MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — A North Carolina orphanage is now at the center of four lawsuits claiming adults hired to care for children decades ago sexually abused them.
The survivors are now coming forward.
Channel 9′s Allison Latos has covered the push for justice for survivors for years now. She found out when state lawmakers signed the Safe Child Act in 2019. Part of the law allowed adults who were abused when they were children a chance to fight back in civil court.
A man told Latos that he’s still haunted by what happened 50 years ago and is now hoping for closure.
“My mother passed away and somehow we ended up at The Children’s Home because my dad couldn’t take care of us,” a survivor said.
Because of what the man said happened to him at The Children’s Home in the late 1960s, he asked to not be identified.
The orphanage, overseen by the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, is where he said his innocence was stolen by the husband and wife hired to care for the children in his cottage.
“The word monster comes to mind,” the survivor said. “He would grab me by the back of my neck. He would close the doors and get out lotions.”
He said the abuse went on for years, but that he was too afraid to speak up and instead buried the pain, struggling through adulthood.
“I had to survive. I hit the street. Addictions, petty crimes,” he said. “I never told anyone. You did what you were told and you didn’t ask any questions.”
“No one checked on these children,” attorney Richard Serbin said.
Serbin now represents four adults who claim the same couple abused them at The Children’s Home.
“Essentially went unchecked in their demonic ways violating children, one after another,” Serbin said.
He’s filed four civil lawsuits against the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The legal action is only possible because when North Carolina lawmakers passed the Safe Child Act in 2019, they opened a two year window, allowing adults, previously past the statute of limitations, a chance to seek justice in civil court.
“What does that mean for you?” Latos asked a survivor.
“That maybe it would give me a breath of air that somehow I would begin to get some help and live,” he said.
He spent 10 of those 50 years struggling with homelessness and addiction. He hopes his case, and the court will bring him closure and encourage others to come forward before December 21, 2021, when it will be too late.
“After that, child sex abuse survivors will not have the opportunity to seek the justice they deserve,” Serbin said.
The church told Channel 9 that they would not comment on any specific allegation of sexual abuse, but did say: “as a church, we take any allegations of child sexual abuse very seriously. The safety of all children and families in our communities is our highest priority. Where there is any suspicion of child neglect or abuse, the Conference strictly observes mandatory reporting laws and we expect our United Methodist affiliated institutions to do the same. We pray that all victims of abuse may find healing and peace.”
Cox Media Group