ID Woman Sues Jesuit Order, Claims Childhood Abuse

Associated Press, carried in The Olympian

October 13, 2008

LAPWAI, Idaho A woman who says that until recently she repressed memories of being raped by a priest as a child has sued the Oregon-based Catholic Jesuit order that the priest belonged to.

Kim "Mia" Sonneck filed the lawsuit against the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, in 2nd District Court late last week, the Lewiston Tribune reported. In the lawsuit, Sonneck alleges the Rev. A.J. Ferreti started abusing her around 1973, when she was about 7 years old.

While serving as a Catholic priest in Lapwai, Ferreti provided marital and spiritual counseling to her family, Sonneck says, and he would get her away from her parents under the pretext of giving her parents time alone.

Ferreti is believed to have died in 1982, Sonneck's attorney Leander James said.

Calls to the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, were not immediately returned on Tuesday. The province encompasses the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, according to its Web site.

Sonneck, now 41, said she never told anyone about the abuse and that she repressed the memories until last year. She said she decided to speak out as part of a healing process.

"I realized I had to overcome what has been on my back for many years," she said.

The American Psychological Association says the theory that memories can be repressed and later remembered is a controversial one among psychologists.

On its Web site, the association states that most people who were sexually abused as children remember all or part of what happened to them. Additionally, the association states, while many psychologists believe it is possible for someone to forget abuse and remember it later, many also believe that it is possible for someone to recover a "psuedomemory" - in other words, to "remember" something that never actually happened.

"At this point it is impossible, without other corroborative evidence, to distinguish a true memory from a false one," the association states.

In the lawsuit, Sonneck says Ferreti abused her so violently that she bled, and that sometimes the abuse occurred in front of other children.

"At times Ferreti would go into a trancelike, deep-throated, almost possessed state during the act, only to return to a singsong, priestly tone when he was finished," she said in the lawsuit.

Sonneck alleges the Jesuit order knew or should have known that Ferreti was a danger to children and that Indian children in particular were vulnerable to sexual exploitation by priests. Sonneck is a member of the Nez Perce Tribe.

The abuse caused lifelong, ongoing and profound damages to Sonneck, according to the suit. During a news conference in Lewiston, Sonneck asked for any other victims to speak out.

"I know there are others out there, and I would hope they come forward," she said. "I hope they will get help too."

She is asking for damages in an amount exceeding $10,000.

The lawsuit is being filed under an Idaho statute that allows lawsuits concerning child sexual abuse claims to be filed within five years of the time the person discovers the abuse and its relationship to an injury the person suffered.


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