‘Extreme, outrageous’ abuse alleged in new lawsuits by former Parmadale residents

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

March 21, 2023

By Jonathan Walsh

For more than a year, the News 5 Investigators have been telling you about women breaking their silence concerning child abuse at the Parmadale Home for Children in Parma. The reports are centered on physically abusive nuns in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ’70s, but those stories are now sparking a whole new chapter in this investigation.

Women who were at Parmadale in the late 1990s and early 2000s are coming forward with their own stories and they’re armed now with lawyers.

Today, four women filed lawsuits against the Catholic Church saying the abuse they survived as children was “extreme and outrageous” and they were “subjected to continual physical, mental and sexual abuse by numerous employees of Parmadale.”

We want to warn you, what you are about to read may be difficult for some to experience.


“Never did I expect me walking into Parmadale was going to be like a living hell,” said Karen Brown, who was 14 years old when she said she walked into Parmadale in 1998.

In a lawsuit, Brown claimed she suffered “severe emotional distress…(and) mental anguish” at the hands of the hired staff in charge of the home for children. “I’ve been to quite a few group homes and I’ve never experienced the treatment that I experienced at Parmadale,” said Brown.

Lawsuits filed today named the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, Cuyahoga County, Children and Family Services and more as defendants.

Brown’s lawsuit stated the defendants’ employees “used physical force to restrain her…” and the “restraint caused her physical injuries.”

Leaa McGowan said she lived at Parmadale and saw Brown “being mentally and physically abused” by staff.

“Did you witness beatings against (Brown)?” we asked.

“Yes, I did,” McGowan told us.


Angie Williams has also filed a lawsuit stating “she was forced to fight other residents of Parmadale for the entertainment of its employees…” and that “she experienced injuries and mental trauma as a result.”

“I busted out crying because I didn’t want to fight her…. given where we were, I still considered her a friend,” said Williams.

Her suit claimed “she was told almost daily that she was fat, ugly, looked (like) a gorilla and stunk…”

“I remember staff just sitting there just talking about us, downgrading us, making us feel like horrible human beings,” Williams told us.

RELATED: ‘I was scared’ — Women say they were beaten, mistreated by nuns at Parma children’s home in 1960s

Local women are breaking their silence about what they say really happened inside a Cleveland area home for children. They claim physical abuse by nuns at the former Parmadale home was well-beyond normal discipline handed out during the 1960s, and it’s all taken a drastic emotional toll. Watch more in the player below [see original article].


And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, both Williams and Brown in their lawsuits claimed Parmadale “employees without warning or provocation intentionally touched (them) without (their) consent…” and “that this unwanted touching occurred throughout (their) residency at Parmadale.”

Williams’ suit went further stating “she was constantly sexually assaulted” by Parmadale employees “and that the sexual assaults even occurred on (her) fifteen-year-old birthday.”

Williams said she kept a diary during her time at Parmadale. She read us an excerpt. “This is from Oct. 12, 2001. Today is my birthday. I turned 15 today. Today started off horrible,” read Williams. “He dared me to scream. He told me if I screamed he’d make sure I would stay in Parmadale until I turned 18.”

Both women’s lawsuits said, “that the defendants knew or should have known their employees were…abusing (them) but either failed to act or covered up their employees’ actions.”

The suits also stated the women “will continue to suffer as a result of (their) injuries.”

“To suffer in silence, it eats away at you,” said Williams.

“The trauma that I endured at Parmadale affects me every day,” Brown told us.

All of the women are represented by Cleveland Attorney Bruce Taubman.

“As an attorney, I felt like maybe I could help these people and provide some closure for them,” said Taubman.

We reached out to all of the defendants listed in the lawsuit. The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine sent a statement that said, in part, that it “(encourages) any victims to come forward…”

You can read the full statement below:

“It is beyond distressing to learn of these individuals coming forward with additional allegations of abuse at the former Parmadale Children’s Village of St. Vincent de Paul. As we have said in the past, we encourage any victims to come forward to share their experiences. If we learn of accusations against a sister that have not been investigated, we will follow our process, including an interview with a victim assistance coordinator, the use of an independent investigator and the convening of a review panel commissioned with the development of recommendations to the Congregation.

As we have also said, we will not publicly discuss the details of our work with any individual who has come to us with reports that they suffered abuse at Parmadale involving a Sister from our congregation.

Because we understand that your news report will include allegations from the late 1990s and 2000s as well as allegations about priests, we do want to provide some important facts and context.

First, we can’t speak to or address allegations involving priests who may have been at Parmadale.

Second, according to our records, the Sisters of Charity had no affiliation with or did any work at Parmadale after August of 1990. As a result, the allegations about more recent conduct clearly do not involve the Sisters of Charity.

None of this, of course, diminishes the fact that these individuals say they were damaged by the abuse that they experienced. While we certainly hope and pray that they can find the healing they deserve, we can’t speak to these situations.”

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland said, in part, that it “takes allegations of such abuse very seriously.”

You can read the full statement below:

“The abuse of a child by those responsible for their care is a terrible sin, and the Diocese takes allegations of such abuse very seriously. Ms. Brown and Ms. Mayle both reached out in 2022 to report their experiences to the Victim Assistance Coordinator of the Diocese. The Diocese reported all allegations it received relating to Parmadale to civil authorities and offered counseling to anyone who reported having experienced abuse there. The priest reported by Ms. Mayle to have engaged in abuse died in 2005.

The Diocese of Cleveland is committed to creating a safe environment for children and fostering healing for those who have experienced abuse. Anyone with information or simply in need of help can reach the diocesan confidential response line by phone at 216-334-2999 or email to response_services@dioceseofcleveland.org.”

So far, Cuyahoga County told us once it receives the suits they will be reviewed.

“How does it feel to be heard finally?” we asked Williams.

“Empowering. It really is,” Williams said.