More Join Abuse Suit against Nuns
Alleged Victims Attended School for Deaf Students

By Emily Anthes
Boston Globe [Boston]
August 18, 2004

As a child at the Boston School for the Deaf from 1955 to 1967, Penny Braddock couldn't hear, but she could see.

When she was about 9 years old, she saw a nun follow a young girl into the bathroom and emerge with a metal bowl filled with urine, she said through a sign-language interpreter yesterday. She saw the nun pour it into a brown bottle. And later, the nun made all the girls line up and forced them to drink spoonfuls from the bottle, Braddock said.

"I went ahead, I held my breath, and I swallowed it down," she said. "There was nothing else I could do. It was disgusting. I would never do that to my children."

Braddock, who now lives in Peabody, said that she still doesn't understand the nun's actions and that the girls had done nothing to merit punishment. She was one of several new plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Sisters of St. Joseph who said they are still struggling to comprehend the reasons for the physical and sexual abuse they say they suffered at the now-defunct school.

The Boston School for the Deaf, which was run by the nuns until 1994, was a residential facility in Randolph for students with hearing or speech impairments.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said the school was not under the direct supervision of the archdiocese.

Archdiocesan officials have called the case remarkable, because although they received scores of complaints over the last half-century about sexually abusive priests, there were virtually no similar accusations against nuns.

The Sisters of St. Joseph, meanwhile, said they found no evidence to support the abuse allegations during an extensive review that began after the original lawsuit was filed in the spring.

"We approached this issue with no preconceived notions, but with a strong commitment to responding with compassion and attention to the protection of both those who have filed the complaints and the accused," a statement released by the order said.

"This review is difficult since it spans more than 60 years," the statement said. "We will continue that review, which will now include the most recent allegations."

Braddock was one of nine plaintiffs added yesterday to a lawsuit against the nuns. The new court filing yesterday added 103 counts of assault and battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other claims to a lawsuit originally filed by Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian in May.

The alleged victims attended the school between 1936 and 1991. They allege that they were physically and sexually abused at ages ranging from 4 to 17.

"We want the nuns punished, and we want them to realize what they've done," said Nick Giancioppo, 72, who alleges he was repeatedly beaten in the face and head by school staff.

While some of the alleged abuse, such as students being hit with rulers, could be considered old-style corporal punishment, the lawsuit is the first in Boston to allege widespread sexual abuse by nuns.

Garabedian said yesterday that the line between physical abuse and sexual abuse is blurry in many of the cases, citing examples of children who were allegedly kicked in the groin or nuns who allegedly watched children shower after they had beat them.

"It's all tied together," Garabedian said.

Garabedian said the Boston Archdiocese is ultimately responsible for overseeing the Sisters of St. Joseph. The archdiocese has not been named as a defendant in the suit.

Garabedian said the Norfolk district attorney's office is investigating some of the allegations. The district attorney's office would not comment on whether an investigation was taking place.