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I have a healthy skepticism when it comes to anyone actually prosecuting the institutions that have made it a business practice to support and protect pedophiles that groom, sexually abuse and rape children within that institution. There is a risk calculation, no doubt, that guides these institutions to deny claims of abuse, attempt to discredit victims and protect the predators.
In the post prior to this one, I put out information released by the Foundation to Abolish Child Sexual Abuse (FACSA). They are looking for victims of sexual abuse to dial in, regardless of how long ago the abuse took place. It is imperative that we document the files on the institutions that protected predators and turned a deaf ear on victims.
The Attorney General’s office in Harrisburg has a Sexual Abuse Hotline, 1-888-538-8541. I called the number on Monday morning. I had a recording tell me that the line was not in service. I tried later in the morning and was surprised to have a live person answer the phone and take my information. She told me the name of the investigator looking into the Diocese of Scranton and said she would pass my information along. I will wait and see if anyone contacts me. If they do I will let you know. I do not expect much, but I would like to document the file against the Diocese of Scranton.
If you were the victim of sexual abuse as a child (under the age of 18) within the state of Pennsylvania, you should call the hotline and make a report. The person answering the phone will give you the name of the investigator for the Diocese(s) that are applicable to your particular circumstances.
Within the Dioceses in Pennsylvania there have been at least 292 credibly accused priests. That, to me, seems to be a low number. In my case, the Diocese of Scranton admits to only (!) four victims of my predator. I know that number is low. Ridiculously, insultingly low. These predators were prolific.
If you have a story to tell, now is the time to do so. Please call the number, 1-888-538-8541 and be heard.
I guess we shall see where, if anywhere, this will lead.
***Disclaimer: the misspelling of “Alltona” on the map was embedded in the .gif file I pulled from the Diocese of Harrisburg’s website.
This is from an email that FACSA sent out Yesterday. It was important enough to come out of my self imposed archive.
Last April, the PA Attorney General’s Office established a toll-free phone number for survivors of child sex abuse (who were PA residents, or were abused by someone in PA) to call if they wanted to file a report of being sexually abused or molested as a child under 18 no matter how long ago the abuse happened or no matter who committed the abuse.
The AG’s office is asking victims from all the places/institutions and all the alleged criminals that have literally gotten away with soul murder. Hopefully, the AG’s office will be able to take further steps to expose the criminals and the criminal institutions that aided and abetted the perps.
While your specific abuse may have happened so long ago that there is no criminal or civil charges you can file, by your identifying perps and complicit institutions now, other victims may gain the courage to come forward once they realize they were not the only one abused by their perp. Additionally, we anticipate there are many institutions over the years that have hidden cases of child sex abuse when it happened and with the children they were supposed to be protecting. The perps and the institutions need to be held accountable for the damage that happened.
Please call this number. Leave a message. Someone will call you back.
Your story could be of help to other victims.
And then SHARE, SHARE, SHARE this email/post!
PS: If you lived in the Allentown Diocese when you were abused, please also contact Rep. Mark Rozzi.
On Facebook: Private Message Rep. Rozzi at https://www.facebook.com/VoteRozzi
Via Email: MRozzi@pahouse.net
I am writing this from the low country of South Carolina. A break needed to assess where I am and where I am going. I am also working on a project that I will keep under wraps for the time being. The first steps are proving to be very challenging.
After the post from July where I asked the question “What is it going to take?” I did not hear crickets, but I also did not hear a lot of consensus. Most of the comments were via email to this blog and, as a rule, I don’t publish the contents of email unless I have the permission of the correspondent.
I keep coming back to the same basic conclusion. We, the community of survivors, don’t trust each other. I am sure someone with a lot more education in psychology can explain all this. In fact, I would love to hear the explanation.
What I have discovered is that there are divisions within the community that baffle me. There seems to be a concern that someone’s abuse is more important, more devastating, more valid than another.
