Published: July 27th, 2023
By: Andy Goldwasser
The New York Child Victims Act has granted a survivor of childhood sexual assault the opportunity to receive $95 million. The unnamed Rochester man was assaulted by Reverend Foster P. Rogers in 1979.
Over the course of 35 years, Rogers was transferred to multiple different churches across New York State including locations in Elmira, Rochester, and Fairport. His inability to maintain a permanent position at any of these churches led many to wonder: how many children endured abuse at his hands? His crimes were seemingly concealed by employers, as the church consistently ignored multiple reports of suspicious behavior.
In 2002, dark truths began surfacing from churches around the nation. Catholic priests’ sexual misconduct was reported at alarming rates. Rogers was no exception: on May 2nd, he was removed from his ministerial position by Bishop Matthew Clark. While examining diocesan files, Clark uncovered records of Rogers’ past misconduct, including “allegations of sexual abuse of minors.”
This information was brought to the Monroe County District Attorney, but no action was taken because the statute of limitations had expired. Multiple survivors of Rogers’ abuse began to speak up about what had happened to them.
The unnamed survivor of Rogers’ abuse in 1979 suffered devastating and lasting effects from the trauma he endured. His lawyer, Amy Keller, described the man’s childhood as “troubled,” and noted that he was not affiliated in any way with Rogers or his church. When he was 15 years old, Rogers preyed on him in downtown Rochester, claiming he would give the boy a ride. He was then molested in Rogers’ car. The man has since been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. He relives his trauma daily, as he endures painful and vivid flashbacks.
Keller wholeheartedly believes that the Child Victim Act is not about financial gain for survivors – they wish to see “real change.” In 2020, she filed the initial lawsuit against Reverend Rogers on behalf of her client. Rogers failed to hire an attorney, and did not dispute the allegations against him. Instead, he wrote a letter to the court claiming that if he could, he would “simply give the victim money.” Yet, his outstanding credit card bills exceeded his income.
As a result of the trial, the 1979 survivor was awarded millions of dollars: exceeding the amount that he originally sought. The jury deemed it appropriate to award him $30 million for past pain and suffering and $15 million for future pain and suffering. Additionally, $50 million in punitive damages was declared just.
Although this verdict allowed Keller’s client reassurance and absolved him of some of his shame and guilt surrounding the trauma he endured, it is still unclear how much of the money he will actually receive. As a result of multiple sexual abuse claims, in 2019 the Rochester Diocese filed for bankruptcy. In 2022, they instituted a $55 million trust to pay sexual abuse survivors affected by the clergy. However, the trust is nowhere near enough to pay the survivor of Rogers’ abuse, and would not cover other claims brought forth.
The Child Victims Act of New York State has worked to bring awareness of sexual abuse to the forefront. Statutes of limitation previously prohibited progression of cases like this due to the flawed argument that survivors should have reported abuse earlier.
It is still unclear whether or not the plaintiff will receive any financial compensation from the large sum of money he was awarded as a result of this lawsuit.
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