Child Victims Act window closing soon: Survivor of clergy sexual abuse speaks out

New York News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Catholic Church has faced harsh criticism for over two decades regarding sexual abuse allegations. However, with the extension of the Child Victims Act, there’s still a flood of survivors coming forward.

For many abused by clergy in the Catholic Church, it’s taken years to come to terms with what happened to them.

“I had nightmares for years and years. I was only 13 when this happened,” Michael John Davis said. “The worst part was the guilt.”

Davis grew up in Cohoes down the street from St. Patrick’s Parish. When his dad passed away he thought his priest was stepping up to be a father figure. He asked News10 to share his story.

“I believe it needs to be told because it’s so vile,” Davis said. “Priests were everything to us.”

In 1973, Davis said that Father Richard Jones drugged him and molested him in the rectory.  Jones first appeared publicly on the Diocese of Albany’s list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse of minors in 2018.

Under the Child Victims Act, Davis filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and Father Richard Jones in August, 2020. The Child Victim’s Act allows survivors to come forward and file civil cases no matter how long it’s been since the abuse.

“It’s unusual for people to lie about this. It’s hard enough when it’s the truth, Cynthia LaFave said. “Abusers will exist but what we can do is stop giving them the opportunity to abuse.”

Cynthia LaFave is an attorney with a focus on representing adults who were child victims. Currently, she has well over 150 clients with sexual abuse cases against the Diocese Albany alone. She believes these lawsuits are the only way to hold the Diocese accountable.

“It is going to come down to if you have to pay for this abuse, will you then look in the future and say, okay, we have to stop it,” LaFave said.

Mary DeTurris Poust, The Director of Communications for the Diocese of Albany, stated that the Catholic Church has reformed the way it screens those who have any access to children. 

According to Poust, The Diocese of Albany has conducted 38,381 background checks on staff and volunteers since 2002. Additionally, this year, the Diocese implemented a fully online awareness training program, and new codes of conduct for clergy, employees and volunteers.

“The Catholic Church has become a leader and an international model of how to protect children,” Poust said.

The Diocese of Albany also stated that they encourage survivors to speak with them help them file an official complaint and move their case forward to the Diocesan Review Board.

Conversely, LaFave urged survivors to come forward now and a file a civil case before the look back window of opportunity ends on August 14th in accordance with the Child Victims Act.

“In the hearts and minds of my clients it doesn’t come down to money, it comes down to how they can stop this from happening in the future,” LaFave said.

Davis works on coping and healing through therapy. He hopes his story reaches someone and lets them know that it’s never to let to reach out for help.

“It’s not your fault. I blamed myself forever,” Davis said. “If I can get some closure and help other people get some closure, that’s what my main goal is.”

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