Ann Allen loved going to church and the after-school social group led by a dynamic priest back in the 1960s.
The giggling fun with friends always ended with a game of hide and seek. Each week, the Rev. Lawrence Sabatino chose one girl to hide with him. Allen said when it was her turn, she was sxually assaulted, at age 7, in the recesses of St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
“I don’t remember how I got out of that cellar and I don’t think I ever will. But I remember it like it’s yesterday. I remember the smells. The sounds. I remember what he said, and what he did,” she said.
Allen, 64, is one of more than two dozen people who have sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, over the past year, seeking delayed justice since lawmakers allowed lawsuits for abuse that happened long ago and can’t be pursued in criminal courts either because of time limits or evidence diminishing over time.
More survivors are pursuing cases as states increasingly consider repealing time limits for child sex crime lawsuits. Vermont was the first state to remove the limits in 2019, followed by Maine in 2021 and Maryland this year.
Michigan, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are poised to take action before their legislative sessions end.
“The momentum is irreversible,” said Marci Hamilton, CEO of CHILD USA, a think tank aiming to prevent child abuse and neglect.
In April, Maryland lifted time limits on child sexual abuse lawsuits against institutions less than a week after the attorney general detailed decades of abuse of more than 600 children by over 150 priests associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Other states, meanwhile, have briefly removed the statute of limitations on lawsuits for childhood abuse. More than 10,000 lawsuits were filed when New York set aside time limits for two years.
Across the country, those lawsuits have targeted churches, summer camps, scout groups and other institutions accused of enabling pedophiles or turning a blind eye to wrongdoing.
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More states eliminating the limits would help achieve justice and prevention, according to advocates who say survivors tend to keep the trauma to themselves, backed by new research suggesting survivors typically come forward in their 50s.
“More and more people come forward as they realize that they’re not alone,” said Michael Bigos, one of Allen’s attorneys, whose law firm has brought 25 lawsuits since last June and is evaluating more than 100 additional potential cases, including about 65 targeting the Portland diocese.
In his law offices, Allen looked at a photo of herself at her first communion at St. Peter’s, which serves what was once Portland’s Little Italy neighborhood and hosts a popular street party each summer.
The photo was taken after the assault. Her joy and exuberance are gone. “When I look at it, I see a pretty damaged child,” she said.
Sabatino quickly became part of the fabric of St. Peter’s when he arrived in 1958 after leaving another church where parents reported to police that he had sexually abused their 6-year-old daughter. The priest was warned by the Diocese of Portland not to engage with children or play games, but was soon doing both.
Parishioners, including Ann Allen’s family, invited him into their homes. He visited her family’s beach house.
Allen thought she was lucky when she was selected to hide with him. But the abuse became a dark secret she carried for decades.
She never considered telling her parents. Allen said she didn’t think anyone would believe her.
“School principal in California, Allen was protective of children, especially those who reported abuse. She would try to help them and say right things — things she wished had been done for her. Then, she went home to “curl up in a ball,” she said.
But her secret came bubbling back when she returned to Maine and had to confront her past, she said.
Robert Dupuis tells a similar story.
He was 12 years old in 1961 when he was abused by the Rev. John Curran in Old Town, a riverside city in Maine. Decades later, he sought help from Alcoholic’s Anonymous when his marriage was in jeopardy. He acknowledged the abuse in group therapy, at around age 55, and the revelation changed his life.
“It healed me and it freed me from holding back,” the 74-year-old said.
His marriage and friendships have improved, he said. Now, he encourages others who have been abused to come forward.
Most of Maine’s newly filed civil lawsuits target the Diocese of Portland, accusing leaders of ignoring accusations against priests like Sabatino and Curran, or simply moving them to new parishes, allowing the abuse to continue.
Diocese officials concluded that allegations against Sabatino and Curran were credible. Both have long since died.
Maine removed its time limits in 2000 to sue over childhood sexual abuse, but not retroactively, leaving survivors without recourse for older cases. Changes in 2021 allowed previously expired civil claims. The Legislature also is considering easing the statute of limitations on criminal charges for sexual assaults of children.
The Portland diocese contends survivors had ample time to sue and it’s unconstitutional to open the door to new litigation, which could lead to requests for damages of “tens of millions of dollars.”
