Recently, a jury in Willimantic awarded a 47-year-old woman $2.7 million after she said her mother's boyfriend molested her for seven years.
Dawn Andalora said she feels vindicated for the first time in more than three decades.
"It's validation for the years that I suffered," said Andalora, a sexual abuse survivor.
In the early 1980s, Joseph Falanga was charged criminally for sexually abusing Andalora, but she and her attorney said he took a plea and probation and never spent any time behind bars. She left Connecticut to live with her father in California, and more than a decade later, her mother called and told her that she had married Falanga.
"My actual response to my mom was, 'You've just basically rewarded him for the damage and harm and abuse he did to me,' and I couldn't fathom how any parent could do that."
Andalora said the abuse never stopped impacting her life, like the effects of keeping the secret, the shame and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, as well as depression and eating disorders.
"The guilt I feel my kids had to go through when I was struggling. As well as several suicide attempts. And my children now, I think now understand," she said, adding that the stress intensified when her mother got sick with cancer a few years ago.
Andalora came back to help care for her and had to stay in Falanga's home, and her mother eventually apologized to her before she died.
"As much as it meant to hear, 'I'm sorry' at that time. What could I do with that? I really couldn't take it. I was more concerned with her, I wanted her to have some peace," Andalora added.
Last week, Andalora was called to court to testify in front of Falanga, and she said it was the most difficult thing she's had to go through.
Ultimately, she just wants victims of sexual abuse to know it isn't their fault.
"I needed to do this for myself, my children and in hopes if someone who is a victim they know they still have a voice," she said, adding that she has never confronted Falanga, who is now 81 years old and lives in Plainfield.
Andalora's attorney, Frank Bartlett Jr., said, "that statute of limitations issue, the fact that a victim of childhood sexual abuse has 30 years from when they turn 18."
As for the settlement Andalora received, she said it isn't about the money.
"Because the likelihood of recooping any damage I've been awarded is probably nil," she added.
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