Brendan Keany

The Wait is Over! Sex Abuse Victims React to Passage of CVA

"I'm happy the church is going to be held accountable for their actions."

January 29, 2019 - 2:04 am

BUFFALO (WBEN - Brendan Keany) - It took too long, but it happened: the Child Victims Act is now a reality in New York.

Anticipating the passage of the bill, four local victims of clergy sex abuse held a press conference at HoganWillig with their lawyers and discussed what the new legislation means for them.

"I'm happy that the church is going to be held accountable for their actions," said Tino Flores, whose alleged abuse began in 1973 by Father Linus Hennessy. 

Although there is a new avenue for victims to go after their abusers, the mood in the room was not one of triumph or victory, but an attitude that recognized the passage of the Child Victims Act is just one more step their long journey to recovery.

"I think every child who was and is going to be a victim will benefit from this law," said victim Vanessa DeRosa. "It's a big deal because you can't expect a child to all of the sudden turn 18, and now they are okay to talk about it, now then can pursue it. A lot of times, they need more time, mentally, to come forward. It's not just big deal for everybody in this room, it's a big deal for a lot of other people too."

Kevin Haslam was abused throughout the 1980's by Rev. William White, and he says this bill is a step forward even though it certainly doesn't make what happened just disappear.

"I don't think I'll ever feel vindicated," he said. "I feel more comfortable now today because I've learned how to deal with it, but as far as healing that wound, it's always going to be there. I don't think I'll ever be 100-percent healed, only because it's something that I have to live with on a daily basis. Sometimes you have tough days, you have good days, but I've learned how to deal with it today."

Attorney Will Lorenz has been directly involved in the fight to pass the Child Victim's Act for years, and he credits the legislative victory to victim patience.

"I did believe that it would come eventually, as did my clients, and that's why we never gave up hope," said Lorenz. "Also, continuing to keep this relevant in the media, certainly in 2018 with the increased scrutiny on the Diocese of Buffalo, I believe that did play a part."

Now, victims will decide how best to proceed from a legal standpoint.

"They're considering their options - now they have an option to consider, they have an avenue to pursue if they want to," said Attorney Steve Cohen. "Some of these people have been given offers by the IRCP, which they can accept or reject, but these offers came about in the context of the diocese knowing full well that there was nothing that could happen to them - the statute of limitations was gone; they were protected. Now, these people, and many more like them, can go after...all religious institutions, all academic institutions, schools, old aunts and uncles, anybody that has victimized somebody can now be subjected to a lawsuit."

Cohen also noted that this legislation will help victims of sex abuse feel that their claims are validated, which can be a major aspect of the healing process.

"For decades, there were those who denied the veracity of people who complained about it," he said. "This vindicates them."

Hear the full press conference below:

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