There is no criteria to determine who is a survivor and who is not. There is no experience barometer to determine who had it “bad enough” to be in the “club”. I almost hesitate to say the word “community” anymore. I really don’t think there is one. There is no network, there is no organization because we cannot come to a definition of who can be considered a survivor. And that serves the interests of the predators and the institutions that have protected them.
It is not a competition. It is a very destructive game of “I had it worse than you”. Can’t we agree that is awful, devastating, damaging and life altering? It is completely confusing to me that the people who should have the most empathy for survivors are other survivors. And yet, that is where I find the most intensely judgmental collection of individuals who are often very vocal when anyone offers an opinion other contrary to the “norm”.
If this is the game, I don’t want to play anymore. I have better things to do than sit around comparing stories of abuse and the levels of devastation caused by that abuse. I will leave that sorting to someone else.
It is not all SNAP’s fault either. We can wax poetic about how screwed up an organization, any organization may be. We can waste our time affixing blame. Or we can get organized, concentrate on the predators and the institutions that protect them and move forward. At some point this has to stop being about individuals and it has to start being about something greater.
If we are to have that kind of community of survivors, we must not sit in judgement of each other, we must work together to change the environment that has allowed predators to target children and vulnerable adults. If we cannot do that, we have already failed.
It seems that what it is going to take is empathy for each other. Once we have that we can start to be more organized and focused on changing the conditions that allow an environment for abuse and criminal conspiracies to protect predators to exist.
I wrote a blog post in February, 2013 titled “Is there a Survivors’ Community” in which I was looking for answers from survivors about our community, our way forward and who speaks for us. In May,2013 I expressed my frustration in another post, “Crickets, Silence on the net…” that I did not hear from anyone in the survivor’s community. According to the analytics I see on this blog, plenty of people read the original but no one offered their thoughts.
Here we are again and I am wondering why we can’t move forward. I am wondering what the factors are in keeping us separated, unorganized and losing ground in efforts to change legislation and have society take the problem of sexual abuse and rape of children and vulnerable adults seriously.
A reporter contacted me a while back on a story concerning a priest accused of molesting a young boy. He had already published the story but wanted my feedback. He had used a quote from SNAP for the article, the same inane drivel that the National Director of that organization generically applies to any and all cases of abuse on which he is queried. It made me wonder.
What is it going to take? What would it take to get a coherent message from the survivor community to articulate the message that children and vulnerable adults are at risk from predators who enjoy a certain level of top cover from institutions who are more concerned with a risk management strategy than with the protection of those who need it most? Is there a way that the message can be successfully crafted and articulated? Can it be molded into a strategy that allows for the development of stronger laws to protect victims and enable the predators and their protectors to be held accountable both criminally and civilly? Can we develop a voice that is institutionally agnostic and not narrowly focused on the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of American, Penn State or any other notorious institution with a history of child sexual crimes?
The other side of this argument is well-organized and well-funded. Despite the fact that organizations like the Catholic League are notorious for spewing lies and portraying victims as predators or being responsible for the abuse inflicted upon them, we have no credible organization, at the national level, that can present a coherent case for the need for change in legislation, education, institutional culture, and society in dealing with predators who prey on children. We have no credible counters on Fox News to the Bill Donohues of the world.
We don’t need shrill fundraisers who only seem to hang around looking for the next donation to pay the salary or travel expenses for the next hit and run media opportunity. (It must be convention time again.) We need serious people who can step up and credibly do the work. We need to actually network the survivors of child sexual abuse, their supporters, law enforcement, the criminal justice system and the legislatures in all the states to move in the direction of making the punishment so vile for crimes of this nature for both the predator and the institution that protects the predator that there is no where for the predator to find a safe haven.
As with many stories, the public eventually gets weary and loses interest. That is what institutions like the Catholic Church want. They want everything to blow over, go away, disappear. The predators want that as well so that they may return to the business of grooming their next victim. Perhaps it is time to find our national voice, our national strategy, our universal calling to actually effect a long-lasting change. The shrill voices from Chicago and St. Louis have proven that they are not up to the task. Who will step up?
