CLEVELAND — Restitution for dozens of child abuse victims from a former home for kids in Parma is starting to arrive in mailboxes. The payment is very different than what was initially spelled out by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine for those who suffered at the Parmadale Children’s Village of St. Vincent de Paul decades ago. We have reaction to the payments, reaction to the process and how some are taking their complaints to the next level.
News 5 Investigators have been bringing you storiesabout children abused by some nuns at the former orphanage. Our reporting led to the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine that ran Parmadale finally admitting the abuse, apologizing for it, and creating a victims’ assistance fund to help people heal.
VICTIM: NUNS NOT TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY
“Do you feel they’re taking this seriously?” we asked.
“I do not,” said Debbie Demming. She is one of the victims who says she was brutally abused by Sister Myra Wasikowski at Parmadale. She just found a check in the mail from the Sisters of Charity.
“To look at that check is a joke. It’s a joke,” Demming told us.
She wasn’t comfortable sharing the amount of her check, but we can confirm it is a fraction of what other survivors like Carolyn Mason received from the Sisters of Charity.
“I wish I could be a fly on the wall at that place sometimes and hear what really goes on. And to find out that the sisters won’t even call you back,” said Demming about trying to contact the sisters but no one returning her multiple messages. “There’s way too many people that are very disgruntled about how they handled this right now,” she said.
NEW VICTIM SPEAKS OUT, RECALLS BEATINGS
Renee Reed is telling us her Parmadale story for the first time. She, too, suffered at the hands of Sister Myra in the ‘60s.
“She would tell us constantly that she hated us. She hated the girls. She hated being there and she hated us,” Reed said.
She told us she vividly remembers the verbal abuse happening over and over again.
“Myra used to tell me I was going to be a whore…because of the way that I walked,” Reed said. “I was 10 years old!”
She remembers the myriad of physical attacks, too, like the time Sister Myra grabbed a sharp, steel brush and hit Reed in her shins.
“I wouldn’t do it. You’re not going to make me cry,” Reed reaclled. “So, then that would make her angrier. So, then she’d try more to make you cry. And one time she got the brush to stick into my leg.”
ANOTHER VICTIM STEPS FORWARD FOR FIRST TIME
Tammie Mayle is stepping forward for the very first time as well.
“I felt alone. I wanted to disappear,” said Mayle as she teared up about her time at Parmadale. “In reality, I probably felt like I just wanted to die…You’d be standing talking to somebody and she would just walk by and hit you. And then she would giggle. She would have this, like, evil laugh."
She was under Sister Myra’s abusive rule in the 1970s.
“I wanted to go home. I wanted to call my mother,” she said, with tears streaming down her face.
Both Mayle and Reed recently applied for the victims' assistance fund. Mayle feels the process was very cold.
“It was probably like a 10-minute conversation, but it was a whole life for me,” Mayle said.
Reed agrees. The sisters had originally said it would pay for the victims' “needs” like a new roof that Mason received. Reed didn’t like the idea of the sisters approving her needs.
“What I needed was a life that wasn’t full of shame,” Reed told us. “And feeling that you’re the outcast and you weren’t wanted. And any kind of abuse you got, you deserved.”
NUNS: 'COULD NOT REPEAT MISTAKES'
News 5 Investigators asked the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine for an on-camera interview. They declined. The group did send a statement that said, in part, they: “…recognized that (they) had to act and… could not repeat the mistakes of hoping the stories would go away…” [see full statement below]
In their “second and final phase” of restitution efforts, the sisters are now accepting new applications only until September 30, 2023, with compensation approvals by late December.
VICTIM'S BROTHER SUFFERED, TOO
“I don’t want them to control my story. It’s my story,” Reed said. “They controlled me then. They don’t control me now.”
Reed said she doesn’t want the sisters’ money now. She’s still furious that her brother Robert Reed also suffered abuse at Parmadale, which she says led him to be an alcoholic and to his early death at age 55.
“My friends kept saying you’re (stepping forward) for your brother, aren’t you? And I said 'yeah,'” Reed told us. “Because I survived. Yeah, I took my beatings. Yeah, I went through a lot, but I’m here. (Robert) didn’t get that opportunity.”
SOME VICTIMS HIRE CLEVELAND ATTORNEY
Meanwhile, Mayle has contacted Cleveland attorney Bruce Taubman to represent her moving forward.
“I’m grateful,” Mayle said. “He listened. He didn’t send me away.”
Taubman has nearly five decades of experience as an attorney.
“It hurts that people have to suffer these type of abuses and have to keep them repressed for such a long time,” Taubman said.
“The longer I keep it inside, the sicker I’m going to get,” Mayle said. “And I don’t want to be sick anymore."
“If anything could come out of this, I would want some man out there that’s carrying that burden to find someone, anyone that they can trust,” Reed said. “They shouldn’t have to carry that burden. It’s not their burden to carry.”
The sisters thanked the victims again for their courage.
Demming told us that while her check and others’ checks are too small, she’s not giving up, and the sisters should prepare for a battle ahead.
Read the full statement from the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine below: