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Judge Says Billerica Man Can Proceed with Boston Child Sex Abuse Lawsuit Against Harvard University

A judge says that Stephen Embry can go ahead with his lawsuit against Harvard University. The 57-year-old Billerica man’s Boston child sex abuse case was dismissed over a year ago, before a new Massachusetts bill extending the statute of limitations for such cases was passed into law.

According to Embry, when he was 12, swimming coach Benn Merritt raped and molested him. The sexual assaults allegedly occurred over 100 times and went on for three years. Embry says the incidents usually took place at the Harvard pool where Merritt was a coach.

He contends that Harvard misled him about how long he had to file a Boston sexual abuse claim, telling him the assaults occurred too long ago. Embry says that the school did not disclose that another claim was brought against it in 1996 involving Merritt. The plaintiff in that case contended that the swim teacher molested him from 1965 to 1970, beginning when he was 11. Merritt killed himself not long after that case was filed. The lawsuit with him was settled. The one against Harvard was dismissed.

Embry claims that he began to recall memories of the Boston sex abuse incidents six years ago. He said that he became depressed and tried to kill himself.

When he initially filed the Massachusetts sex abuse case, the statute of limitations for suing an institutions or organization that an alleged perpetrator worked or volunteered for, if repressed memories were involved, was three years from the time of recall. In 2012, four years had passed since Embry began remembering the abuse.

Now, the statute of limitations involving repressed memories for suing institutions is seven years and can be applied retroactively. Also, in incidents of Massachusetts child sex abuse occurring after the passing of the statute, victims have until age 53 to sue both perpetrators and institutions.

Having a lengthier statute is important when Massachusetts child sex abuse is involved. Often, children will repress these memories for years. Or, they may have been too scared and young to know what to do and it could take a very long time before they are able to even disclose what happened.

It isn’t just children who may need a lot of time before they are able to report or even deal with sex abuse and assault. In recent weeks, more than twenty women have come forward accusing actor Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them years ago. Most of the incidents allegedly occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The alleged victims have said they did not speak out sooner out of fear that no one would believe them or that there could be other repercussions. Cosby has denied the allegations.

In Massachusetts, if you suspect that you were the victim of Boston sexual abuse, please contact Altman & Altman, LLP today.

Massachusetts Law about Statutes of Limitations in Civil Sexual Abuse Cases, Mass.gov
Judge lets abuse case against former Harvard swim coach proceed, Boston.com, December 12, 2014

Colleges cut ties with Bill Cosby as the list of women accusing him of sexual assault hits 20, The Washington Post, December 1, 2014

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