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Two lawsuits filed against St. John's leader, survivor speaks out

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A man who says he was sexually abused by a St. John's Abbey priest came forward for the first time Tuesday to speak about what happened.

Todd Belrose told his story, standing alongside another abuse survivor and their two lawyers.

Belrose says the incidents happened around 1980 when he was 14 years old. He says he's been suffering from the experience ever since.

The second plaintiff says he was also abused by St. Johns' Tom Andert around the same time.

In a news conference, Attorney Jeff Anderson announced that the two men were filing civil lawsuits against St. Johns Abbey Father Tom Andert. It'll go through Stearns County Court.

According to Attorney Anderson, Father Andert started at the school as a priest, moving up the ranks to headmaster and then as a prior – which the lawyer says is basically the school's second in command.

Last summer, claims that the St. John's leader had sexually abused students prompted an investigation. Andert stepped down in August as officials looked into the reports.

After six months of investigation, the allegations were deemed to be unsupported, MPR reports. And the Legal Examiner says Andert returned to his ministry that month.

Andert had also been investigated in 1994 after "concerns were expressed" about his relationship with a student, according to an archived St. Cloud Times article provided on the website. That investigation ended when the student involved denied that there had been any sexual misconduct.

The deadline to file lawsuits relating to sexual abuse is approaching. Passed in 2013, The Child Victims Act gave victims of any age a three-year window of opportunity to file a lawsuit – but the act expires May 25. Without the act, people abused as children only had until age 24 to come forward and report incidents.

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