11 Bergen Catholic HS alumni await settlement funds for alleged sexual abuse

By Emily Girsch
Fios 1 News
July 10, 2017

Walter Slapkowski, 60, was just a 13-year-old freshman at Bergen Catholic High School when a teacher allegedly sexually abused him.

He says he was sent to after-school detention for talking in class when a science teacher he identifies as Brother Timothy Joseph O'Sullivan took him into a back room.

"He asked me to take my clothes off then he brought me by the hand and said 'I have to discipline you because you were talking in my class.’ He spanked me 20 times and made me count..and his fingers were traveling," Slapkowski said.

He came forward last year, alongside 10 other alleged abuse victims at the school. The victims allege that five faculty members abused them during the 1950s and 1970s.

Dr. Robert Hoatson who works at a recovery center for child sexual abuse victims says the school has never apologized to the alleged victims and is dragging its feet in settling a monetary claim even though similar claims have been settled in past years at the school with as many as over a hundred victims over the past two decades.

"When institutions receive reports of sexual abuse as children, very often they either bury it or cover it up or they stall and drag their feet," Dr. Hoatson said.

The attorney for the 11 victims, Mitchell Garabedian, says the current law of the statute of limitations in New Jersey needs to be amended so that victims have the ability to report abuse later in life.

Right now, child victims have until the age of 25 to report abuse and press charges on their alleged abusers. But Garabedian says many of these victims block the abuse for decades and don't come forward until they are in their 50s or 60s, leaving their alleged abusers out in the world to continue abusing others.

Slapkowski says being abused as a child is confusing and scary. He says that he didn't learn until recently that there were other victims because of how the alleged abuse impacted him.

"We never told each other because you don't talk like that to your friends but I heard he did it to a couple of my friends but we didn't say anything because we didn't want to, we were ashamed, but we shouldn't be ashamed, it should be him,” he said.


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