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Decades-old allegations lead to lawsuit against New York church

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A Staten Island church is among the more recent worshipping organizations tainted by alleged sexual assault charges committed by one of its pastors more than 40 years ago. A lawsuit filed in mid-July against the Reformed Church of Huguenot Park claims that the church neglected appropriate oversight and failed to recognize signs of an inappropriate relationship.

The lawsuit claims that Rev. Richard P. Don sexually abused a young parishioner in the late 1970s leading to psychological and physical injuries. The victim seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages. As a boy, the victim worked at the church, served on its bell choir and was a parishioner from 1976 to 1980. Don died at the age of 74 in a 2016 car accident in Florida, where he had served as a minister.

State’s Child Victims Act made this possible

The lawsuit is among the latest possible thanks to the New York’s Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases. Under the law, survivors of sexual abuse have until the age of 55 to take civil legal action against their abusers. The age limit previously was 23 in civil court cases. The law remains in effect through Jan. 14, 2021.

In May, New York’s Child Victims Act was deemed constitutional by a state supreme court justice. A diocese in Long Island challenged the law in its effort to eliminate the more than 40 lawsuits it faced related to sexual assault allegations.

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