METRO REGION - THE BOSTON GLOBE
Friday May 18, 1990
Daughters win sex-abuse case against father
By Alison Bass
In a precedent-setting case, a Belmont woman this week won
a multimillion-dollar jury award against her father for sexual
and physical abuse. In an interview yesterday, she said she
filed the suit because she wanted to let a "little girl"
from beverly know that not everyone gets away with child abuse.
An all female jury in Denver Wednesday awarded Sharon Simone,
45, and her sister $1.2 million each after a trial in which
the two testified that their father, a former FBI agent and
adviser to law-enforcement agencies on child abuse, had sexually
abused and beaten them while they were growing up.
Simone said she filed the suit after reading about an 8-year-old
girl from Beverly who had been taken to court to watch her
abuser's sentencing - only to watch him go free.
'I had not filed a lawsuit against my father at that time,
but after I read that article, I felt such an outrage and
such a connection to that girl,' Simone said. 'I decided then
that I was going to show this little girl that not everyone
who abuses children gets away with it.'
Simone was referring to an article by Globe columnist Bella
English regarding the case of Michael R. Ferguson, a 41-year-old
former shop teacher who had pleaded guilty to raping his neighbor's
daughter. His young victim went to Superior Court with her
parents on the day.
Ferguson was to be sentenced because they had been told that
the sight of her attacker being led off to prison would help
her on the long road to recovery from the experience.
Instead, Judge John T. Ronan gave Ferguson a suspended sentence.
Ronan said that in deciding against incarceration, he had
given considerable weight to a half-dozen character witnesses,
including the pastor of Ferguson's church, who had spoken
on his behalf.
'I decided that I was going to hold my father accountable
for [this girl], for my sister, for my brothers and for myself,'
Simone said. 'I want to tell that little girl, whoever she
is, that not everyone who abuses a child will walk away without
knowing what they have done to your soul.'
Several lawyers said the colorado case is precedent-setting
both because of the size of the award and the type of case.
Similar cases have been filed in Massachusetts, but none has
yet gone to trial.
'I think this verdict will pave the way for other suits,'
said Kathleen Franco Domenico, one of the Denver attorneys
who represented Simone and her sister, Susan Hammond, 44,
who lives in southern California. 'There has been a reluctance
to bring these suits because the nature and extent of the
injuries aren't recognized for a long time and, in many
'I want to tell that little girl, whoever she is, that not
everyone who abuses a child will walk away without knowing
what they have
done to your soul.' SHARON SIMONE
States, statutes of limitations apply.'
In the Denver case, Domenico said, the judge ruled that the
statute of limitations did not apply in cases of child sexual
or physical abuse. In 1988, Judge Herbert Abrams of the Massachusetts
Superior Court reached a similar ruling in an incest case,
but that case was settled out of court last year.
In their 1989 lawsuit, Simone and her sister testified that
their father, Edward J. Rodgers, had repeatedly beaten and
sexually abused them between 1944 and 1965. At the trial,
Rodgers admitted that he had hit his wife and may have hit
his children, but said he did not remember doing so.
Rodgers, now 72, had been employed for years as a chief investigator
of the el Paso County district attorney’s office in
Colorado, and as an adviser in child abuse cases. he previously
had worked for the FBI for 27 years.
Rodgers’ attorney, Thomas Gresham, said he had been
unable to locate his client since april 24, Domenico said
the last she had heard Rodgers was reported to be near the
Texas-Mexico border. Simone and Hammond say they doubt they
will ever collect the money awarded to them.
Child protection specialists say that women who were abused
as children are increasingly turning to the courts for redress,
in part because criminal charges are very rarely brought against
abusive parents or family friends. and when they are, judges
and others are often reluctant to believe that outwardly repectable
middle-class men would cause serious harm to children.
‘These victims have a lot of shame, guilt and humiliation
about what happened,’ said Linda Jorgenson, a Cambridge
lawyer and member of the state legislative commission on sexual
misconduct. Just as with women who are sexually abused by
their psychotherapists, there is a violation of trust and
a feeling of being betrayed due to the inaction of others.
If your father abuses you and your mother covers it up,you
begin to wonder if you’re right or not; you begin to