Are you still out there?
This morning I read an article on-line from CatholicCulture.org on the United Nations probe into torture and the Vatican. I find it amusing that the UN, the world’s most ineffective organization, is creating theater of the absurd with the Holy See, the world’s most recalcitrant organization.
The piece I was reading, written by Phil Lawler, wanted to express the author’s opinion that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal did not go far enough in their discussion on the legal position that the Vatican is only responsible for sexual abuse by priests that occurs within the territorial limits of Vatican City. Mr. Lawler wanted to add a few more points on his own. The first of which is:
“First, while sexual abuse is reprehensible, it isn’t torture, as that term is ordinarily understood. If the UN expands the definition of torture to encompass other forms of cruelty, it could erode support for the existing pact, which is based on an international accord that this one particular form of behavior—torture—should be stopped.”
How nice of him to admit that sexual abuse is “reprehensible”. Not torture? That is another matter altogether. While I may not be a Harvard graduate (I only graduated from a Jesuit University), I can read a dictionary. Depending on which dictionary you are reading, either online or a more traditional bound volume, torture is defined as “the act of causing severe physical pain as a form of punishment or as a way to force someone to do or say something”; “anguish of body or mind, something that causes anguish or pain, the infliction of intense pain to punish, coerce or afford sadistic pleasure”
Mr. Lawler, I will say that you are completely wrong on the first point. The sexual abuse I suffered at the hand of Robert Gibson was torture. Over the nine month period when the sexual crimes were committed against me he was, in fact torturing me for his own perverted pleasure. He was causing severe pain and violating my 13-year-old body in an effort to coerce my cooperation, my silence and to punish me for rebelling when I did so. I can assure you, based on my first-hand experience, he derived a great deal of sadistic pleasure from the power he was exerting over me. He employed both physical abuse and rape (as if there is a difference to anyone but the apologists for these monsters) as well as threats and psychological tactics to keep me in line and submissive to his actions. When I fought back, he threatened me with death until death ceased to be an issue with me. He then resorted to threatening retaliation against my siblings if I did not comply. Mr. Lawler, does this not fit the definition of torture as it is “ordinarily understood”? If it does not, please enlighten me with the correct definition.
His second point:
“Critics of the Church charge that sexual abuse by priests was widespread because of Catholic teachings and Vatican policies. But the UN would be setting a bold and dangerous precedent if it claimed that religious beliefs promulgated in one place (in this case the Vatican) were the cause of criminal acts in another.”
Tell me, Mr. Lawler, if the culture of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church did not allow for a blind eye to be turned on the problem of priests raping children and vulnerable adults, what did? I am waiting for the typical “we did not know it was happening, and when we found out we took action”, “it was gay priests doing these terrible things” or the ever popular “this was all a result of the sexual excesses of the 1960’s societal attitude towards exploring sexuality.”
We know that priests were moved around frequently to avoid prosecution and to keep their activities hidden from parishioners. The lack of action, other than to conceal the predators, is widely documented. Sorry, you will lose on that one. The Catholic Church is amazing in its ability to conjure excuses, blame the innocent and claim aggrieved status because they are being picked on when other institutions are not held to the same standard. None of these excuses allow the hierarchy of the church to abdicate their accountability for protecting these predators.
Gay priests are not the problem! Let me say that again. Gay priests are not the problem! If they were how do you explain the girls that have been victimized over the years? Pedophile priests are “the problem”. They like children because they like the power of their position and they get off on the terror they inflict on the most innocent. They like torturing them. (There is that pesky word again) .
As for the alleged issue of the sexual excesses of the 1960’s, that argument seems to ignore the documented cases of clerical abuses for decades prior to the 1960’s.
