Momentum Builds for Justice for Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse
Today’s criminal indictment of former Penn State University President Graham Spanier for perjury, endangering the welfare of children, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and failure to report suspected child abuse add to a number of current developments moving the child abuse justice movement forward. The continuing prosecution by the Pennsylvania Attorney General in the Sandusky case shows a commitment by law enforcement to fully explore all the University officials who put football and the money that football could bring to the University ahead of the safety of children. Like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts, Penn State University attempted to avoid adverse publicity and chose to protect a child molester rather than to protect children.
The recent release of the Boy Scouts “perversion files” is another positive step in uncovering the horrors of child abuse. The officials at the Boy Scouts of America had kept files labeled “ineligible volunteers” files but informally referred to as the perversion files in an effort to weed pedophiles out of the boy scouts. However, they chose not to call police or notify parents. This failure allowed scout leaders who were child molesters to avoid punishment and in some cases to get back in leadership roles in the boy scouts under slightly changed names. This also allowed child molesters to find other places to abuse children rather than going to jail where they belonged.
Civil lawsuits brought by courageous survivors have uncovered much of the evidence in the Boy Scout cases and the Catholic Church cases that have revealed the huge scope of child abuse in the United States. Most children who are sexually abused by an authority figure such as a priest, scout leader, or coach are in mortal fear of disclosing the abuse that they endured. The survivors of abuse fear that they would not be believed, that they would be punished, or in the case of the Catholic Church that they would go to hell if they told anyone about the abuse.
Usually, it is many years after the abuse that the survivor of the abuse gains the courage and the knowledge to come forward and speak about what happened. This disclosure of the abuse and the abuser is important for the healing of the survivor and also to protect other children from the abuser. Unfortunately, the laws of all of the states in the United States have what are called Statutes of Limitations that the abusers and the institutions that covered up the abuse can use to have the lawsuits dismissed. The statutes of limitations vary from state to state but they all require that lawsuits be filed within a very few years after the abuse or the lawsuit will be dismissed as untimely. These statutes of limitations are very unfair to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Recently, there has been a movement in some states to change or eliminate these unfair statutes of limitations. Some of these proposed changes to the statutes of limitation contain a “window” which allows old cases, no matter how old to be brought within a year of two of the legislation passing.
California was the first state to pass window legislation. That window was open for two years but is now closed. Hawaii recently passed a window that is still open for childhood sex abuse cases that took place in Hawaii.
Currently, there is legislation pending in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania that will open the doors to the courthouses in those states for justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse if the new laws pass the legislatures and are signed by the Governors of those states. There are many lobbyists for the Catholic Church and the insurance industry attempting to stop these window bills.
It is my hope that the momentum that is building across the country for justice for children will be enough to help pass these legislative window bills to allow for full civil investigations and accountability into the institutions that harbored and protected child molesters.
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A huge archive of private records kept by The Boy Scouts of America was made public on October 19, 2012.The records have revealed that Boy Scout officials were aware of a large number of adult scout masters who molested children between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s. The scouting officials kept records of the pedophile scout masters and attempted to remove some but failed to report the crimes to police. Most state laws require that any person who is aware of child abuse make a report to the police so that the molester can be investigated by the police and prosecuted in the criminal courts. The records reveal that the Boy Scout policy was to keep these reports of child molestation secret from the public, the parents of scouts, and the police. The records show that the Boy Scout officials were fearful of scandal or bad publicity and put this concern ahead of concern for the safety of the boys in the organization. This is the same type of approach that the Catholic Church employed that ultimately led to the huge scandal that unfolded for the Church and the hundreds of lawsuits that were filed against the Church over the last decade.
More than 14,500 pages were released following a June ruling of the Oregon Supreme Court including details of 1,200 sexual predators in the organization who sexually molested or abused thousands of children and forced them to suffer in silence. The records, officially known as the Ineligible Volunteer Files and informally dubbed as “the perversion files,” by the Boy Scouts of America circles were presented under seal to support a 2010 sex abuse lawsuit filed by six former scouts.
Previously, only summary information from files was made public. This time complete internal communications, hand-written notations and opinions of Boy Scout executives were released.
Click Here To Visit Our Dedicated Sexual Abuse Website
The Oregon lawsuit also resulted in a $20 million damages jury verdict for the six plaintiffs who were molested by their scout leader in the 1980s.
The released documents offer information about at least 15 incidents of sex abuse committed by Washington area volunteers between 1960 and 1984. The information includes names of alleged sexual predators, while the identity of victims has been protected in the documents before they were released in public domain. The list of perpetrators includes many names subject to criminal prosecutions for molestation of children. However, it is not clear if their prosecution was a result of these files.
According to a document presented by the Boy Scouts of America before the Washington State Supreme Court in August 2007, the Scouts fired about 180 leaders every year following sexual abuse complaints.
Media Reports on Boy Scout Sexual Abuse
Los Angeles Times Report, 2012
An investigation report, published in the Los Angeles Times on September 16, 2012, highlighted how the Boy Scouts of America kept under wraps news of sexual abuse of hundreds of children and did not report the molesters to police for over two decades. Allegations by victims against adult volunteers were suppressed and culprits were quietly transferred. The LAT reporters examined about 1,600 confidential files on sexual abuse of scouts between 1970 and 1991.
