CVA lawsuits bring spotlight back to St. Colman's Home
By Steve Hughes
Albany Times Union
August 15, 2019
|Child Victims Act sexual abuse plaintiff Susanne Robertson, right, is comforted by her cousin, Mary Slater, left, during a news conference announcing three lawsuits to be filed against the Albany Catholic Diocese on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, outside the Diocese of Albany offices in Albany, N.Y. Robertson alleges she was abused at the St. ...|
|Attorney Jeff Anderson, center, announces 20 lawsuits filed against the Albany Diocese on the first day the Child Victims Act at the Hilton Albany on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 in Albany, N.Y. Survivor Jeanne Marron, left, attorney Cynthia LaFave, second from left, and survivors Bridie Farrell and Mark Lyman stand at right. The act allows a ...|
|A poster shows the locations of perpetrators in the Diocese of Albany is shown as Jeff Anderson announces 20 lawsuits filed against the Albany Diocese on the first day the Child Victims Act at the Hilton Albany on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 in Albany, N.Y. The act allows a one-year period for claims to be filed regardless of the age of the ...|
Susanne Robertson was one of seven children. When their mother had a nervous breakdown in 1957, the children were sent to St. Colman’s Home, under the eyes of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
There, Robertson and two of her sisters say, one nun sexually abused them, and the order’s leaders permitted other adults to sexually abuse them and failed to notify authorities of the crimes.
All three sisters filed lawsuits alleging that the sexual abuse started around the time they reached puberty.
The three lawsuits, filed on the first day of the "look-back window" opened by the state's newly enacted Child Victims Act, highlight the lesser-known issue of sexual abuse allegations against religious orders in general, and nuns specifically.
“My beginning started in June 1957 and it ends today,” Robertson said at a news conference on Wednesday. “Today I dissolve the walls of silence that covered eight years of abuse at the hands of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Advocates say that abuse by nuns occurs less frequently than it does among priests, but is rarely discussed. As with male abusers, the organizations that oversee those orders have failed to take necessary steps to deal with the problem.
It is also not the first time there have been allegations of abuse against the nuns that run St. Colman’s.
Daniel Ellis, the attorney for Robertson and her sisters, said the lawsuits allow the women to break their silence and the cycle of suffering.
“The stories we’re hearing from these women and dozens of other children who were in the orphanage at the time ... are just horrific,” Ellis said Wednesday.
Most of the allegations from Robertson and her sisters center on a nun named Sister Regina Losee.