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Cal. Clergy Abuse Survivors file Lawsuits as Deadline looms

Several men who allege they were abused by Catholic priests at Hanna Boys Center of Sonoma have filed clergy sex abuse lawsuits. The timely filings have narrowly beaten the looming deadline to file such claims. More than a dozen new lawsuits were filed this month.

The men all say they were abused as children by the priests named in the suits. Reporters from ABC7 News have interviewed survivors, former Center staff, and officials now in charge of a residential treatment center.

The state law that expires on Dec. 31, 2022 gives survivors of clergy sex abuse a chance to file a case regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse occurred. Consequently, California courts have seen several new claims recently filed.

Related: Abuse by Clergy Lawsuit

Despite Hanna Boys Center’s apparent sex abuse problems, the school has helped some boys over the years who struggled with school or family life. School spokesman Paul Keschke reported in 1998 that the school’s boys, who are 9 to 17 years old, “are treated firmly, but with respect.” But even back then there were sex abuse problems which are only just emerging today in the courts.

Father John Crews and the school were subject to an ABC7 News investigation of the residential treatment center in 1998. Father Crews, the school’s director in 1998, reportedly told the news crew, “I tell the guys ‘You’re not a man yet, but you’re gonna’ be.'”

What the Catholic priest didn’t know then was that those young “guys” would one day grow up and hold him and other school staff accountable for unspeakable abuses that the former students say they suffered at the hands of Crews and the school staff that not only failed to protect them, but also participated in their abuse.

An ABC7 I-team member reported that he reached out to the now retired Father Crews, who lives along a South Carolina golf course. He said he never heard back from the accused former priest.

Sleepless Nights for Sex Abuse Survivor

If Crews and the school were innocent of the crimes for which they stood accused, the large payment Hanna Boys Center recently made seems more than a little odd. Santa Rosa’a Catholic Diocese just paid a hefty (though unreported) settlement sum to a man who said Father Crews and Hanna Boys Center staff sexually assaulted him over a three-year period. David Love said they began abusing him when he was 11. He struggles daily with nightmarish memories: “I was in town and someone that looked like Father Crews was standing in line,” said Mr. Love. “I wet myself. I couldn’t move, and I left.”

Mr. Love says that to this day he can’t sleep because his attackers often came at night.

“You don’t know what the nightmares are like waking up, not knowing where you’re at,” said Mr. Love. “Thinking you’re back there. I go through this every night. Every night.”

Mr. Love also told ABC7 News reporters that the abuse was common knowledge among staff during his time at Hanna Boys Center.

The school’s clinical director at the time, Dr. Tim Norman, told the I-Team he had to fire staff for what he called “grooming behavior.”

Pedophile groomers at Hanna Boys Center

Dr. Norman said a staff members would offer to massage a boy, and when word got back to him, the school would fire that staff member. He also said he did not hear molestation complaints involving Father Crews.

However, Dan McNevin from SNAP (the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) told the I-Team that Father Crews has now a list of dozens of accusers.

“They keep coming out,” said Mr. McNevin. He said he has been tracking the new Hanna Boys Center lawsuits.

He calls the Center “a hotbed of abuse” and adds “nothing has really changed.”

Former Hanna Staff accused of Sex Abuse

At least nine former staff from Hanna Boys Center stand accused of child sexual abuse, according to Mr. McNevin. The school’s clinical director, Kevin Thorpe, was arrested for child molestation in 2017. He is serving 21 years in prison for his crimes.

Mr. McNevin further notes: “[Y]ou got a really, really high risk population (attending Hanna) with no power. And because they have no power, a pedophile who knows that will go there and break those rules and get what he wants.”

A California state law gives survivors of clergy sexual abuse until the end of December 2022 to file lawsuits, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

In exchange for keeping his settlement amount confidential, Mr. Love was able to settle his case more quickly and was not required to testify in court.

Message to Parents

Mr. Love said one of the most heartbreaking aspects of his abuse was that his own parents did not believe him, which tragically condemned him to further abuse.

He now urges parents to believe their child who reports abuse. He recommends calling in a doctor. He said his parents didn’t do that: “They kept sending me back to this place where I was abused.”

Dec. 31, 2022 Deadline to File Calif. Clergy Abuse Case

Survivors of clergy sex abuse in California is urged to contact an attorney to file a claim before the deadline, which occurs at the end of next month. A California law allows those who were previously time barred from filing, to file a new claim regardless of how long ago that they were abused.

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