In more than 100 cases, officials suppressed the complaints and shielded those accused. The newspaper also highlighted how those accused or suspected of molesting children were expelled by the Boy Scouts of America citing health conditions and on other pretexts. Many of them were allowed to return after a few years notwithstanding their tainted records. In 1972, when five scouts accused a Pennsylvania scoutmaster of rape and sexual assault, he was allowed to leave on the ground that he could not travel for work.
Washington Times Report 1991
In May 1991, a five-part report entitled “Scouts Honor” by the Washington Times blew the lid off sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America. The report was based on retrieved court records in 50 sexual abuse lawsuits filed by former scouts in more than 20 states. It published details of 350 Scout leaders compelled to leave the organization following sexual misconduct between 1971 and 1986. About 200 interviews with victims, Scout leaders, and lawyers were also published. The Washington Times reported that at least 1,151 Scouts were sexually abused by scoutmasters and seniors between 1975 and 1984. Abuses were more during campouts, sleepovers, and trips. The report concluded, “The Boy Scouts are a magnet for men who want to have sexual relations with children…Pedophiles join the Scouts for a simple reason: it’s where the boys are.”
Boy Scout Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
The 4 million-strong organization’s Youth Protection program initiated in the 1980s failed to prevent molestation and abuse cases. There were over 3,000 sexual abuse incidents in the Boy Scouts of America until 2010 when the organization adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy toward those accused of sexual abuse. Previously, local Scout leaders were required to inform such incidents to the upper chain of command. Now they have been allowed to report the complaints directly to the local police. The following is a list of some well-known lawsuits involving the Boy Scouts of America.
In June 1982, former Florida Scoutmaster Joe Gibson was sentenced to jail after he was found guilty of molesting scouts during camps. Another Scoutmaster from Daytona Beach Lee Pontius was found guilty of molesting Boy Scouts multiple times in 1982.
In 1988, a former Maryland scoutmaster David McDonald Rankin was jailed after he was found guilty of threatening the Scouts to have sex with him.
In 2004, New York police arrested former Boy Scout leader James Molyneaux following sexual abuse complaints. He was accused to have sexually exploited children less than 13 years, between 1997 and 2000.
In 2008, Texas Scout leader Martin Turner was convicted on two counts of indecency and abuse of children committed 40 years ago. A former Massachusetts Scout leader Howard Curtis found guilty of raping a 13-year-old boy scout two decades ago. Another Texas Scout leader was also convicted of multiple sexual abuse of a 12-year-old boy between 2003 and 2005.
In 2009, an ex- Utah Boy Scout Leader was sentenced for sexual exploitation of minors during his stint with the Scouts, between 2005 and 2006.
In 2011, the court found sodomy and sexual abuse charges brought by three men against former Alabama Scout volunteer Charles Donald Corley true and sentenced him.
In 2012, a report highlighted the case of a former scoutmaster with a history of sexual exploitation. Brad Stowell arrested in 1997 admitted to have sexually exploited 24 boys since 1989. He was recruited despite the fact that the Scout officials were aware of his previous conviction in molesting a 6-year-old in 1988.
The Boy Scouts of America secretly settled hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against its staff. According to the Washington Times, it paid close to $15 million to settle 50 lawsuits filed against it between 1986 and 1991. It paid another $61.9 million from its insurance reserve to settle an undisclosed number of cases until 2000. Rumors are rife that, in many cases, the compensation was staggering; however, it was not reported as the settlements were confidential.
Rev. Loren O’Dea, 83 was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1993 and retired in 1997 when he was only 68 years old. His early retirement may be significant given that O’Dea was ordained only four years prior and 68 is not the normal retirement age in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Perhaps more important, O’Dea had studied for the priesthood when he was much younger but became a social worker instead. The sexual abuse allegations stem from the period before his ordination to the priesthood.
As a priest abuse lawyer for many years, it seems these set of circumstances warrant further investigation into what the Archdiocese knew about this priest and when they knew it. If, for instance, they had knowledge of inappropriate behavior why was he allowed to serve and pose a danger to the children of the parishes he served?
This is not a decades-old case (which the Church always mentions when they are faced with such allegations). It demonstrates, at least until the Archdiocese answers some fundamental questions, a mode of operation that they had supposedly forsaken after learning about the devastating effects of sexual abuse on children.
It is indeed a myth but perhaps more importantly it’s a tragedy. The transvaginal mesh products that have seriously impacted the lives of thousands of women were marketed as safe and effective solutions to pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. Vaginal mesh lawsuits and the lived experience of thousands of women show this to be a lie.
The manufacturers of these failed vaginal meshes, including Ethicon, Gynecare, Johnson & Johnson, American Medical Systems Inc., C.R. Bard Inc., Boston Scientific Corporation, Covidien, Inc., aggressively marketed their medical devices as solutions to medical issues when in fact, they didn’t have the scientific and medical research to support such claims. The women who’ve had these vaginal meshes inserted have had to endure the agony of numerous corrective surgeries, IV therapy, blood transfusions and drainage of hematomas or abscesses.
