Woman Accuses Former Nun of Sexual Abuse Here in 1970s

By Tim Bryant
Five Star
June 6, 2003

A woman who attended Immacolata School in Richmond Heights in the 1970s is accusing a former nun and teacher of sexually abusing her while attempting to provide the student emotional and spiritual counseling.

The abuse occurred at the school and elsewhere, the suit alleges. A school official confirmed the former nun, Judith R. Fisher, taught at the school in the 1970s.

The plaintiff in the civil suit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court is identified only as Jane Doe and a resident of Missouri. She is suing Fisher, her former religious order -- the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet -- and the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

In a statement read to reporters Thursday by a supporter, Jane Doe said news coverage over the past year of clergy abuse "forced me to recognize my own experience of spiritual and sexual abuse during my childhood."

Claims of sexual abuse by nuns are rare. The suit filed Thursday may bethe first of its type in Missouri, said the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - or SNAP.

A suit filed last month in New Haven, Conn., alleges that a nun sexually assaulted a former student at a girls Catholic high school in Hamden, Conn., in the early 1990s. That nun taught at Cor Jesu High School in Affton from 1988 to 1990. Catholic officials say they know of no complaints against that nun here.

In November, the Boston Globe reported that a nun who had served in five parishes in the Boston area was put on leave after she was accused of sexual misconduct with a fifth-grade girl in an Indiana classroom decades earlier.

Also last year, a 47-year-old woman told The Cincinnati Enquirer that she was abused 40 years earlier by nuns at a Catholic grade school in Cincinnati.

Fisher was Jane Doe's eighth-grade teacher at Immacolata School in the 1970s, Doe's statement said. Abuse by Fisher allegedly occurred from about 1972 to 1977 at the school, elsewhere in the St. Louis area and on school trips.

A spokesman for the archdiocese had no immediate comment, noting that lawyers had yet to review the suit. He said Fisher left her religious order in the late 1970s.

Fisher could not be reached on Thursday.

Jane Doe's statement said her suit was her "first step in taking control of my future and reclaiming myself."

"I have struggled with the decision to come forward with my story, but if I can prevent even one child from facing this stain of sexual abuse and the dismay of manipulation by someone they have been taught to trust, then my discomfort will be justified," the statement said.

Her civil suit seeks unspecified damages. It claims that Fisher's former religious order and the archdiocese failed to supervise her.


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