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Children's Theatre Company Settles Remaining Sex Abuse Lawsuits

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis has settled all remaining lawsuits filed by former students who alleged they were sexually abused by staff decades ago.

When the Minnesota Child Victim's Act passed in 2013, extending the time period for filing past abuse cases, 16 former Children's Theatre Company actors filed civil litigation. Each was seeking monetary damages for being sexually abused by former theater staff decades ago.

Abuse survivor Laura Stearns was 15 at the time of her alleged assaults.

"Children's Theatre Company has an opportunity to embrace the legacy of harm and turn it into a legacy of advocacy. I wish it had been sooner, but it's better late than never," Stearns said.

Between 1975 and 1985, more than 100 children are believed to have been abused by an estimated 20 theater teachers and staff.

At Friday's news conference announcing resolution of the civil suits, the theater's managing director issued a long overdue apology to all victims.

"We are sorry this was not adequately punished at the time and so sorry that the pain of survivors was not recognized. Sorry that survivors had to suffer in silence for so long," Kimberly Motes said.

Terms of the settlement remain confidential. However, Motes did say the theater will strengthen its policies geared to protection of children. In addition, it will spend $500,000 towards establishment of an independently-operated victims' therapy fund.

"Because we know the abuse suffered there was not just sexual. The fund will recognize the multiple types of harm that was done during those decades," abuse survivor Jina Penn-Tracy said.

Former theater teacher Jason McLean and co-founder John Clark Donahue were named by victim's civil suits, but never criminally charged. McLean fled to Mexico several years ago but is believed to be back in California. Donahue is no longer living.

"And at this point in time, in so many ways, this is nowhere near an end but rather a beginning," Jeff Anderson, the plantiffs' attorney, said.

A beginning of a healing process that is decades overdue.


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