ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Hundreds of New Yorkers who were sexually abused as children took their case to court on Wednesday. This was the first day they were allowed to file lawsuits under the new Child Victims Act.
Statewide, lawyers filed some 400 lawsuits with 35 of those being in Monroe County. The victims allege abuse that took place as far back as the 1950s. The majority of local cases target clergy in the Rochester Catholic Diocese.
Leander James is among the attorneys who filed lawsuits today with the Monroe County court clerk. He represents dozens of local victims and so far, four are suing. Brian DeLaFranier is one of them.
“I know what happened, he knows what happened, and eventually he’s going to have to answer for it,” said DeLaFranier.
In 1979 and 1980, DeLaFranier was a 14-year-old altar boy at St. Andrews Parish in Rochester (the church has since been closed by the Diocese and sold to another denomination). He claims he was molested by his parish priest, Father Robert Gaudio. Gaudio went on to serve at St. Christopher’s Church in North Chili but was suspended by the Rochester Catholic Diocese when the allegations came to light this past year. Gaudio denies the allegations but DeLaFrainer’s story is not unique.
Another law firm, Anderson and Associates, sued today on behalf of over 25 local clients. They allege abuse by priests, teachers, seminarians, and two Catholic nuns.
“I cannot imagine an experience more emotionally, psychologically or spiritually damaging for a catholic child, boy or girl, to have to endure,” said victim Pete Saracino.
The law firm says the alleged abusers worked at local parishes and in local schools including Camp Stella Marris in Livonia, Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Geneva, St. John Evangelist, Our Lady of Mercy, and the Aquinas Institute, all in Rochester.
DeLaFrainer said he spent a lifetime feeling shame over the abuse he suffered as a young boy. He said he’s grateful to get his day in court.
“I know today that it was not my fault, that I was victimized as a young boy and it kind of progressed and I was a target of a person who said they could take advantage of somebody,” he said.
Over the next year, hundreds more lawsuits are expected to be filed against the Rochester Catholic Diocese.