Lawyers for victims of childhood abuse predict gut-wrenching stories in court

August 13, 2019 09:59 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Lawyers for victims of childhood abuse predict to hear gut-wrenching stories in court when they begin filing lawsuits on Wednesday.

"What happened happened," recalled abuse survivor Gregory Wilson of Rochester, "I don't want nobody else going through that. I don't want nobody else's life being screwed up."  

Wilson remembered being raped and beaten when he was living in the Children's Convalescent Center in Rochester, which is now the Crestwood Children's Hospital, and said he lives with the trauma still. 

"Sometimes just the day-to-day ordinary things, man, are so hard. Because I remember this, that happens to me, like it was yesterday. Then the dreams…Let me be truthful. I've tried committing suicide. But it didn't work. Why? I have no damn idea. My kids need me."

Attorneys with the firm Weitz & Luxemburg plan to file a lawsuit on Wilson's behalf Wednesday against the Hillside Family of Agencies, Crestwood's non-profit parent organization.

Under New York's Child Victims Act, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February, a "look back" window is scheduled to open on Aug. 14, effectively suspending the statute of limitations for abuse lawsuits for one year, regardless of how long ago the abuse took place. 

"The majority of our clients are between the ages of 40 and 60," explained Weitz & Luxemburg attorney Samantha Breakstone, "and are, honestly, struggling with things that happened to them as young as five years old."

In Buffalo, on Tuesday, Breakstone unveiled plans to sue for almost 200 victims in the region, including 67 in the Finger Lakes area around Rochester.

Other firms like James Vernon and Weeks of Rochester, Jeffrey Anderson and Associates out of Minnesota and Mitchell Garabedian in Boston promised dozens more lawsuits to be filed in the region.

While much of the attention on past sexual abuse has focused on Catholic priests, Breakstone anticipates a much wider net will be cast, encompassing entities like school systems, including city school systems, athletic facilities and leagues, dancing programs and social services agencies including foster care systems.  

"They had a calculus that we see across all these cases, trust, responsibility for minors, access to minors and an institution that either is turning a blind eye or willing to hide it, or overlook indiscretions," she said. "I think our notion of what the usual suspects are has to broaden. I think we are used to seeing the Catholic Church as the usual suspects because they were just the most publicized suspects."

Wilson described his time in the Children's Convalescent Center after he was sent there from a troubled home in the 70s. After being sexually assaulted and repeatedly beaten, he said, he tried to run away from the facility wearing only his underwear in the dead of winter only to be returned and beaten again.

"I don't want another kid going through that," he declared. "It's made me… It's made me hate."

A statement from Hillside Family of Agencies declined to discuss any abuse allegations citing federal and state privacy laws and an organization policy against commenting on pending lawsuits.

It went on to say "Hillside supports the Child Victims Act and its intention of giving a voice to those who have lived for years with the effects of trauma, neglect and abuse… Our Family of Agencies is committed to the safety and wellbeing of every child, and any suspected or actual offense against a youth is not tolerated."


Charles Molineaux

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