Shining a Fresh Spotlight on New York’s Church Child Abuse

As we head into 2016 and the official start of the awards season, “Spotlight,” which tells the true tale of a Pulitzer Prize–winning team of Boston Globe reporters that unravels the Catholic Church’s decades-long attempt to cover up the sexual misdeeds of its clergy, emerges as a clear favorite.

The film reveals the shame, embarrassment and fear of sex abuse victims as they weigh whether to risk it all by outing one of the world’s most powerful institutions.

Frustratingly, few moviegoers will realize that the story is actually much bigger than what the film depicts in two key ways. The most mind-blowing revelations, in fact, may still be enshrouded in darkness.

Shareholder Paul Hanly
Shareholder Paul Hanly

Sexual abuse of children by those associated with the Church is by no means confined to the abbeys of Boston. In 2014, the Vatican released a report revealing that 848 priests, globally, had been defrocked for raping or molesting children over the past decade, and 2,572 other offending priests had been given lesser sanctions.

According to news reports, between 2004 and 2013, the U.S. Catholic Church has spent almost $3 billion in costs related to widespread abuse allegations, including settlements and attorneys’ fees, therapy for victims and support for offenders.

Click here to learn more about the firm’s involvement in sexual abuse cases.

Perlitz was the head of a charity called the Haiti Fund that provided aid to the impoverished in Cap-Haitien, the nation’s second largest city. Per the allegations, from the late 1990s until 2010, Perlitz showed pornography to boys between the ages of 9 and 21 and raped them at various locations, including his home, the boys’ school dormitory and a hotel.

These repeated acts of rape and abuse of impoverished Haitian children were all conducted under the alleged neglectful supervision of Fairfield University, the Society of Jesus and others. These institutions ultimately agreed to a $12 million settlement, with each victim receiving $500,000.

Today, Perlitz is serving a 19-year prison sentence for his crimes.

Dishearteningly, and to our surprise, these incidents of abuse turned out to be just the initial strand of a much larger web of sex abuse. Since the 2013 settlement, 140 additional alleged victims of Perlitz have come forward. Together with attorney Garabedian, we are actively pursuing discovery depositions in those new cases, which we expect to go to trial at the end of 2016.

Unbelievably, though, this is still not the full story. Despite awareness of the frequency with which sex crimes against children occur and the long-term damage caused by such abuse, victims continue to face legal roadblocks when attempting to prosecute their cases. In our opinion, our criminal and civil justice system is failing our society by allowing legal technicalities to rob thousands of a chance for justice.

Click here to read the full article on Newsweek and learn what New York residents can do to help.