Using a mail-order Ancestry.com DNA test, a woman determined that her severely disabled mother’s rapist was a staff member caring for her 37 years ago at a state home in New York and has now filed a claim against the institution.
Maggie Cruz filed a lawsuit this week on her mother’s behalf, alleging that her mother — who had the mental acuity of a 2-year-old, was in diapers and unable to care for herself — was raped and impregnated by a caretaker in 1985 while under the care of New York’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities.
Cruz alleges that her mother, identified in court documents as I.C., was living at Monroe Developmental Center (MDC) when administrators discovered she was five months pregnant in May 1986.
Administrators told her family it was investigating and would file a police report, but they never did. The lawsuit claims that facility administrators recommended she go on birth control or have her tubes tied.
“My mother has had a hard life,” Cruz said in a statement. “I hope this lawsuit will help her get the care that she deserves. I live a blessed life, and I thank God for my amazingly supportive husband and five kids, who give me the strength to lead with compassion and grace every day.”
A spokesperson from the New York’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities said they could not comment on pending litigation but said the “safety and well-being of the people we support is OPWDD’s highest priority. We cannot comment on pending litigation.”
Residential services at the Monroe Developmental Center ended on January 1, 2013.
Cruz, who grew up knowing she was a child of rape, started investigating the circumstances of her birth in 2019. Through records requests and an Ancestry.com DNA test, she identified her father, a former caretaker at the facility who lived in Rochester, New York, and looked after her mother when she was sexually assaulted, according to court records.
The lawsuit claims New York state has a shameful history of abusing developmentally disabled patients in its care, arguing that Monroe Development Center was one such facility with an extensive history of violence and abuse dating to 1974 when it opened its doors.
The complaint lists gross neglect, physical and sexual abuse of patients, and other mismanagement at the facility that I.C.’s parents did not know about at the time.
The lawsuit provided a number of examples showing incidents at the facility, including one where a male employee had woken a boy from his bed and forced him to engage in sexual acts in the home’s living room. According to the lawsuit, two youths tried to fight off the employee, while two women looked on and did nothing to stop it. One of the perpetrators had 30 to 40 young men under his care and also facilitated the hiring of several others, the lawsuit alleged.
In June 1976, the director of volunteer services was arrested for raping a disabled 19-year-old boy, the lawsuit states. A security guard faced the same charges after using his pass key to unlock the boy’s door. In May 1979, the parents of a 14-year-old boy with disabilities found bruises and welts on their son’s thighs and buttocks after having only been there for three days, according to the lawsuit.
In 1980, a 49-year-old therapist was discovered in a 15-year-old female patient’s bed, resulting in a lawsuit and a finding of liability against the facility.
The Cruz lawsuit claims the facility also had some unusual patient deaths.
In March 1982, a 26-year-old man died after swallowing five surgical gloves. On July 5, 1982, a 21-year-old quadriplegic patient was left outside in the sun for four hours without fluids. He died from hyperthermia.
Between 1976 and 1985, at least 10 staff members were identified as pedophiles and rapists, including staff supervisors, security guards, and volunteers, court documents said. The complaint said they used psychological torture, including one case where a 32-year-old patient was blocked in a 2-foot square space with furniture for hours.
Many employees who committed offenses had been fired, rehired, suspended, or not subjected to background checks, the lawsuit alleges.
After she gave birth, I.C. was returned to the same facility for another nine years. In 1995, she was moved to another facility, where she resides today.
The statute of limitations ran out in the rape case, but the civil lawsuit is going forward under the state’s Adult Survivor’s Act in what Cruz’s attorneys, Carrie Goldberg and Susan Crumiller, said was a “historic opportunity to hold unsafe institutions of all kinds accountable for targeting the most vulnerable members of society here in New York – no matter how long ago that harm happened.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
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