Deaf Plaintiffs Speak Loudly: Nuns Raped Us, Tortured Us

By Franci Richardson
Boston Herald
May 12, 2004

By the age of 9, Violet Guertin had already been raped, allegedly by a nun at the Boston School for the Deaf, and was onto another form of torture where a nun would force her head underwater in a toilet bowl until she passed out.

Her brother, James Guertin, was the same age when he claims another nun made him walk through the public corridors of the school after removing his pants and underwear. It was an alternative to the usual punishment of being placed in a cafeteria trash barrel, the Quincy man said.

James Sullivan was about 12 when a nun "under the guise of punishment" slammed his head against a window that broke and later forced his head in and out of a toilet bowl full of his own vomit.

"I'm still not a happy person because all of that happened," an upset Sullivan, 55, of Dorchester said yesterday with the aide of a sign-language interpreter. "I still don't know who I am to this day."

The three former Boston School for the Deaf students are among nine - ages 41 to 67 - who filed a civil complaint at Suffolk Superior Court yesterday, charging 12 nuns, school counselor the Rev. Charles J. Murphy, and former Boston auxiliary bishop Thomas V. Daily with the unthinkable. The now-defunct Randolph school, which was operated by an independent, nonprofit corporation, closed a decade ago.

"They were supposed to receive an education. Instead they were sexually abused, physically and mentally tormented," said attorney Mitchell Garabedian at a press conference at the Wyndham Hotel yesterday. "Some were raped; raped in various ways."

The dates of alleged abuse range from 1944 to 1977 when the students were between 7 and 16 years old.

Murphy's attorney said his client denies ever witnessing any sexual or physical abuse.

"He is shocked by these allegations," said George McMahon, a Quincy attorney representing the Weymouth priest. "He absolutely denies any wrongdoing of any kind, sexual or physical abuse of any kind. As he put it, he's putting it in the hands of God."

Daily, who retired as bishop of the Brooklyn archdiocese, refused comment through a spokesman, who said the bishop had not yet received a copy of the complaint.

Many of the accused nuns, who are now between 75 and 90, are living in assisted or long-term-care housing, and were not available for comment, referring calls to their order, the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Their attorney, William Shavelle, did not return a call to the Herald.

Garabedian stressed the crimes as extraordinarily horrific because the students could not speak up for themselves.

"They couldn't communicate what happened to them to their parents," said Garabedian, a lead attorney in the Boston archdiocese sex-abuse scandal. "They were deaf and they couldn't speak."

And even when the kids tried to tell their parents how bad life allegedly was at the hands of some of the nuns at school, no one listened.

"My parents said, `You're all right. You're fine,' " said another alleged victim, Paul Leveille, 60, of Pepperell. "They saw the nuns were nice and my parents didn't hear me."

The rampant sex-abuse scandal in the Boston archdiocese spurred this group of plaintiffs to organize themselves.

"I was steaming," said Tamara Marcinuk, 55, of Fitchburg. "I wanted to know, `Where are the nuns that abused me both sexually and physically?' I've had troubles and I've never had a peaceful life."


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