WOIO - CBS 19 [Cleveland OH]
March 21, 2023
By Maddi Hebebrand
Four lawsuits filed Tuesday claim mental and physical abuse in a former children’s home run by the Catholic Diocese, three of which also claim sexual abuse.
Parmadale Family Services was a group home for “unruly” children open from 1925 to 2014.
The four women filing the lawsuits resided at Parmadale throughout its time, some from the early 1960′s and some as late as the 2000′s.
Three of the victims reported sexual assault while at the children’s home, including:
- Being forced to have sexual interactions with other children while employees watched
- Being sexually assaulted by a priest named “Father Leahy” while other men he invited watched
- Being sexually assaulted by a “Mr. P” among other staff
One of the lawsuits notes that she was even sexually assaulted on her birthday.
All four women reported mental and physical abuse, including:
- Being punched in the face or stomach
- Getting their hair pulled
- Being verbally and physically reprimanded when she spoke or looked at her brothers
- Having to shower under watch
- Being dragged outside of the chapel for making noise during church and their head slammed into a brick building
- Being forced to remove their pants and spanked with a show in front of other children
- Having their mail hidden from them so they were unable to report abuse
- Being forced to finish all of their food, and force-fed until they vomit if not finished
- Being forced to fight other residents
- Being called “fat” or “ugly”
- Being called a “gorilla” or “skunk”
- Being thrown on the floor by a “Mr. Hayes” causing her to black out
One of the women specifically cited “Sister Myra Wasikowski” among other employees as perpetrators of abuse and violence in the home.
All of the lawsuits note that Parmadale was opened, managed, operated and maintained by the Catholic Diocese, as well as taking care of hiring.
Other defendants in the case include the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, who oversaw staffing, the Catholic Charities Corp., who oversaw funding, Bishop Edward Malesic, who is in charge of the Dioceses of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, specifically family services, who placed the women in Parmadale unknowing of the abuse.
All four women stated they were abused for at least two years while residing at Parmadale, with deprivation of visitation from friends and family if they did not “follow orders”.
The women resided at Parmadale from 1975-1977, 1961-1963, 2000-2004 and 1998-2002 and ranged in age from 7 to 18.
The facility closed in 2014 after the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services placed Parmadale on probation for allegations that a former shift coordinator had an ongoing sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl at the center.
In December 2013, a Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted 34-year-old Cassondra Goodson of Cleveland on 29 charges, including sexual battery, unlawful contact with a minor and interfering with custody.
19 News reached out to the Catholic Diocese, who said, “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.”
They went on to say that two of the women involved in the lawsuits reached out to report their experiences at Parmadale to the victim assistance coordinator at the Diocese, who reported all allegations to authorities.
The Diocese also reported that Father Leahy died in 2005.
They offered counseling to anyone who reported experiencing abuse at Parmadale, and ask anyone with information or in need of help to reach out at 216-334-2999 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Diocese of Cleveland is committed to creating a safe environment for children and fostering healing for those who have experienced abuse,” they said.
19 News also heard from the women’s attorney, Brian Taubman, who said:
“History has shown us that abuse like what occurred in Parmadale is typically brushed underneath the carpet and hidden from public sight. That victims of sexual abuse by the Catholic Diocese never have their day in court, never get to share their stories, and never earn the justice they deserve. We shouldn’t leave these people to history – it’s time for us to hear from the victims of sexual abuse in Ohio now.
The system that made our clients wards of Parmadale was broken in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, and ‘10s, and still is broken today. We are hopeful that shedding light on the systematic failure of Cuyahoga County and the Catholic Diocese will help ensure that the abuse that boys and girls had to endure in Parmadale will never occur again.
It takes great courage for our clients and others like them to come forward with their stories after years of repressed shame and silence from the emotional, physical abuse, and sexual abuse at Parmadale. In fact, House bill 266 is sitting in the Ohio Legislature which proposes making the statute of limitations much larger to help cover these abuses.
Taubman Law takes pride in helping these men and women tell their stories. Our goal through this legal process is to have the truth uncovered and seek justice for these victims so that they can begin their journey to heal from the decades of trauma.”
19 News also reached out to the Sisters of Charity, but have not yet heard back.