Her father allegedly raped her developmentally disabled mother. She tracked him down through Ancestry.com.

Two figures at the end of a long hospital corridor
Magdalena Cruz alleges the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities protected her mother's rapist, a caretaker at the residential facility where she was housed.FangXiaNuo/Getty Images
  • A woman alleges her mom was raped in 1985 by her caretaker at a developmental facility.

  • She is now suing the New York agency that oversaw the facility, claiming they never reported it.

  • She's suing under the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law that extended the statute of limitations on rape claims.

Magdalena Cruz always believed she was born of rape, but she never knew who her father was. After taking a DNA test through Ancestry.com, Cruz learned he had been her mom's caretaker at a disability facility in the '70s and '80s, according to a new lawsuit.

Cruz is now suing, alleging that the agency tasked with overseeing the facility covered up the abuse.

The facility, the Monroe Developmental Center in Rochester, never conducted an investigation or told the police what happened, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday in New York State Supreme Court. It also hid the fact that Cruz's mother, identified as I.C. in the complaint, had allegedly been physically abused at the facility, court papers say.

I.C., who is described in the lawsuit as "extremely developmentally disabled," was placed in the care of MDC in 1976, according to the suit.  In 1986, months after the alleged rape occurred, I.C.'s parents were notified that she was pregnant and that they suspected she was raped by another patient, and the facility told them they would conduct an "internal investigation" and notify the police, the lawsuit says.

Cruz is represented by both Susan Crumiller, founding attorney of the Feminist Litigation Firm, and Carrie Goldberg of the Victims' Rights Law Firm. Crumiller and Goldberg filed the case under a new joint initiative called the Survivors Law Project.

Cruz said she knew she was a child of rape and experienced difficulties with her mental health. She believed she would never be able to have children of her own because of her family trauma, the lawsuit says.

In 2019, Cruz began looking into the circumstances of her birth. Through open records requests, Cruz learned that MDC never conducted an investigation or told the police about the alleged rape. She also learned that her mother had allegedly been physically harmed at the facility, suffering abrasions, cuts, and bruises, according to the lawsuit.

Upon learning of her mother's alleged mistreatment, Cruz was shocked and decided to investigate further, her lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.

She bought a DNA test from Ancestry.com and found her mother's alleged rapist on her own, according to the lawsuit.

The test results revealed that she had biological relatives on her father's side. She found photos of the family online and noticed they shared the same physical features — such as the same eyes, the lawsuit alleges.

She then identified a man named James Burrus by searching through online photos, the lawsuit says.

Burrus, the lawsuit says, lived in Rochester, just miles from the MDC facility. When she cross-referenced the records she received, she noticed that a caretaker with the initials J.B. had made comments about I.C.'s behavior in her personal files, according to the lawsuit.

That's when Cruz says she realized James Burrus and J.B. the caretaker might be the same man, according to the lawsuit.

She told the police what she found in 2019 and confirmed a match, the lawsuit says. The Brighton Police Department told her that a James Burrus had been employed by MDC in 1985 and had a connection to I.C.

At the time of her discovery, Cruz had no legal recourse because the statute of limitations on the alleged rape had passed.

Cruz is suing New York on behalf of her mother under the Adult Survivor's Act, a state law giving survivors a one-year window from last November to file a complaint against an alleged attacker and other responsible parties for incidents of sexual assault perpetrated at any point in their adult lives within the state of New York.

Cruz wouldn't have been able to sue without the new law, her attorney Crumiller said.

"It's the difference between getting justice and living the rest of your life knowing that your abuser got away with it," Crumiller said in an interview.

Several high-profile lawsuits have been filed under the Adult Survivor's Act, including one brought by Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll, who is suing former President Donald Trump for rape and defamation.

Claims like Carroll's are normally off limits because they fall outside the statute of limitations, which in New York was raised in 2019 to 20 years for civil lawsuits involving some sex crimes. That barrier has now been temporarily lifted, and there is no cap on the damages.

Crumiller told Insider that she's suing the New York State Office for People with Developmental, Disabilities, the agency that oversaw the facility, because she believes the institution should be held accountable for the alleged rape.

"The reason that these patterns continue unabated is because of the institutions that coalesce around rapists and protect them," Crumiller said.

When MDC discovered that I.C. was pregnant, they recommended that she go on birth control, according to the lawsuit. This was an indication that the facility expected and condoned patient mistreatment, Cruz alleges.

I.C. did not have the capacity to consent to sexual intercourse because her mental acuity matched that of a 2-year-old, Crumiller said.

"There's no reason for her ever to have gone on birth control," Crumiller said. "She didn't have the capacity to consent to a sexual relationship with anyone."

Read the original article on Insider