A former student at an area private school has accused a former nun who later took positions of power at schools in Westchester of sexually abusing her in the 1960s.
Sister Ann Peterson has been accused of groping and molesting Pamela Hayes in Orange County at the Saint Joseph School in Middletown during the 1960s, according to court documents. At the time of the alleged abuse, Hayes was 10 years old.
The new lawsuit, filed this week, accuses Peterson of asking Hayes to stay late after school, then she allegedly kissed, groping and molested her, according to the court documents that were filed this week under the New York Child Victim’s Act. The alleged abuse lasted between 1963 and 1967.
The lawsuit was filed against the Archdiocese of New York, Peterson, the Parish of Saint Joseph, St. Joseph School and the Ursuline Sisters of the Eastern Province, based in New Rochelle.
Court documents say that Peterson abused Hayes by "hugging, kissing, massaging, caressing and touching her breasts and genitals.” It states that Hayes continues to feel “traumatized, ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated."
On Wednesday, Aug. 14, a provision of New York’s Child Victims Act took effect, making the start of the one-year period when alleged victims can file claims against alleged abusers and institutions that protected them, no matter how long ago the abuse may have occurred.
Victims of sexual abuse in New York previously were required to file any civil lawsuits before they turned 23. Under the new law, anyone under the age of 55 can file a lawsuit, and during the one-year window, older victims can also make claims.
After leaving the Saint Joseph School, Peterson became a board member at the College of New Rochelle before its closure earlier this year, and was a trustee with the Ursuline Sisters in Westchester. She also spent time at the Academy of St. Ursula in the Bronx, though the allegations only pertain to her time in Orange County.
More than a dozen lawsuits have reportedly been filed involving schools in Westchester, Rockland and Orange counties.
Cases have also been filed against each of New York’s eight Roman Catholic Church dioceses, the Boy Scouts of America, some schools and hospitals.
In response to the influx of cases, New York State has designated 45 judges statewide that will hear cases, some of which date back decades.
“The revived Child Victims Act cases are critically important cases, raising numerous challenging legal issues that must be adjudicated as consistently and expeditiously as possible across the state,” New York Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said. “We are fully committed to providing appropriate and sufficient resources to achieve that goal.”
The one-year window where the statute of limitations will be lifted on these cases in New York ends on Aug. 14, 2020.
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