Advocates for sexual abuse survivors call on Diocese of Rochester to stop prolonging hearings

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Twenty alleged sexual abuse survivors of the Diocese of Rochester are calling on the state court to hear their cases. 

This comes after the victim’s rights group, Road to Recovery, says the Diocese is using “delaying tactics.” Advocates say the organization is using it’s bankruptcy to delay victim’s hearings and settlements. 

The Diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy back in 2019 after several abuse lawsuits were filed against the organization. Many of these lawsuits were filed after the enactment of the Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases. 

Hundreds of sexual abuse claims have been filed against the Diocese of Rochester during their bankruptcy process, but advocates say very little has done to help victims. 

“These survivors do not deserve this kind of treatment. The Rochester Diocese has plenty of assets, and they should morally and ethically say, ‘we are going to use whatever assets we have to help make these people whole,’” said Robert Hoatson, Road to Recovery Co-Founder.

Hoatson said the prolong process has made it hard for victims to heal. 

“Victims are being revictimized, retraumatized. It happens constantly” Hoatson said. “Now that the dioceses is not acting fairly and justly, those people are going through exactly what they went through when they were little children.”

Now, twenty alleged victims are asking the state court to hear their cases. They hope this will allow more details of abuse to come out. Advocates say these 20 cases were chosen for a reason. 

“They are good cases, they cover the gambit of there’s a variety of people, a variety of priests, a variety of situations, a variety of incidences can we say, but all easily backed up and provable,” Advocate Carol DuPré said. “They are going to bring out things, they are going to be forced to bring out things that right now, are hidden, either in the secret files or in someone’s knowledge.”

DuPré says she was abused by her priest as a teen. While she isn’t one of the 20 cases going to court, she supports the decision. 

“We are not going to change our minds, we are not going to back down, we are not going to give in,” DuPré said. “These are our stories. These are our experiences. We know what happened to us, we know how it messed up our lives and the church needs to be accountable.”

Hoatson said it’s time for victims to finally heal. 

“These are people who, some are living on the streets, some are unable to hold down relationships, hold down jobs, hold down families intact, there are a whole range of things these people are going through and they go through them every single day and it’s about time it ended.”

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian represents 96 clergy sexual abuse victims who have claims against priests, religious brothers and the Diocese of Rochester.

He says the victims are currently 41-80-years-old and were approximately 5 to 21-years-old when they were allegedly abused. Six are females and the rest are males.

 News 8 reached out to The Diocese of Rochester for comment. The organization says it has proposed a $35 million insurance settlement and a bankruptcy judge is expected to rule on that on July 9.

In a statement the group said: “We believe this settlement, if approved, is a significant step forward in our goal of achieving a fair and equitable Reorganization Plan – the vast majority of which will be funded by our insurers – that will compensate the survivors of sexual abuse who have filed claims in our Chapter 11 case.”

The statement continued: “The Diocese has acted in good faith over the course of multiple mediation sessions and is committed to continuing those good faith negotiations with its insurers and the Creditors Committee. The Diocese believes  that continued dialogue and negotiation among the Diocese, its insurers and the Creditors Committee that is guided by reasonable and realistic expectations on the part of all concerned and a dedication to swift and just resolution for survivors is the best and proper course to benefit survivors.”

Nearly 500 sexual abuse allegations have been filed against the Diocese of Rochester during the bankruptcy process.

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