PARMA, Ohio — After a News 5 Investigation broke news about physical abuse claims at a former home for children, another local woman stepped forward with claims of abuse from nuns who worked there. Now, new plans have been made to help her and people like her.
Tina Blecick, 61, from Medina, said her mother suffered from mental illness when Blecick was a child. “She would put dressers up against the windows and mattresses up against windows and doors to try and protect us,” she told us.
“She was paranoid?” we asked.
“Yes,” said Blecick.
When she was 10 years old, case workers came to the house to send her to the Parmadale home for children, she said.
“I ran and I jumped on the bed and I was jumping up and down saying ‘Please, don’t take me!’” she told us with tears in her eyes.
Once inside Parmadale, that's when her nightmare existence began with Sister Myra Wasikowski, she said, including a time when Blecick threw up and Sister Myra told her to spoon it back up.
“I was begging her to not make me eat my vomit,” she said as she continued to cry. “She had two girls hold me over a chair and she just beat me,” said Blecick.
“Sister Myra would enlist the help of other girls to help her beat you?” we asked.
“Yes,” said Blecick.
“On numerous occasions?”
“Numerous,” she replied. “There was me and two other girls I think that were beaten with a dog chain."
There’s been a lot said in our reporting about how some of the nuns were abusive, but Blecick and other women said that wasn’t the only problem.
Blecick told us at one point she showed a case worker her bruises from behind her knees to midway up on her back.
“And [the case worker] said, ‘What did you do to deserve it?’ And I was only 10,” said Blecick with more tears streaming down her face.
“The social worker said that to you?” we asked.
She nodded her head yes.
Blecick also said a nun would take over supervision of the cottage when Sister Myra was off for a couple of days, and even though that woman was nice, Blecick’s situation didn’t change.
“You say [that nun] knew what was going on?” we asked.
“Oh, absolutely,” said Blecick.
“And she did nothing?” we asked.
“No,” said Blecick.
“Nothing to help you?”
“Or the other children?”
“No!” Blecick exclaimed.
She said she couldn’t trust anyone at Parmadale so, she ran away several times.
“I didn’t even know where I was going to go but I just felt safer on the street than being at Parmadale,” she said.
From the police officers who took her back to Parmadale, to the social workers, to the other nuns and staff, Blecick said people didn’t listen to her.
“Nobody either believed us or chose not to do anything…I don’t know,” she told us.
“Do you feel it was a systemic failure on the part of all adults?” we asked.
“Oh, absolutely…absolutely,” she replied.
After our investigation into Parmadale aired, the Sisters of Charity recently sent out a letter stating it has now established a Victims Assistance Fund. It’s a resource for people like former Parmadale Resident Debbie Demming.
“[The abuse is] always in the back of your mind,” said Demming. “You just keep trying to push forward.”
You might remember Demming from previous reporting. She said she, too, endured beatings and abuse.
“Even the guys that I’ve talked to. A lot of the men, some can deal with it. Some can’t,” Demming told us.
The claims process includes the Sister of Charity offering counseling and interviews with potential victims. People wanting compensation will outline specific needs that the money would be used for to help in the healing process.
“Well, we have lots of needs,” said Demming. “We go through our daily life with having needs.”
The Board of the Victims Assistance Fund will then make a final decision. “I would like to get this behind us. Close this chapter of the book and move on,” said Demming. “Because there’s so many of us out there. So many of us."
After watching our investigation unfold, Blecick felt she wasn’t alone in her suffering. In fact, she reached out to Demming and Carolyn Mason, who we interviewed initially in our reporting, and the women all meant for the first time.
“It was emotional,” said Blecick. “It brought me a sense of peace and comfort and just…we hugged.”
But their own peace is not their only goal.
“If you’re having any kind of second thoughts about coming forward, do it. Do it, by all means,” said Demming.
“I needed to get this out,” said Blecick. “And to give other kiddos some hope if it’s happening to you...just keep going and telling somebody until they believe you.”
We asked for an on-camera interview from the Sisters of Charity. It declined but did send us this statement:
“It has been painful and heartbreaking to listen to the stories of individuals who have told us they were abused at the former Parmadale Children’s Village of St. Vincent de Paul.
"We have listened carefully to their stories and asked these individuals how we can help.
"To assist in the healing process and to stand with victims of physical and sexual abuse, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine is establishing a Victims Assistance Fund. More information about that fund is included with this statement.
"The courage of the survivors who have come forward has helped deepen our own understandings of the long-term effects of abuse and sexual misconduct. We agree with the survivors who are calling upon women religious to keep working for the healing of victims and the prevention of future abuse.”
- Alleged victims of abuse at Parmadale orphanage have discussed counseling, restitution with Catholic leaders
- 'I was scared' — Women say they were beaten, mistreated by nuns at Parma children's home in 1960s
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