His final point:
“Finally, does the UN want to be in the business of deciding which religious doctrines are acceptable, and which encourage anti-social behavior? (Some people consider circumcision a cruel procedure; would the UN commission entertain a claim that it is torture?) The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups pressing the UN for action against the Vatican, argues that the Church engages in “psychological torture” by banning contraception.”
The classic deflection! Who does the UN think it is judging the Catholic Church? Mr. Lawler, are you reducing the rape of children and vulnerable adults to “anti-social behavior”? Really?! It is criminal, immoral and inhuman. Anti-social is the least of the descriptors for the kinds of harm done to children by predator priests. But Catholic apologists have to minimize the most heinous and point at the shortcomings of others to dismiss the torturous behavior of those priests (over 6,000 credibly accused and listed on Bishop Accountability.org). On top of it all, let’s throw circumcision or the abortion issue on top of this to totally deflect the discussion away from the elephant in the room. What a lame non-point to be made! That elephant in the room is the church’s inability to deal with the problem of predator priests raping, almost at will, with the knowledge that the church will do anything to avoid scandal, even if it means that children will be victimized, repeatedly, and the predators will enjoy the protection of the bishops.
I don’t want the UN to go after the Vatican. It is a fool’s errand. I want to go after every bishop who turned a blind eye to the torture, rape and beating of children and vulnerable adults. Those “men” are responsible for the culture of protection that these predators operated within. The individual dioceses throughout the world who condoned and concealed these predators while vilifying the victims need to be held accountable.
It is not a matter of religious doctrine being acceptable or not. It is a matter of an institution conspiring to conceal “Roman Collar Crime” in order to keep the funding stream coming in. And it does not matter if the institution is a Catholic Diocese, a Baptist Church, a Jewish Synagogue, Penn State University, the Boy Scouts of America or any other entity. We should, as a society, be standing up and saying the rape of children is wrong. (I know that may be a wild idea to some.) We should be saying the institutional protection of pedophiles is wrong. We should be holding predators and their protectors responsible, criminally and civilly.
We should be in The International Court of Justice in the Hague prosecuting these people for crimes against humanity. Bernard Law and others like him should be in a cell. The United Nations is uniquely positioned to make noise and do absolutely nothing. The Vatican may be embarrassed (although I do not think they understand the concepts of shame or accountability) but all they have to do is wait for the noise to stop. The UN is only good at making noise.
Mr. Lawler, I would have responded to your article on your site but you have to be a donor to voice an opinion and that pretty much guarantees that you will hear nothing but rave reviews of your “cogent” argument. Personally, I can’t imagine you getting it any more wrong.
Dear readers, you do not have to make a donation to make a comment to this site, unlike the rules at CatholicCulture.org. I don’t take donations, there is no place on my blog that will enable you to send me money. I will be honest and say if you are off topic or are spouting vitriol on either side of the argument I will edit or delete. But I will not charge you a nickel to offer your thoughts.
 Merriam Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torture?show=0&t=1399470363
 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition principal copyright 1993
An article in the Scranton Times-Tribune online follows up on the story of Carlos Urrutigoiry and his elevation to a position of authority over priests accused of misconduct in a Catholic Diocese in Paraguay.
The National Director of SNAP, David Chlohessy, is demanding the Diocese release the files on the Urrutigoiry and the events that occurred at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, a residential school sponsored by the Society of St. John, a religious order. Urrutigoiry was credibly accused of sleeping with teenage boys as part of his “ministry”.
It will come as no surprise that the Diocese of Scranton will take no action and that the National Director of SNAP will move on to another press release/photo opportunity. The dance continues and yet no progress is made.
FACSA – Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse
Contact Your PA House Rep ASAP
Please contact your local PA House legislator and ask him/her to support Rep. Mark Rozzi’s proposed amendments to Senate Bill 681 which the full PA House will be voting on very soon possibly in the next day or so.
