CLEVELAND — There are some big developments for people who said they were abused at the former home for children called Parmadale. The assistance fund designed to help victims is now on hold.
You might remember earlier this year that we reported four people sued various Catholic entities and Cuyahoga County about the abuse they said they suffered at Parmadale. Now, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, who at one point ran the home, said the fund is tied to pending litigation and needs to stop for the moment.
Plus, attorneys representing the Catholic entities have just filed a motion to dismiss the women's lawsuits based on the statutes of limitations that have run out.
AN OHIO HOUSE BILL COULD HELP VICTIMS
However, there's a bill in Ohio that might help some Parmadale victims.
"The trauma that I endured at Parmadale affects me every day," said Karen Brown during a recent interview about the physical and sexual abuse she says she suffered when she was a resident at Parmadale.
As does Angie Williams.
“(The staff member) dared me to scream. He told me if I screamed, he'd make sure I would stay in Parmadale until I turned 18," said Williams, who was reading from a journal she said she kept during her stay at the home.
Tammie Mayle told us Parmadale was unbearable.
"This authority figure guided another child and myself to have sexual acts," she said about a former priest.
Bruce Taubman is a Cleveland attorney now representing Brown, Williams and Mayle. Soon after our stories on the lawsuits, Taubman said he'd been contacted by at least 50 people with their personal stories against Parmadale.
"I had no idea it was as large as it was," Taubman said.
"Does it sort of lend to the idea of just how pervasive the abuse was?" we asked.
"Yes," he responded.
BILL ADDRESSES STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS
It's for that very reason Taubman said Ohio House Bill 124 (HB 124) needs to be passed for victims of Parmadale and beyond. If approved, it would allow child abuse victims to file claims without worrying about statutes of limitations on the crimes committed against them.
"It opens up the opportunity for survivors who shouldn't be under a time clock," said OH Representative Tavia Galonski from Akron.
She is one of the primary sponsors of the bill that now sits in the House Criminal Justice Committee. That's where similar bills in the past have died.
"The perpetrators then are encouraged to not only continue their behavior but also that they will walk off into the sunset to retirement while these survivors continue to agonize over what they went through," said Rep. Galonski.
"And there were so many times in the years after Parmadale when I would have flashbacks," said Bowman.
NATIONAL EXPERT: 'OHIO IS DEFINITELY AN F'
"Ohio is definitely an F. It's one of the worst states in the country," said Marci Hamilton, the Founder of the national nonprofit CHILD USA. She noted overall, 29 states and territories have passed laws to extend statutes of limitations on civil cases. "The question is, how many children are going to be sexually abused until the truth comes out? And frankly, that's on those who are blocking the bills," said Hamilton.
There are reports showing many victims don't come forward for years, even decades, after the abuse. But right now in Ohio, child sexual abuse victims are limited to 12 years after they become 18 to file civil claims. The Catholic entities being sued are trying to get the Parmadale cases dismissed, saying the time to file suits has passed.
"Those victims are incapable of coming forward for many medical and scientific reasons, and so you just have to keep it open," said Hamilton.
HB 124 has the public support of numerous Democrats, but nearly every Republican on the House Criminal Justice Committee who could help move the bill forward was either "unavailable," ignored our interview requests or said no comment.
OPPOSITION TO THE BILL
"Statutes of limitations exist for a very good reason," said Representative Bill Seitz, a Republican who is on the House Criminal Justice Committee and is also the Majority Leader. He said allowing abuse claims to come forward decades later "is not good public policy."
"It exposes people who never actually committed any sexual abuse to crippling lawsuits that throw them into bankruptcy," Seitz told us.
He does say if it can be proven that the abuser's employer covered up the abuse, there are provisions in Ohio law where organizations can be held accountable. However, in general, he doesn't support the abuser's employer being sued after the statute of limitations has expired. "In those states that have eliminated their statutes of limitations, many, many of the Catholic Dioceses have gone bankrupt," he said. "I don't think bankrupting charities is a good idea."
We asked about people who argue some victims are unable to come forward for many, many years. "I balance the repressed memory issue against the issue of fairness to the defendant," Rep. Seitz told us.
"There can be bipartisan legislation on issues like this that matter," said Rep. Galonski. "And I'll go ahead and say it. I don't believe that children's issues are a partisan issue."
"It's unfortunate, but if you don't nudge lots of legislatures, they don't do anything," said Taubman. He also told us that tomorrow, he will file with the courts to voluntarily dismiss the cases but will be able to file again at a later date.
In the meantime, if you feel strongly about House Bill 124, you are encouraged to contact your representatives.
Here is the entire Sisters of Charity statement:
"In response to your email dated May 10, 2023, wherein you inquire about the current status of the Victims Assistance Fund ("Fund"), the goal remains, as it has been from the establishment of the fund, to help with the pain and suffering people contend they experienced while at Parmadale Children's Village of St. Vincent de Paul. However, in light of the pending litigation, which in part is connected to the fund, it has been determined that the application process to the fund needs to be paused. Thus, it is not accurate that "the fund is no longer available."
This pause in accepting Fund applications has been explained to those people who have inquired about the fund, and these inquiries are being logged so there is a record of them during the pause period.
It is the intent of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine to resolve the pending litigation as quickly as possible, and then resume the taking and processing of Fund applications."
- Christopher M. Bechhold, Attorney for the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine
CLICK HERE to read News 5's previous coverage of Parmadale.