After filing a lawsuit in Middlesex Superior Court on Jan. 30, a Burlington woman held a press conference on Feb. 1, speaking out against her uncle, her between 1968 and 1977.
Rosanne Sliney, 48, says her uncle, Domenic Previte Jr., of Waltham, sexually assaulted and raped her hundreds of times, starting when she was five.
The lawsuit details the alleged abuse, which Sliney says continued until 1977, when she was 14. Sliney, who grew up in Waltham, also claimed in the lawsuit that Previte forced her to have sex with other men.
“Domenic, you took away my childhood, my adolescence. I have struggled my whole life,”
Sliney is asking for an undisclosed amount of financial compensation for her pain and suffering, as well as attorney’s fees.
The alleged abuse caused Sliney severe mental distress, she said, which resulted in multiple hospital stays starting when she was 24.
Previte, who could not be reached for comment following the press conference, owned a Cambridge car wash where some of the abuse is alleged to have occurred, according to Sliney’s attorney, Carmen Durso.
Other incidents also occurred at the former Maverick nightclub in North Reading in the 1970s, at Previte’s Waltham home (a different address then where he lives now) and the Showcase Cinemas in Woburn, according to the lawsuit.
Sliney said Wednesday she was speaking out to help inspire other victims of sexual abuse to come forward, and to call on state lawmakers to eliminate a statute of limitations on alleged victims reporting abuse and filing criminal charges and civil lawsuits. Sliney also called for lawmakers to eliminate the statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit.
“There should be no time limit, we should be able to obtain justice in our own time and out our own pace,” Sliney said, noting that alleged victims can be reluctant to file a lawsuit or charges at first because they are focused on recovery.
Durso said that in this case, the statute of limitations for criminal charges has expired, thus preventing Sliney from filing charges against Previte. However, the law allows for filing of this particular civil lawsuit because it states that a lawsuit can be filed up to three years from the point at which a victim understands they have been abused, according to Durso. In this case, Sliney's recent recollections of abuse, Durso said, allows the suit to be filed. Durso, however, acknowledged, the suit would be a "difficult."
SLINEY RECALLS ALLEGED ABUSE
Sliney, now 48, began recalling the abuse when she was in her early 20s, she said, and never told anyone about it while it was occurring.
Sliney, a former teacher and coach, said she had planned to tell her mother about the abuse during a meeting with a therapist in 1988, but her mother unexpectedly died that day before Sliney could tell her.
Recently, Sliney started recalling other memories of abuse in which she was forced to have sex with other men, she said, at the former Maverick nightclub in at the intersection of Main and Park streets in North Reading. She was 13 or 14 years old at the time, she said.
“They were pretty horrific and horrible,” Sliney said of the recent memories.
A FAMILY’S REACTION
The alleged abuse took a severe toll on the family, and Sliney said she no longer speaks with her aunts. Sliney said she and her brother and sister decided she should inform her aunts of the abuse, which elicited an unexpected response.
“The first thing they said was, 'We knew,' Sliney said. “They just didn’t want to believe it."
However, her aunts pledged to support Sliney and suggested she confront Previte. Their sentiments soon changed.
“Over time, it became clear to me that this family’s main concern was to keep me quiet and not support me,” Sliney said.
Sliney had a stern message for anybody involved in covering up the alleged abuse.
“To all the adults involved, shame on you for covering this up. Today, I can say that I am strong enough to speak out. I have suffered enough and I’m not hiding anymore,” Sliney said.
Sliney, despite the suffering she sustained, confronted Previte more than two decades ago during a meeting at one of his businesses, she said.
“We sat in silence, it felt like a lifetime. Finally, we sat down… and I just looked at him and I said, 'I need to talk you about what happened sexually.' That’s when he put his head down and said ‘I never thought this would come back to me,’” Sliney said.
As a result of the meeting, Previte wrote a letter to Sliney in 1988 in which he confessed to sexually abusing her. In the letter, Previte said he was experiencing a rough time in his life when he abused her and that, 'temptation was mounting. My love for [you] degenerated into something I almost had no control over. I had confused my love for you with sex.'"
In March 1991, Sliney signed a “Release and Settlement” agreement, in exchange for $26,500 and a promise that her medical expenses would be paid for the rest of her life, according to Durso. Sliney, however, claims her tenuous mental state left her unable to understand what she was signing, according to the lawsuit. During the press conference, Sliney said she has no memory of signing the agreement.
She also claims she felt pressured by her family to forgive Previte, another reason she signed the document, according to the lawsuit. She was also told the document was merely a formality, according to the lawsuit.
Previte, however, did pay her the $26,000, which Sliney said she used to pay off college loans. Previte, however, eventually stopped other payments, claiming making them brought back painful memories of the abuse he allegedly inflicted on Sliney, according to Durso. As a result, Sliney still has outstanding medical bills, according to the lawsuit.