An alleged victim of sexual abuse who filed a claim in the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program last year announced that he received a settlement of $500,000 on Feb. 13.
The recipient of the settlement, Thomas McGarvey, was 16 when the Rev. Robert Brown allegedly began sexually abusing him at St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Franklin Square. The abuse, which allegedly took place in the church’s rectory, spanned from 1981 to 1989, McGarvey said at a news conference last October. Brown has since died.
“It comes as a great feeling of validation to what I suffered,” McGarvey said. “This gives me a chance to find some sort of closure and help me move on with my life.”
Mitchell Garabedian, who was portrayed in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” about the Boston Globe’s publishing of a series of stories detailing the abuse allegations against priests in Boston, represented McGarvey in his case. Garbabedian is also representing dozens of others who claim that clergy members within the Rockville Centre Diocese sexually abused them. He said McCarvey’s settlement is one of “a handful” so far that have ranged from $200,000 to $500,000 per victim.
It was about eight years ago that McGarvey reached out to gain support in dealing with his past abuse. He met with Dr. Robert Hoaston, of Road to Recovery, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that provides counseling for survivors of sexual abuse. Hoaston is a former priest who left the Archdiocese of Newark after speaking out about sexual abuses taking place there. In one of the counseling sessions with McGarvey, Hoaston said he doubted whether McGarvey could find justice after all these years.
“I was upfront with Tom when he told us he wanted to find reparations,” Hoaston said. “New York is one of the worst states to get justice from this type of abuse, but he went for it, and now his abuse has been acknowledged.”
New York state’s statute of limitations prevents survivors of child sex abuse from taking criminal or civil action against their abusers after they reach the age of 23, so victims like McGravey, who is now 52 years old, have a hard time taking legal action against the people who wronged them. But when the Rockville Centre Diocese launched IRCP last October, McGarvey applied. The program allows qualifying survivors to confidentially report abuse and seek settlements with the church.
“I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and it was putting stress on my marriage and health,” McGarvey said. He was suffering from shingles when he announced his settlement.
“He also had to retire early from his job,” Hoaston added.
Phase One of IRCP, which is open to those who have previously reported abuse to the diocese, is currently under way and closes on March 31. Phase Two of the program, for those with new allegations, closes on April 30. To receive monetary compensation, victims must agree that they will not pursue legal action against the church in the future.
“We recognize that no amount of monetary compensation could ever erase or undo the grave harm suffered by survivors of child abuse,” Sean Dolan, a diocese spokesman, said in a statement. “We are deeply inspired by the courage of survivors of child sexual abuse who have already come forward through the IRCP, who have shared their very painful stories and entered into a process that we believe is both fair and prompt.”
After McGarvey went public with his story, Hoaston said several others came forward to seek counseling and reparations for the abuse they suffered from the clergy in the diocese. Both McGarvey and Hoaston likened it to the #MeToo movement, the social media campaign that provides support for victims by corroborating their stories of sexual abuse and outing their abusers. While McGarvey is glad that his story can help others, he still believes he could have done more in the past.
“There’s always this feeling of guilt, wondering if I could have stopped him from abusing others if I had come out against him sooner,” McGarvey said. “But I was a kid back then. But I’m glad more people are coming out with their stories, and maybe they can find justice and move past this, too.”
A report released earlier this month by Lawyers Helping Survivors of Child Sex Abuse — a group made up of attorneys from three law firms in New York, Seattle and Minneapolis — identified 51 clergy members, who worked at more than 100 churches and schools across Long Island and were accused of child sexual abuse within the diocese.
“The true extent of abuse in the Rockville Centre Diocese is unknown, but this report makes clear that it was a pervasive problem,” said attorney Patrick Noaker, of the Minneapolis-based law firm of the same name. “Survivors are not alone, and we must support healing by sharing more information about what happened, rather than letting it stay covered up.”
Information on the alleged abusers in the Rockville Centre Diocese, which the 19-page report titled “Hidden Disgrace II” notes, was compiled from survivor accounts, news articles and BishopAccountability.org, a website that tracks sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
McGarvey, who remains a member of the Catholic Church, said he wanted the Rockville Centre Diocese and other organizations in the church to report sexual abusers among their clergy and recognize the damage caused by them.