Family files suit against church

Associated Press/April 19, 2003

The parents of a man who committed suicide last year filed suit against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, alleging their son took his life because he was emotionally scarred from childhood sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic brother.

The wrongful-death suit filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court claims that a despondent 36-year-old Richard Lukasiewicz Jr. hanged himself 12 hours after being admitted to a psychiatric hospital in April 2002. The lawsuit states that Lukasiewicz was still traumatized by the sexual abuse he suffered while a young student at John Bosco Technical Institute in Rosemead.

The suit filed by Richard and Blanca Lukasiewicz says, in part: "The horror and betrayal associated with years of sexual abuse drove Richard Jr. into severe depression.

"The sexual abuse stole Richard Jr.'s youth; it took his self-esteem and drained his ability to cope."

Lawyers and activists groups representing victims said the Lukasiewicz case was the first time in the United States that relatives of molestation victims have sued the Catholic Church for damages.

"I'm glad to hear that they are filing the suit because it's the right thing to do because when a child is sexually abused the whole family is victimized," said Mary Grant, southwest regional director for the victims group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Attorney Raymond Boucher said Lukasiewicz tried to overcome the mental distress he suffered as a result of the molestation, which allegedly began during a 1979 camping trip when he was about 11 and lasted four years. Boucher, who represents about 200 people claiming they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests, said Lukasiewicz tried to deal with the trauma through yoga classes and by confiding in friends and family.

"He frankly wanted to live," Boucher said.

The lawsuit does not name the Catholic friar accused of molesting Lukasiewicz. It says only that he was assigned to teach and counsel at the high school.

The Lukasiewiczes are also seeking damages from the psychiatric facility, which they claim did not adequately supervise their son, who was admitted after a suicide attempt.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles declined to comment on the suit Friday, saying he had not yet seen it.

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