A. How to find your legislator: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/
B. Bullet points we suggest you use in your communication with him/her:
- Please support SB 681
- Additionally, please support the all the Rozzi amendments that will help give justice to victims of child sex abuse which increase the statute of limitations from 12 years to 32 years for civil actions arising from the sexual abuse of a minor and create a two year “window” to allow past child sexual abuse victims the opportunity to seek civil recourse from their perpetrators.
- Include a short sentence or two of why you support this legislation.
- Thank them for their consideration of this matter.
- Include your name and address.
FYI: Letter we sent to all legislators today. It has a bit more detail about the proposed legislation.
December 9, 2013
The House will soon consider SB 681 which would allow victims of sex crimes to protect themselves from predators. While we support this legislation, we ask that you also support the Rozzi amendments to give victims access to justice. Currently, Pennsylvania’s archaic statute of limitations laws mean that thousands of victims cannot have access to the courts for civil proceedings – just because their legal “clock” has expired.
The first Rozzi amendment would remove the statute of limitations for civil actions arising from the sexual abuse of a minor and provide a “window” up until age 50 for abuse victims to file civil action if the statute of limitations has expired. It would also remove “sovereign immunity” defenses for public officials who commit sexual abuse.
Other amendments would increase the statute of limitations from 12 years to 32 years for civil actions arising from the sexual abuse of a minor and create a two year “window” to allow past child sexual abuse victims the opportunity to seek civil recourse from their perpetrators.
We are bombarded by horrendous stories of child abuse and the legal maneuvering that ensues.
For those of you who want real justice for the Sandusky victims or the victims of the Philadelphia Catholic diocese scandals, it is time to amend our outdated statutes of limitations.
It is time to stand up for the victims; not the predators.
Below and attached please find over 30 organizations who strongly support statute of limitations reform:
Catholic Whistleblowers, Child Protection Project, Coached Into Silence, Crime Victims Center, Culture of Silence Film, Horace Mann Action Coalition, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, Justice4PAKids, Justtell.org, Let Go Let Peace Come In Foundation, MaleSurvivor, Ms. Foundation, National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, National Child Protection Training Center, National Crime Victim Bar Association, National District Attorneys Association, OAASIS: Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service, Parents for Megan’s Law, PA Gestalt Center, Patches Kids, PCADV: PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence, PCAR: PA Coalition Against Rape, Protect the Hershey’s Children, Inc., S.E.S.A.M.E., Inc.: Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation, Safe4Athletes, SFJ: Survivors for Justice, SNAP: Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SOL-Reform.com, Stop the Silence, The Awareness Center, The National Center for Victims of Crime, Turning Point, Vertigo, LLC/Pursuit of Truth Film, Voice of the Faithful
On behalf of all of them, and on behalf of victims everywhere, please vote for the Rozzi amendments to SB 681.
This year has been full of trials, disappointments and setbacks. It also has been full of discovery, new friends, old friends and the promise of new adventures. 2013 has been a hard year and I don’t mind saying I am glad to see it go.
I have not written much on this blog this year. Fits and starts mostly. I watch the news and I watch the continuing saga of people in positions of authority abusing children or vulnerable adults. I read what is put out there by groups trying to reform the church and I see the Pope is even offering to reach out to survivors. I still see that the institutions that these predators work within still look at the sexual crimes and damage to actual human beings as part of a risk management calculation. I still see legislation withering while politicians genuflect to special interests to keep justice from those that deserve it.
Last week I threw a few lines out there and the first response was allegedly from a predator wanting to taunt me and others. The email (email@example.com) was familiar, a pseudonym based on an Italian saint. Oddly, Gabriel Possenti is the patron saint of “handgunners”. A veiled threat, perhaps. It would have been more of a threat if the author had spelled the saint’s name correctly. I guess being “Mr. Oregon” in his youth (not that there is any record of that honor) did not require the ability to spell the name used for “extracurricular” online activities. Activities that led to his pleading guilty of charges related to child pornography. Yeah, I know you are still out there. I know you are doing your taunting from your schismatic church.