The lives of ordinary women are being permanently altered because of an overly aggressive marketing campaign designed to boost profits rather than safety. That’s the real tragedy here.
An initial study performed by the United Kingdom National Joint Registry has determined no initial link between metal-on-metal hip failures and cancer. The studies were performed after some health experts expressed concern that the shedding of metal particles such as cobalt and chromium from the all metal hip replacement devices might lead to higher incidences of cancer. Thus far, the study shows no such occurrence. Of course, the study is limited to the United Kingdom that has a national database tracking mechanism in place that allows health officials to monitor and track such implanted medical devices. The United States is one of the few developed countries in the world that has no such registry. Obviously, this places safety officials and hip replacement patients at a decided disadvantage.
Last year, the US FDA ordered all manufacturers of metal-on-metal hip implants to conduct follow-up studies on implant recipients and report their findings to the FDA. The companies include Stryker, Johnson & Johnson, Biomet, Zimmer, Smith & Nephew, and Wright Medical. Some of these companies have already faced civil hip lawsuits for their faulty hip devices such as the J&J ASR hip and the Pinnacle hip models.
Already criminally convicted of failing to report suspect child abuse, Bishop Robert Finn is facing mounting pressure from advocacy groups, Catholics, and perhaps a few of his fellow bishops, to step down from his post as leader of Catholics in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Last week, we filed a civil lawsuit against Bishop Finn concerning one of his now-deceased priests Fr. Jerry Wegenek. Wegenek abused our client in the 1960’s and has had other allegations of sexual abuse lodged against him. While the Diocese responded to our sexual abuse lawsuit by stating that Wegenek had been removed from active ministry in 1994 after another allegation of sexual abuse was made against him. However, the Diocese did not make Wegenek’s name public or inform local parishioners that Wegenek had been accused of the sexual abuse of a minor.
Daniel Drinan, a 63-year-old Southwest Airlines passenger on a flight from Washington to Denver has been arrested and charged with obscene and indecent exposure committed on an airplane. The arrest occurred on September 8, 2012 and media that reported the incident didn’t mention that Drinan is a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Austin. Although he doesn’t currently have a parish assignment, he is on the diocesan payroll. Given the outrageous nature of his pubic acts, it would come as no surprise if Drinan has done similar things in the past.
If Drinan doesn’t have an assignment as a priest because of past issues, the public has a right to know. Drinan is currently residing in Reno Nevada even though he is a priest of the Diocese of Austin. Living so far from his home diocese, Drinan would be under very little if any supervision. If he has a history of such behavior, people have been hurt and Drinan may indeed be a menace to society. It’s time the Bishop of Austin set the record straight.
Dale Pennington, 36 a Polk County teacher has been arrested for allegedly sending sexually explicit emails and text messages to a 16-year-old former student. Pennington, a Ridge Community High School teacher, has been arrested and charged with 15 counts of use of a computer to seduce a child, 16 counts of transmission of material harmful to minors by electronic device, computer pornography – traveling to meet a minor, and 15 counts of unlawful use of a two-way communication device. A judge set his bond at $5,000.
According to law enforcement officials, Pennington admitted to the behavior with the student and deputies are concerned that there may be other Pennington sexual abuse victims. Anyone with knowledge about this case or other children who may have been harmed by this teacher should contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 1-800-226-0344.
The initial police investigation has determined that Pennington had been sending texts and emails to the young girl since May 2012.
In a surprising twist, the criminal case against Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph will be a bench trial tomorrow. It is expected a verdict will be returned that same day with Judge John Torrence presiding. Bishop Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are charged with one misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected child abuse to the state.
Bishop Finn, through his legal counsel, has argued that he is not a mandated reporter under state law. The charges stem from the criminal case involving diocesan priest Fr. Shawn Ratigan who had images of child pornography on his computer. Church officials knew about the images but didn’t report them to law enforcement for six months.
The Reverend Richard McCormick, a member of the Catholic religious order the Salesians of Don Bosco and a former teacher at St. Petersburg Catholic High School, has plead not guilty to five counts of raping a child in the 1980’s at the Salesians’ Sacred Heart Retreat House, a summer camp in Massachusetts. McCormick, now 71, taught English and theology at St. Petersburg Catholic high school before being removed from that post in 2002. His removal stemmed from a complaint from a student who told school officials that the priest had kissed her.
McCormick was arrested Thursday afternoon by New Ipswich police and charged with five counts of child rape that occurred in the early 1980’s. McCormick was arrested at the Salesian residence for priests in New Rochelle, New York.
Fr. McCormick is no stranger to sexual abuse allegations and sexual abuse lawsuits. At least nine other people have sued him and the Salesian Order to which he belongs for sexual abuse. Abuse allegations go as far back as 1963 until 1982 (not counting the one made in St. Petersburg in 2002). Three sexual abuse lawsuits were filed on behalf of young men who alleged McCormick abused them while he was the rector of the Salesian minor seminary in Goshen New York in the late 1970’s.