|San Leandro Woman Accuses Catholic Priest of Sexual Abuse
By Angela Hill
June 15, 2009
OAKLAND — A woman who says she recently experienced repressed memories of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in a San Leandro parish in the early 1970s has filed a lawsuit against the priest and Oakland's diocese for unspecified damages.
Standing with her attorney and several members of a support group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Lorene Rouse, 50, of San Leandro, held a news conference outside the diocese offices in downtown Oakland on Monday afternoon, describing incidents she said occurred from 1970 to 1972 at Our Lady of Good Counsel in San Leandro, and naming the alleged abuser as the Rev. Joseph Ferreira.
"This came out last year," Rouse said. "Something had triggered my memories and I was having flashbacks, and now I know that this really happened. It is not something I made up. I would never want to make up anything as awful as this."
As soon as these memories surfaced, Rouse went to the diocese about the situation, but received no response, she said.
"Lorene Rouse did come forward to the diocese several months ago, and the bishop has been very supportive of her," said Mike Brown, communications director for the diocese. "We're not aware of this lawsuit," he said. "The diocese has not seen a copy of the suit, and we're not able to comment on it until we do. And even then, if it's a pending legal matter, we may not be able to comment."
Rouse said she hopes to urge others who may have experienced or witnessed clergy abuse to come forward. The suit, filed May 21 in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges Rouse was repeatedly molested by Ferreira when she was asked to help clean the rectory and count donation money. "He told me I was a special little girl, and that I was not to tell anyone because they wouldn't believe me," she said.
A similar suit was filed against Ferreira in 2006 by another woman in her late 40s who accused the priest of molestation during the mid-1970s. Rouse's attorney, Joe George, of Sacramento, said the case was settled out of court. Brown confirmed there was such a suit, but said it was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff. Currently, the state Supreme Court is addressing the issue of the statute of limitations on such cases, trying to determine whether adults need more time to sue after learning that their psychological disorders may have been caused by childhood sexual abuse. Typically, those charging abuse are required to file suits within a few years of the alleged incident. "The question is: How can someone file in a three-year window if they don't even know they were injured until much later?" George said. "(Rouse) is filing within three years of the date of discovery of her injury, of the onset of an adult psychological injury caused by the molestation."
Just last week, the court took up an Oakland case involving six brothers who said they recently discovered their long-standing psychological problems were the result of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest during their childhood years. The court will decide whether the brothers can sue for damages for incidents that allegedly occurred more than 30 years ago.
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