‘I’ve needed this!’ — Child abuse victims start to see payment after brutal existence at Parmadale

WEWS-TV, ABC - 5 (News5Cleveland.com)[Cleveland OH]

December 8, 2022

By Jonathan Walsh

News 5’s yearlong investigation getting results

It’s something victims never thought would happen, but now payments are coming to those who experienced severe abuse as kids at a former home for children called the Parmadale Children’s Village of St. Vincent DePaul. It’s restitution that’s starting to help heal those who had no hope in the past.

“I feel better that I did it. I’m still not crazy about being on camera…” said Carolyn Mason about telling her story publicly. She said she feels much better than the first time she sat down with us back in January while wiping away tears. “If I had bruises, which one time she blacked my eye really, really good. So, that Sunday I couldn’t see my grandma and grandpa because it was too bruised and black,” she told us back then.

She had opened up for the first time about the severe abuse she endured at the hands of Sister Myra Wasikowski at Parmadale. “They dropped the ball. Whoever was supposed to be paying attention to these abusers, looked the other way,” Mason said in our recent interview.

She told us she tried numerous times over the years to get someone from the Cleveland Catholic Diocese and/or the Sisters of Charity to listen.

“Did anyone take you seriously prior to you sitting down with (News 5)?” we asked.

“No!” said Mason. “It was like 30 years of me seeking out and asking and requesting, and I kept getting closed doors.”

Abuse victims saw change after stepping forward with News 5

Soon after our initial report, things started to change. “They acknowledged my story. They acknowledged Sister Myra. Other people came forward, many people came forward,” said Mason.

People like Debbie Demming, who was in Parmadale as a child. “If you didn’t eat your food or you got sick at the dining table, (Sister Myra) would make you eat your vomit,” Demming told us in a previous interview.

Same goes for Tina Blecick. “There was me and two other girls, I think, that were beaten with a dog chain,” she recalled about her time there.

And Barb Kuznecov said she, too, had a rough existence while living in the home for children. “I wasn’t a person. I didn’t mean anything to anybody,” she said while tearing up.

The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine’s recent acknowledgment of the abuse came with continued fear, though, for some former victims as they applied for the newly established Parmadale Victims’ Assistance Fund. “The one lady said when she did it, when she went to them, she kept in her house for couple of weeks and had her blinds closed, because she was afraid they were going to come get her,” said Mason about conversations she’s had with former Parmadale residents.

Haunted victims now see healing

It’s that kind of feeling that’s haunted victims of Parmadale for decades. “When I hear a kid in a store cry, or something or sadness, I feel that,” said Mason. “Like I’m back in that moment.”

However, Mason told us she feels like she’s making progress now through therapy, the Sisters’ acknowledgment, and because her case has been approved for payment by the Sisters of Charity. It’s not a monetary settlement, but rather the Sisters have agreed to pay for needs of the victims, things like a new roof on Mason’s home and more. “They are meeting my needs,” said Mason with a smile.

“And how does that feel that they’re meeting those needs?” we asked.

“Great! I’ve needed this for a while,” said Mason.

Victims encouraged to apply for assistance fund

It’s an amazing feeling that Mason said other victims who haven’t applied should look forward to. “When they put you in a place that’s supposed to be nurturing and take care of you and you were harmed, you need to step up and say it,” said Mason. “Document it. Write it down. Make your report.”

She told us she’s finding herself again including the child inside her that just wants joy. “I’m going to take the little Carolyn and we’re going to Disneyland,” said Mason. “And I’m going to treat her to whatever she wants to do or get. … whatever I want!”

The Sisters of Charity is still accepting applications for the Victims’ Assistance Fund until the end of this month. If you experienced abuse of any kind while living at Parmadale, you are encouraged to contact the Sisters as soon as possible.

We asked the Sisters about Mason’s payout. It sent us this statement:

“We will not publicly discuss the details of our work with any individual claimant.  We have made a promise of confidentiality for claimants, and we will honor that promise.”