In August 2011, Noelle Feldman began treatment with William Knack, a clinical psychologist in Chappaqua. Ms. Feldman, then 53 years old, had endured lifelong experiences with sexual abusiveness. On January 10, 2013, Feldman claimed that she was raped and assaulted during a psychotherapy and counseling session.
Knack denied the allegations but a Westchester County jury found that Knack had committed rape by engaging in sexual intercourse with Ms. Knack by forcible compulsion and awarded her pain and suffering damages in the sum of $450,000 ($250,000 past – four years, $200,000 future – 20 years). The jury also awarded punitive damages in the sum of $500,000.
In Feldman v. Knack (2d Dept. 2019), the awards have all been affirmed.
Plaintiff testified at length concerning the significant emotional and psychological pain and suffering she endured as a result of her being raped by her psychologist. For example, she stated:
“I feel like not just my body was raped but my soul was raped. I feel dismantled, in that everything that makes you feel like you’re human is gone. I don’t feel alive. My life has never been easy but going to someone for help and having that person betray me in such a brutal way. I have recurrent nightmares. Horrible nightmares. I’m afraid of everything.”
Ms. Feldman further testified that she’d relapsed into alcohol abuse, doesn’t trust anyone anymore, doesn’t go out ever, totally isolated herself and doesn’t cook or bake anymore.
Ms. Feldman described her lifelong experiences with abusiveness which included being raped by her father each week until she left home when she was eight and a half years old, being sexually abused by her brother and her father’s shooting to death of her brother. Defendant argued that plaintiff’s emotional and psychological pain and suffering should be viewed in the context of this extensive prior history.
- Plaintiff introduced into evidence recordings of two separate telephone conversations she initiated with the defendant (in the presence of a police detective with the New Castle Police Department). In the second call, on 7/17/14, Ms. Feldman repeatedly confronted Knack about his having hurt, targeted and taken advantage of her and “having sex” in his office. In response, Knack repeatedly apologized stating he was “wrong”, that he “developed feelings” for her and that he acted in a way he should not have acted.
- Plaintiff neither sought medical treatment after she was raped nor reported the incident to the police until a year later in February 2014. Furthermore, she continued to treat with defendant after she was raped, returning to him a week later and continuing to treat with him until the Fall of 2013.
- Defendant asserted that plaintiff in fact assaulted him (albeit on a different date – 9/23/13). The trial judge noted, though, that the defendant’s overall credibility was “powerfully undermined” when the jury found it implausible that Knack would be unable to prevent or stop plaintiff’s purported attack on him (in which he claimed she pinned him down while at the same time undoing his belt, unbuttoning his waistband and pulling down his underwear).
- In 2017, Knack filed a bankruptcy proceeding under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. It is still pending.
- Noelle Feldman died on April 18, 2019.