Hundreds of child sex abuse claims filed early on Day One of Child Victims Act

By Steve Orr, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Hundreds of child sex abuse claims filed early on Day One of Child Victims Act

Child Victims Act signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Thousands of New Yorkers who were molested or sexually abused as children have been waiting for years — in many cases, for decades — for their day in court.

That day has arrived — and it began with a stunning barrage of lawsuits. By 5 a.m., lawyers had taken advantage of 24-hour electronic filing to submit 200 child sexual abuse lawsuits.

The number had climbed to about 350 legal claims by 8:30 a.m., and risen again to 385 by noon.

Thirty-six lawsuits had been filed in Monroe County, 35 of them against the Catholic Diocese of Rochester and one against the Webster Central School District and a former teacher and coach there.

In the latter case, a man who said he was a student at Klem Road elementary and Spry middle schools in the late 1960s and early 1970s said he was sexually harassed and abused by Ralph Wager, a teacher who coached soccer in Webster.

Wager, who left Webster years ago to coach college soccer in North Carolina, was convicted of molesting a boy in that state in 2015 and sentenced to life in prison.

A one-year window for filing old civil claims for child sexual abuse opened at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. The window was created by the state Legislature’s adoption in January of the Child Victims Act, which makes it easier for accusers to seek criminal and civil sanction of their abusers.

In New York City, 154 suits had been filed by noon. Erie County had the highest single-county total, with 101.

Albany had 29, Nassau 25, St. Lawrence 15 and Onondaga 11. Westchester, Orange and Tompkins each had just one, while Rockland, Broome and Chemung had none.

The vast majority of filings named Catholic priests as the abusers and sought damages from the diocese and parishes in which the offenses allegedly occurred.

But the Boy Scouts of America were named in at least four suits and Rockefeller University, where Dr. Reginald Archibald is accused of abusing hundreds of boys, was named in two.

Two religious faiths other than Catholic were sued, as were at least five public schools.

A man who filed suit in Suffolk County accused his uncle of sexually abusing him, and a case in Manhattan featured a woman suing her older brother.

In Tompkins County, a daughter sued her father.

A woman who sued in Niagara County under a pseudonym accused her father, Paul Henry Regdos, of repeatedly molesting her when she was as young as age 5.

Regdos was arrested in 1991 and spent 20 years in state prison after being convicted of attempted rape and attempted sodomy. It was not clear from the lawsuit if the father’s arrest was related to abuse of the plaintiff in the civil suit.

Jennifer Danielle Araoz filed suit in Manhattan against pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein, who died in jail last weekend, and his one-time girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell.

Araoz said Epstein sexually assaulted her when she was age 15 and 16, enabled by Maxwell and three other woman who are not identified in the court papers. 

A dozen or more law firms that specialize in sexual abuse cases have been signing up clients for months. Based on statements by some of those firms earlier this week, it seems likely that 2,000 to 3,000 lawsuits will be filed in the coming year.

Several hundred suits are possible in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region.

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