A judge rejected the arguments. The diocese has appealed to the state supreme court. An attorney and a spokesperson for the diocese both declined comment.
For Patricia Butkowski, it was 1958 when her family alerted police that she said Sabatino assaulted her at a parish in Lewiston. After the diocese transferred him to Portland, Allen and others became victims.
“I’m now at 70 feeling emotions and allowing myself to feel emotions that I never knew I had. Anger is at the top of it. I’m like a volcano spewing and there’s just so many emotions, and anger at the church,” she said.
Butkowski, who now lives in Oklahoma City, wants the church to apologize and acknowledge the wrongs done to her and others so she can “hopefully regain some sort of faith before I die,” she said.
“What was done to me by the priest damaged my soul,” she said. “I don’t have a soul anymore. It’s broken.”
Tinubu Jets Out To US For 78th UNGA
President Bola Tinubu has left Nigeria for the United States to attend the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
This was announced by the presidential media aide, Ajuri Ngelale, in a statement on Sunday afternoon.
The event will be Tinubu’s first UNGA meeting since he assumed office as president in May.
He is expected to hold bilateral meetings with various world leaders, including the President of the United States Joe Biden, and Von der Leyen, president of the European Union Commission, on the sidelines of the summit.
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Ngelale also disclosed that the president would meet with Brad Smith, global president of Microsoft, and Nick Clegg, head of global affairs for Meta Technologies.
He said Tinubu’s meeting with the duo would focus on strategies on how to boost Nigeria’s digital transformation and leverage artificial intelligence.
He is also expected to deliver his inaugural national statement on the floor of the UN headquarters on September 19.
The Nigerian president will also address American business leaders at the US Chamber of Commerce and conduct the NASDAQ closing ceremony.
Tinubu will be the first African president to do so.
The 78th UNGA session will be held from September 18 to 26 in New York.
The theme for this year’s UNGA is, “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 agenda and its sustainable development goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”.
Forgive My Husband, Obansajo’s Wife Begs Obas, Yoruba In Emotional Statement
…says ‘only person that is infallible is God’
Wife of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Taiwo, has waded into the controversy that has trailed the statement of the former Army general at Iseyin, Oyo state during Friday’s commissioning of projects executed by the state Governor, Seyi Makinde.
Obasanjo who was special guest of honour had chastised some Yoruba traditional rulers at the event for not standing up to accord him respect as a former president.
He consequently ordered them to stand up and recognize his presence.
“Please, please, all of you, the traditional rulers, I greet you. Thank you for your presence. But, let me say something. Anywhere there is a Governor or President, no traditional ruler, has to stand up and greet the governor or the President. Stand up, sit down.
“Please in the Yoruba land, we respect two things: age and position. The governor’s position is superior to that of any king in as much as he is a governor. When I was a president, I prostrated for kings openly. But indoors, the king would bow down for me. Let us respect our culture,” he had admonished.
The development has however drawn the ire of stakeholders including the Yoruba Council Worldwide, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdurosheed Akanbi and others who have asked him to apologize within three days or face the consequences.
However, in a statement on Sunday, titled “Oyo Kings: A plea for forgiveness”, Mrs Obasanjo who has two children – Olujonwo and Olubunmi – for the former president begged “for permanent and eternal forgiveness and pardon from all Yoruba sons and daughters worldwide, fathers and mothers, youths, teenagers and children, Christians, Muslims, traditional worshippers, all leaders in Yoruba land and the Council of Kings in Yoruba land”.
Noting that she was appealing with humility as a mother, she begged the aforementioned to not “avenge on any of us the misdeeds of Daddy Obasanjo”.
Part of the statements reads; “This is my own personal stand on the manner Chief Olusegun Obasanjo addressed the Kings at Iseyin at the road commissioning by Governor Makinde of Oyo State on Friday 15th September, 2023.
“As a legitimate member of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s family, l will like to state publicly worldwide and privately that the manner in which Daddy Obasanjo addressed the monarchs is not acceptable to God, to the Yoruba race and to the throne of Kingship and it must not be repeated again by any leader in Yoruba land.
“Daddy Obasanjo should not have treated the kings with open contempt and humiliation in order to correct them and revealing their secret that they bow for him privately. It is not good at all. It is too humiliating.
