Nun Accused of Abuse in New York Lawsuit, SNAP Calls on Order to Release List of Accused Sisters
A newly-filed lawsuit in New York accuses a Catholic nun of sexually abusing a young girl at a New York school. We call on the sister’s order to publicly release any information they have related to claims of abuse and to do outreach to potential victims.
We applaud the brave survivor for coming forward with her allegations and bringing this suit against Sister Ann Peterson and the Ursuline Order. Although we have no firsthand information on this case, studies show that false claims are extremely rare, and that abusers usually have more than just one victim. Sister Peterson worked at schools throughout New York State, even serving on the board of a local college, so we fear there are others out there suffering alone and in silence.
Sexual assaults by Catholic sisters remain extraordinarily hidden, in part because the nuns’ hierarchy is even more secretive about child sexual abuse than the bishops. Unlike more than half of the dioceses around the country, virtually no orders of nuns have released lists of accused abusers.
It is also notable that many sisters often had considerably more access to vulnerable children because so many of them worked in schools. Similarly, parents and peers can be less aware of nuns abusing children because the prevalent public narrative is so focused on priest abuse. Unfortunately, we know that nuns can and have molested children, just as clergy have, which is one reason why we believe it is critical that orders of sisters also release lists of accused abusers.
Now that this lawsuit has been filed we call on officials in the Ursuline order to buck the trend and release their own list of accused nuns. They should also ensure that the allegations against Sister Peterson are widely publicized so that others who may have been victimized by her will know they are not alone and will be encouraged to come forward and make a report to law enforcement.
(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)