FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — A 70-year-old man who recently reached a settlement with a Roman Catholic diocese in Massachusetts over sexual abuse he suffered at age 8 said Wednesday he is speaking out because “my voice was taken away from me for all those years” and he wants to help others like himself.
“There were a number of details that bring that memory back, painful details,” Claude Leboeuf said at a news conference in Fall River. “I could feel muscle pain, sometimes emotional pain. I can visualize them. I can never know when those memories come flashing back to me. But that’s how it happens. It’s very real to me.”
Several years ago, Leboeuf, of Providence, Rhode Island, contacted Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, a well-known lawyer for clergy and sexual abuse victims. Leboeuf said he was abused in 1960 at a church in Attleboro, Massachusetts, by the Rev. James Porter, who pleaded guilty in 1993 to molesting 28 children during the 1960s and 1970s while he was a priest in the Fall River Diocese.
Porter, who had left the priesthood by that time, was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison. He was scheduled to be released in 2004, but the state moved to have him classified as sexually dangerous to keep him behind bars indefinitely. He died in 2005.
Garabedian said he’s represented dozens of people who said they were sexually abused by Porter. He said “a mid-five-figure settlement” was reached with the diocese for Leboeuf, declining to be more specific.
Back in the early 1990s, the Fall River Diocese adopted a policy to prevent sex abuse by priests. It had reached an undisclosed settlement with 68 people who said they were molested by Porter.
“The actions of former priest James Porter decades ago are a painful reality in the history of the Diocese of Fall River,” the diocese said in a statement. “Through its Victim Assistance outreach, the Diocese of Fall River offers supportive services to survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their families throughout the legal process and continuing after a conclusion is reached.”
Garabedian said Leboeuf was able to prevail despite an expiration of the statute of limitations in Massachusetts to file a claim in child sexual abuse cases.
More survivors are pursuing cases as states increasingly consider repealing time limits for child sex crime lawsuits. Vermont was the first state to remove the limits in 2019, followed by Maine in 2021 and Maryland this year. A bill in the Massachusetts Legislature has been referred to committee.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they were victims of sexual abuse unless they come forward, as Leboeuf has.