“Protocols could have corrected them privately and respectfully, humbly with love and friendliness.The only person that is infallible is God. God Himself is known as the King of kings and mortals too speak up to God when there is a misunderstanding of His intent. An example was when God in annoyance wanted to destroy the Israelites in the wilderness, Moses had to speak up and beg God not to destroy them. Another example was when Cain after killing his brother Abel, God pronounced terrible judgement on Cain but Cain pleaded with God that the punishment was too much and unbearable for him, that anyone who sees him will kill him. God listened to Cain’s appeal despite his horrible act of murdering his brother… etc There are many examples in the Bible of men speaking up to God, but they spoke not in arrogance or self justification but in humility and remorse. God Himself sent his priest to King David privately to correct him with respect on his error when he killed Bathsheba’s husband. God didn’t humiliate King David because of his error and because He is Almighty God, God still accorded respect and honour to a mortal king he created and crowned when he erred.
“Monarchy is an institution God Himself established before any political government came up to manage the affairs of men.
“I want to publicly state here that on behalf of the family, the children, the wives, the grandchildren and all members of the family of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, l am offering a big and genuine apology both spiritual and physical to all the kings of Oyo State, all the kings of Yoruba land and the entire Yoruba race both in Nigeria and Diaspora.
“Please, l beg for permanent and eternal forgiveness and pardon from all Yoruba sons and daughters worldwide, fathers and mothers, youths, teenagers and children, Christians, Muslims, traditional worshippers, all leaders in Yoruba land and the Council of Kings in Yoruba land. Please l humbly appeal with all humility don’t avenge on any of us the misdeeds of Daddy Obasanjo.
“I am a full Yoruba woman married to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for over 40 years and l have two children for him both male and female. I am a grand mother. I do not support the humiliating treatment of the kings of Oyo State by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Let history bear my record that l came out to apologize to the Oyo kings and Yoruba land on behalf of the family of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo”.
UK Hikes Student’s Visa To N476,667, Raises Fee For Visitors
Visit visa to the United Kingdom for less than six months will now cost £115 (about N111,878.28 ) as opposed to £100 (97,197.90) effective October 4, the UK Home Office has announced.
This translates to about 15 per cent increment, according to The PUNCH can confirm.
Student visa fee has also been increased by £127 (N123,537.58) to £490 (N476,677.59); representing a 34.9 per cent increment.
The increase, the government said, would enable it to pay for ‘vital services and allow more funding to be prioritised for public sector pay rises’, adding that the review would take effect on October 4.
The UK government made this known in a statement, ‘New visa fees set to come into effect next month’ published on its website, gov.uk, on Friday, following legislation being laid in parliament on Friday.
“The changes mean that the cost for a visit visa for less than six months is rising by £15 (N14,592.70) to £115 (N111,878.28 ), while the fee for applying for a student visa from outside the UK will rise by £127 (N123,537.58) to £490 (N476,677.59), to equal the amount charged for in-country applications,” the statement partly read.
In July, the government announced a 15 per cent increase in the cost of most work and visit visas, and an increase of at least 20 per cent in the cost of priority visas, study visas and certificates of sponsorship.
The statement added, “Income from fees charged plays a vital role in the Home Office’s ability to run a sustainable immigration and nationality system. Careful consideration is given when setting fees to help reduce the funding contribution from British taxpayers, whilst continuing to provide a service that remains attractive to those wishing to work in the UK and support broader prosperity for all.”
The changes, according to checks by The PUNCH, include fees for up to six months, two-, five- and 10-year visit visas.
The majority of fees for entry clearance and certain applications for leave to remain in the UK, including those for work and study were also increased.
Also increased were the fees for indefinite leave to enter and indefinite leave to remain; convention travel document and stateless person’s travel document; health and care visa; fees in relation to certificates of sponsorship and confirmation of acceptance for studies; the in and out of country fee for the super-priority service and the out of country fee for the priority service.
It noted that the settlement priority service would reduce so it would be aligned with the cost of using the priority service. Applications to register and naturalise as a British citizen and the fee for the service were also increased.
However, the statement noted that subject to parliamentary approval, the immigration and nationality fees would increase from October 4.
“Today’s changes do not include the planned increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is scheduled to be introduced later in the Autumn,” it added.
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