How do I start doing this again. I just listen to the taunting of those who think that they will get away with the crimes they have committed. I just start looking at the new, credible allegations that keep coming. I look at the Pennsylvania State Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman, Ron Marsico who is actively quashing statute of limitations reform. That obstruction allows a credibly accused Catholic Priest by the name of Guy Marsico to be beyond the reach of his victims. I think I need to research this potential conflict of interest. Is “Marsico” that common a name in Central PA?
There is still much to be done. I guess I need to keep writing until I have more answers.
I am providing this link to John Salveson’s article in Notre Dame Magazine. As President of Foundation to Abolish Child Sexual Abuse (FACSA), Mr. Salveson is leading the charge to change laws to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual predators and the institutions that have protected those predators. His frustrations are very similar to frustrations that I and other survivors have experienced.
FACSA is an organization that is doing a lot of good, tangible work supporting survivors of child sexual abuse. They are doing so without a lot of fanfare and self promotion.
I encourage you to read Mr Salveson’s article and then go to the FACSA website to support their efforts to protect children.
I want to thank everyone who sent this article to me, especially my Dad.
I am working on posting articles on this blog more regularly. With furloughs ongoing at work, I am going to have more time to spend here.
“When one goes looking for something, one rarely finds it, but when you least expect it, the object of your search tends to fly up in front of you.”
This is a hard topic to write about. What happened all those years ago, the coverup by the church, the discord in the survivor community. I find myself both drawn to writing and wanting to put all this down and walking away to something else, anything else. I have had people recommend both courses of action, some more profane that others.
I wrote a piece not too long ago looking for the “Survivor Community”. There was no response from the “community”. I know someone is reading “Off My Knees”. I see readership numbers that mystify me everyday. I am even more perplexed when I have not had a post for a little while and the numbers start to climb into the hundreds per day. Usually that is the indicator that something has stirred in the universe and another person in authority (priest, coach, teacher, cop, relative…) has been identified as a molester/rapist of children or that a major piece of legislation has come to a head or that someone has died. When I see random peaks in readership, I go to the analytics that I track for my blog looking for an explanation.
I do get emails from survivors or people close to a survivor looking for answers, advice or a conversation with someone who understands all too well what happened all those years ago. I am very wary of requests for phone conversations and even more concerned about requests for face to face meetings. I am also hesitant to offer advice, mostly because I still have more questions than answers.
The other night I was tracking activity in this blog that turn out to be someone who was reposting a blog post I had written. That is when the thought came to me. As Survivors, we don’t trust each other. Is it possible that what we have in common also alienates us from each other? Our vulgar initiation into this universe of survivors makes us ever vigilant and doubtful of the motives of our correspondents. We will read each other’s posts on blogs and message boards, but there is a hesitance to respond, to act, to come together. For many, we have not really given up the great terrible secret that we have carried for so long. We may be silently watching from the comfort of our own world. Many are not engaged. Many are not ready to be engaged. Many are too tired of all of it to be engaged.
While we may have a great deal in common, we, as a group, do not really talk very much. I kept quiet for well over 33 years. All that silence keeps things from happening. It keeps the well-organized people who protected the criminals who preyed on us strong. It keeps them on the street, it keeps them from being called to account for their complicity.
Our silence also fails to shape the message of our community. Silence is seen by consent by groups that are putting forward an agenda. Those agendas are not always in our collective interest. Within our community there are bitter divisions. Some of the worst vitriol I have seen spewed at survivors has come from other survivors. Discourse between us is not only discouraged, it is often attacked when the message does not support the “national position” .
We still need to find our collective voices, we still need to learn to network. Most importantly, we must understand that, while there is a common thread, we all have very unique experiences that don’t always fit nicely into the general picture being painted of the community. Just as I am amazed at the inability of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to tell the truth, I am amazed at the sometimes vicious tactics used between survivors.
Differences in points of view should be expected. But the infighting and the polarization in the survivor community are doing nothing but helping the people/organizations/institutions who desperately want us to remain silent and subservient.