NEW ORLEANS (LA)
WGNO [New Orleans LA]
March 15, 2022
By Anna McAllister
[Photo above: Survivor Larry Polizzi. Screen image from video accompanying this article. See also Polizzi’s lawsuit.]
If you’re driving through Jefferson Parish, you’ll spot beautiful, abandoned buildings that sit on Barataria Boulevard.
Although the striking exterior of the buildings can quickly catch your eye, it’s the stories that happened inside that are haunting.
“As a child, I wanted to take my own life,” said Larry Polizzi.
A new lawsuit filed on behalf of Larry Polizzi, who lived at Hope Haven in his teens, alleges the horrific sexual abuse he endured while living there back in the 1970s.
“Instead of taking care of him, they abused him, pretty systemically and repeatedly,” said Jessica Arbour, an attorney for Polizzi.
The lawsuit names Father Sean Leo Rooney and Sister Alvin Marie Hagan as the perpetrators of the abuse.
“I’ve been ashamed of myself for many years and I feel, for what they done to me, from the time I was 14, they need to be held accountable,” said Polizzi.
The lawsuit itself goes after the orders this priest and nun belonged to; Salesians of Don Bosco and School Sisters of Notre Dame.
Polizzi’s attorneys say a recent law passed by Louisiana lawmakers and signed by Governor John Bel Edwards now allows victims, like Polizzi, to file suit even decades after the sexual abuse.
“They gave victims of sexual abuse a three-year look-back window, where they can bring suit for abuse that happened decades ago. It gives survivors like Mr. Polizzi and people all across Louisiana the chance to seek justice,” said Jacques Bezou, Jr., an attorney for Polizzi.
Polizzi says the abuse has haunted him and ruined his life, but is hopeful sharing his story as a survivor will encourage other victims to come forward.
“I just hope that it helps others to see me and to hear what I got to say, I just hope that it can open doors for them,” said Polizzi.
According to Polizzi’s attorneys, Sister Hagan died a few years ago and Father Rooney is in his 80s and living in Arizona. They also say both Hagan and Rooney have a long history of abuse allegations throughout their tenure with the Catholic church.