First woman to file a civil lawsuit against the Catholic church since Maine's laws changed
(For Immediate Release December 2, 2022)
If there was ever any doubt that legislation, allowing victims of childhood sexual abuse, previously time-barred from seeking justice, would effectively expose perpetrators and the institutions that enabled them, those doubts surely continue to fade. Ann Allen, 65, of Scarborough, Maine has filed a civil complaint in Cumberland County Court claiming that the Roman Catholic Church ignored allegations of child sex abuse at the hands of one of its clergy members. Allen has become the first woman to file a civil lawsuit against the church since Maine's laws changed in 2021, removing all statutes of limitations.
We were not surprised to learn that the abuse occurred during what is supposed to be a memorable time for young Catholics, their first communion. Allen alleges that she suffered a violent assault at the hands of Fr. Lawrence Sabatino. And, once again we learn that church officials employed a known abuser and afforded him a long career to continue to violate children. Sabatino, although deceased in 1990, came to be known in an accusation dating back to 1958. Then, a Lewiston family revealed to the bishop and authorities that Sabatino had sexually abused their 6-year-old child. He was assigned to St. Peter's parish by the bishop. As of 2005 (and more later), at least 13 other women had come forward to claim that he abused them as children at that parish. He was supervised for much of his time at St. Peter's by another priest, J. Romani, who has also been accused of abuse.
We roundly applaud Ann Allen for coming forward and taking steps to lay the responsibility for the harm caused to her back where it belongs, at the feet of the accused and the Diocese responsible for monitoring its clergy. While it is never a cause for celebration to learn of a survivor's abuse, we are very happy to know that states like Maine stand with victims and not with perpetrators and institutions who enabled them.
It is critical for us to emphasize that it is never too late to report sexual abuse. So let us hope that anyone else who knows anything about Fr. Sabatino or has been harmed by him will find the courage to speak up, seek help, and report it to law enforcement, no matter how long ago it happened. Remember that silence only hurts and that by speaking up, victims can heal, expose the truth, and protect others.
We encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed abuse in Maine to report directly to law enforcement. We also urge survivors to reach out for help and support to family, friends, therapists, and support groups like ours.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)