CLEVELAND — More people are stepping forward saying they, too, suffered severe abuse at the hands of some local nuns. Now, victims are starting to see offers of restitution. This comes after a News 5 Investigation continues to expose what happened at a former home for children called Parmadale.
Barb Kuznecov said that when she was young, her parents suffered from mental and financial problems. So, at just 7 years old, she was sent to Parmadale.
“I wasn’t a person. I didn’t mean anything to anybody,” said Kuznecov with tears in her eyes.
ABUSE FROM SISTER MYRA AND ANOTHER NUN
She told us the abuse Sister Myra Wasikowski handed out was unbearable, including an incident on a staircase.
“She dragged me down by my hair down those steps and then made me kneel in the living room with my arms out with encyclopedias on them,” she told News 5.
Kuznecov said once there was a serious fire in her dorm, but Sister Myra forced the children to the top floor.
“Because she wanted us to drag stuff from the attic downstairs,” said Kuznecov.
“Putting you in danger?” we said.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Risking your lives?” we said.
“It was crazy,” she replied. “It was the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
But, it wasn’t just Sister Myra. Kuznecov said another nun targeted her brother, who was at Parmadale, too.
“I watched her totally abuse my brother one day when he wouldn’t eat and he cried and cried,” she told News 5.
EMOTIONAL REVELATION BUT NO INVESTIGATION
Kuznecov ran away from Parmadale a lot. One time, she went back to her home, and at one point, her mother told her to go take a shower.
“I looked in the mirror and I had all these bruises all over my body,” said Kuznecov. “And I went out and told her. I showed her. I said, ‘This is why I am running away because I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t.’”
She said her mom went straight to Parmadale.
“She told them she said, ‘I’m not doing this! My children are being abused!’” said Kuznecov. “They let us all go.”
“Did they ever launch an investigation into the abuse?” we asked.
“No. Nothing,” she replied.
APPLICATIONS NEEDED BY END OF THIS YEAR
Well, after our explosive investigation into Parmadale, the Sisters of Charity are starting to do something. The Sisters set up a victim’s assistance Fund and, in recent letters, they told former Parmadale residents with claims they can apply until the end of the year. If further investigation is needed, some cases could take until the end of next year.
“I was scared. I was scared being in there a lot,” said former Parmadale Resident Carolyn Mason in our first report on the Parmadale abuse. Our investigation started when Mason’s family reached out to us.
You can watch more about Mason's story in the player below:
PARMADALE VICTIM OFFERED RESTITUTION
We’ve since discovered Mason has been offered restitution for the abuse she endured. However, payments are in the form of items or services, what they call “needs” of the victims. We’re told distributions will be made through an attorney hired by the Sisters of Charity and that attorney would get a cut of the money used to fill those needs.
We asked the Sister of Charity for an on camera interview. It declined our offer. [see full statement below]
Statement from Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine:
"The Victims Assistance Fund is being established specifically so that victims may identify needs for which the funds may be used to help. Any money from the fund will go only to victims who identify those needs and are approved for compensation through the timeline and process we have outlined. Priority is not being given to those with attorneys or those who apply first. The review board will consider all applications that are submitted by the deadline."
-Sr. Judith Ann Karam, CSA, LFACHE
EXPERTS WEIGH IN ON ABUSE AND NEEDED ACTION
“Holding people accountable is critical because it’s the only way people learn,” said Lynn Skunta. She’s a licensed social worker who has helped people for 45 years, including many who’ve gone through childhood trauma at the hands of trusted adults.
“The difficulty is that, ‘Well, why didn’t they love me? Why didn’t they take care of me?’ And that stays," said Skunta.
We asked Kuznecov if, as a child, she began to think that the beatings were the norm and if they followed her in life. “Yes, exactly,” she responded. “You don’t know who to trust,” she added.
“We have to raise awareness about adverse childhood experiences,” said Ohio Representative Gail Pavliga, who is also a doctor of psychology. She’s introduced OH House Bill 428 that calls for a 16-expert commission to study Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs such as violence, abuse, suicide in the family and more.
“These particular experiences they’ve had, they have no way to fully understand and process them, but they are affected,” said Pavliga.
The CDC reports more than 60% of adults surveyed in 25 states said they experienced at least one ACE.
The bill also calls for a sitting legislator for the commission. “They will be able to hear the deliberations of this group and be able to immediately address and start to write policy and legislation to address ACEs,” said Pavliga.
“It’s affected people’s lives for so many years and it’s taken its toll on people. It needs to come out,” said Kuznecov.
If you experienced abuse in the former Parmadale home for children, Kuznecov encourages you to file your complaint with the Sisters of Charity right away.
Watch more about a Medina woman's experience at Parmadale in the player below: