor, not a victim. I think I'm winning that battle."

She has told her story openly in her Florida community. "None of this is embarrassing," she says, "compared to giving photos of my swollen genital area to men in the Collier County Sheriff's Department."

She has gone public to warn others that "even if you think you are in the safest place on earth — a hospital, a church, a university — you have to be alert, be aware, be on guard. Have someone look out for you," she says. "Do not ever be alone with anyone."

Castille has gone public with her warning partly because she was denied justice.

In the local priest-abuse case, with only one guilty count against Lynn and a hung jury in the case against the Rev. James Brennan, I see more victims who were not believed, and who have been denied justice.

Email stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. Join Stu on Facebook. For recent columns: philly.com/Byko.

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