RYE, NY – A jury verdict has awarded Robert Vavasour $13.38 million in a lawsuit against the estate of his late uncle, Kevin Shanley, under New York’s Child Victims Act. Vavasour, who was just 15 years old at the time, alleged that Shanley sexually abused him during a trip to Europe in 1970. The abuse included rapes, forced oral sex, and beatings. The jury heard testimony from Vavasour and one of his sisters, as well as read parts of Shanley’s deposition testimony from 2021. Shanley, a history professor and policy analyst, denied the abuse, even claiming he did not take Vavasour to Europe that summer. However, his denial was contradicted by photographic evidence presented in court. Despite Shanley’s attempts to discredit Vavasour, the jury sided with the victim, delivering a significant monetary award.
Vavasour, now 68 and retired, has been living with the traumatic memories of the abuse for over five decades. He spoke out about the nightmares he endured during that fateful summer, describing Shanley as a “sadist” and “incredibly sick person.” Vavasour’s bravery in coming forward and seeking justice was inspired by changes to New York’s laws regarding the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases. The Child Victims Act created a window for lawsuits like Vavasour’s, allowing victims to pursue legal recourse even after the passage of many years.
The case highlights the complexities faced by victims of sexual abuse, particularly when the perpetrator is someone they trusted. Vavasour explained that his mother insisted the abuse remain a secret, which prevented him from contacting the police. He feared Shanley’s manipulations and threats, including being locked in a trunk and driven off a cliff. As the #MeToo movement gained momentum, Vavasour was shocked that a “blame the victim” strategy was still being used by the defense to discredit his claims.
While the jury’s decision brings some measure of validation and closure for Vavasour, it cannot erase the lasting impact of the abuse. He continues to battle post-traumatic stress disorder and has experienced depression. Despite the challenges, Vavasour has defied the odds and succeeded academically and professionally. His resilience and determination have been instrumental in his pursuit of justice.
The verdict against Shanley’s estate sends a powerful message that survivors of abuse will not be silenced and that their experiences will be taken seriously. It also serves as a reminder that the passage of time does not diminish the gravity of the crimes committed. The case sets a precedent for other survivors who may now feel empowered to come forward and seek justice.
This landmark verdict underscores the importance of laws that allow victims to hold their abusers accountable, regardless of the amount of time that has passed. It sends a clear message that no one is above the law, and that those who commit such heinous acts will face the consequences of their actions. The $13.38 million awarded to Robert Vavasour reflects not just the financial impact of the abuse, but also the value of his stolen innocence and the lifelong trauma he endured.