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Hundreds of child sex abuse victims to file civil suits

August 14, 2019 12:41 PM

Years of silence are coming to an end as stories of alleged child sex abuse in the former St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Albany are now coming to light.

"It gets about as bad as it could get. Forced oral sex, forced sodomy," said Gordon Smith.

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Smith, who is now 69 years old, says he was just 13 when he was first abused by Father Donald Starks while working as a janitor at the church.

"He was a spanker, and generally with no pants," said Gordon.

WEB EXTRA: Full interview with alleged child sex abuse victim

NewsChannel 13 has learned Starks is on the Albany Diocese's list of credibly accused clergy. Smith says the worst abuse happened after Starks was reassigned and another priest took over.

"If one person hears the story and says, 'Hey, that's me,' and has the courage to finally say something to their doctor or seek a therapist than that's what it's all about," said Gordon.

While the statute of limitations on Gordon's case ran out a long time ago, he suddenly has the opportunity to seek justice. The Child Victims Act "look-back" window allows alleged victims to file civil lawsuits against their abusers and related agencies beginning Wednesday.

Attorney Vincent Nappo says his firm alone is already representing about 600 people so far, many with claims against the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, public and private schools and the foster care system here in New York.

"I do think that empowering others to come forward, giving them that control they didn't have when they were a kid is a huge key in their healing," said Nappo.

For Gordon, the agony of what he went through stayed locked in his head for nearly four decades.

"I had buried the memories and the pain so deep," said Gordon.

However, in 2005 he found his voice and told his wife and son. It wasn't until this week that he began sharing his story with the world in hopes it will encourage others to find the strength to do the same.

"I feel a thousand percent better and that's what gives me the strength to sit here today," said Gordon.

WEB EXTRA: Bishop Edward Scharfenberger statement on Child Victims Act

The National Center for Victims of Crime estimates one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.

Over the course of their short lifetime, 28-percent of teenagers 14 to 17 report being sexually victimized.

Children between ages of seven and 13 are most vulnerable.

Credits

Jacquie Slater

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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