Former Nun Files Sex Abuse Suit
Danville Native Says She Was Molested While Attending Ky. School
By Art Jester
Lexington Herald Leader (Kentucky)
October 11, 2002
A Danville native who is a national authority on education filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that she was sexually abused by nuns in the 1950s and '60s while she was a high school student and a nun in Northern Kentucky.
It is one of the rare lawsuits in the current Catholic sex abuse scandal that accuse nuns of sexually abusing girls and young women. Most cases involve allegations that priests have abused boys and young men.
The plaintiff, Emily Feistritzer, 61, of Washington, D.C., named two defendants: Villa Madonna Academy and St. Walburg Monastery of Benedictine Sisters of Covington, formerly known as St. Walburg Convent.
The lawsuit, filed in Boyle Circuit Court by Lexington lawyer Robert Treadway, seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages. It says Feistritzer has spent more than $200,000 on psychotherapy for more than 20 years.
Treadway said the lawsuit was filed in the Boyle court because Feistritzer was an 8th-grader at the old SS. Peter and Paul School, operated in Danville by Benedictine nuns, when she was recruited and offered a scholarship to attend Villa Madonna Academy. Feistritzer also owns a house in Danville.
"This is a recovered-memory case, and (yesterday) was the one-year anniversary of when she began to recover memories" through psychotherapy, said Treadway, who has also brought a sex-abuse suit against the Catholic Diocese of Lexington.
Feistritzer, the president and founder of the National Center for Education Information, a private research group, said her case "is not unique. I don't think this is an isolated case."
Mark Guilfoyle, a Walton lawyer who represents both defendants, said: "We have not been able to substantiate any of her claims and we plan to contest the lawsuit."
Feistritzer's allegations involve incidents from 1955, when she entered the academy, through roughly 1961. She left the convent in 1971.
Feistritzer alleges that she was "repeatedly sexually molested" by a science and mathematics teacher, Sister Eugene, whose real name is Rosemary Imbus.
The incidents involved "unwanted and lewd touching by Ms. Imbus of the plaintiff's breasts, attempts to undress her, kissing her and actual or attempted vaginal contact," the lawsuit says. Feistritzer also alleges that Imbus fondled her while helping her dress for presentation as a postulant, a candidate to become a nun.
In 1959, during her first year at St. Walburg Convent, Feistritzer alleges, she was molested by Sister Christopher, whose real name is Marlene Bertke. The molestation involved "attempting to forcibly have sexual contact with her, by forcibly undressing her, and by having unwanted sexual contact with her," the lawsuit says.
Feistritzer also alleges she was fondled by Sister Terrance. She does not remember the nun's real name, the suit says.
Treadway said he thinks Imbus and Bertke are still alive, but is uncertain about Sister Terrance.
Feistritzer further alleges that she reported Sister Terrance to the mistress of novices, Sister Martha, whose real name she does not know. No action was taken and the alleged incident was not reported to the police, the lawsuit says.
The suit also says Feistritzer also reported Sister Terrance's alleged conduct to Sister Zachary, who is now known as Sister Rita Brink, the current prioress of St. Walburg. Brink declined comment and referred questions to Guilfoyle.
Feistritzer eventually earned a doctorate from Indiana University after leaving the convent. She is divorced and has no children.
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