ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It didn’t take long for victims of sexual abuse to take action after a new state law was enacted Wednesday.
More than 35 lawsuits were filed in Monroe County in the last six hours, and most of them are against the Rochester Catholic Diocese.
The lawsuits were not unexpected and most of them filed in Monroe County named Catholic priests and parishes where they say the abused happened.
So far thousands of cases have been filed in New York state, due to the new Child Victims Act, which suspends the statue of limitations, and for the next year allows victims of child sext abuse against the abuser or the organization responsible.
“Our Diocesan efforts to heal and restore victims, and create a safe environment will continue,” said Bishop Salvatore Matano, Rochester Catholic Diocese. “We will remain vigilant. I ask for your prayers as many difficult decisions have to be made in order to address the financial impact upon our Diocese. We are reviewing all possibilities that certainly include a path that is sensitive and fair to all victims.”
The Rochester Catholic Diocese says it has not received an allegation of child sexual abuse since 2006.
Bishop Matano says the church has programs in place to create a safe environment for children in the church.
Another local lawsuit named the Webster Central School District involving a case from the late 60s.
Pete Saracino, who says he was sexually abused as an altar boy in the 1960’s in Geneva, says the priest who molested him is a quote “murderer of souls”.
“I cannot imagine an experience more emotionally, psychologically or spiritually damaging for a Catholic child, boy or girl, to have to endure,” says Saracino.
“If there’s a concern about child abuse, we need to be called,” says Deb Rosen with the Bivona Child Advocacy Center, says child abuse cases go beyond large institutions like the Catholic Church. When abuse happens, seeking immediate help should be the first step.
“So this is not just an urban problem, this is something that exists across all communities in Monroe County.”
Rosen says the conversation needs to stay consistent on the victims like Peter, and not on large organizations being affected.
“And let’s be celebrating their resilience and taking about their future as opposed to focusing on any particular institution.”
Rosen says this is a moment real reckoning in New York State. “It took many people a long time to fight for this right for justice,” says Rosen.
List of defendants and priests named in first 37 cases filed in Monroe County Court Wednesday:
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.