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Child Victims Act gives new hope to abuse survivors

Mike Desmond
Survivors and their attorneys applaud passage of the Child Victims Act.

As the Child Victims Act was being approved Monday, four victims were in an Amherst law firm conference room with their attorneys, talking about their cases and what the new law does for them.

HoganWillig has long been involved in clergy abuse cases and some of the lawyers have lobbied heavily in Albany for what is called the CVA. Now approved by the New York State Legislature, the act allows abuse victims to re-open their cases in the court system and get a chance to tell their stories.

The law also extends re-openings far beyond the clergy, to private and public schools. Some local private schools have had highly-publicized sex abuse incidents involving teachers.

Victim Vanessa DeRosa said passage is not just about the cases of four victims.

"It's a big deal because you can't expect a child to help with an attorney. It's okay to talk about it now. They can pursue it," DeRosa said. "A lot of times, they need more time, mentally, to come forward. So it's not just a big deal for everybody in this room. It's a big deal for a lot of other people, too."

Survivor Mike Eames said the Buffalo Catholic Diocese knew what a priest did to him.

"I know they knew," Eames said. "For years, they knew them."

Survivor Kevin Haslam said there was a major coverup.

"It could have been stopped a long time ago," Haslam said. "From what I found out, the person that did it to me was moved on and so other people knew about it. So I think they should be held responsible, too."

Lawyer William Lorenz said it took years of effort to overcome opposition to re-opening these cases, especially from Catholic dioceses around the state.

Lawyer Steven Cohen said the firm has been meeting with other sex abuse victims from outside the Catholic Church. He said there was recently a large group from Park School that has had a sex abuse scandal meeting at the law firm.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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