For immediate release: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Two groups seek bishop’s help
A fundraiser is set for convicted teacher
She refused to report suspected child sex crimes
Organizations want prelate to denounce the event
Advocates: “Public displays of support for proven molesters is wrong”
It deters other victims of other child sex crimes from speaking up, groups say
Two groups for sex abuse victims are blasting organizers of a fundraiser for a teacher convicted of refusing to report suspected child sex crimes. And the groups are writing to Little Rock’s Catholic bishop urging him to “rein in” his flock and discourage attendance and future such events.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and NSAC, National Survivors Action Coalition, believe the event “hurts at least one child sex abuse victim and deters other child sex abuse victims from speaking up.”
The fundraiser, set for this Saturday, is a benefit for Kathy Gene Griffin, a former Mount St. Mary (MSM) teacher who was found guilty last month of failing to report known or suspected child sex crimes by a fellow teacher, Kelly O’Rourke, to authorities.
Called “We Believe in Kathy Griffin,” the gathering is hosted by Katie Smith Escovedo and Tammy Bass Quick (501-247-6831). Both are parents of current MSM students. (http://www.arkansas-catholic.org/news/article/2935) Quick is the president of the MSM athletic booster club and Escovedo is the past president of the club.
“What are these callous people thinking?” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “Griffin clearly covered up child sex crimes. It’s been proven in court. She’s not even appealing her conviction. Yet in complete disregard for the feelings of at least one child who was hurt because of Griffin’s crimes, they’re publicly raising money for a proven criminal.”
"Victims who’ve been sexually violated by Catholic employees should not have to see or hear about Catholics publicly raising money for a convicted criminal who stayed silent about suspected child sex crimes," said Kris Ward of NSAC. "High ranking Catholic officials can and should prevent – or at least publicly denounce - this kind of incredibly insensitive and intimidating behavior.”
"Staying silent about such a callous event directly contradicts every pledge every made by every bishop to treat child sex abuse victims with compassion,” said Dorris.
SNAP and NSAC want Arkansas' Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor to
-- forbid Catholic employees from attending Griffin’s fundraiser,
-- post and distribute copies of a brochure called “What to do when your colleague is accused,” and
--“do all he can” to prevent others from holding similar events supporting those convicted of committing or concealing child sex crimes, and
-- aggressively reach out to anyone else who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by the two teachers or any other Catholic employee in the state.
If Taylor does nothing, Ward says, “he’s siding with the criminal and he’s re-victimizing the victim.”
And people who want to support either of the convicted teachers “should do so privately through letters to the judge and not publicly “in ways that scare and depress other child sex abuse victims into staying silent.”
The event is at 11:00 a.m. Saturday at Cotham’s in the City in Little Rock.
O'Rourke is being held behind bars from now until her sentencing hearing on October 28. In January 2013, O'Rourke pled guilty to sexually abusing an MSM student.
Griffin’s backers on Facebook include Cari Caliva Britt, Bettye Francis, Dana Denise LaRue, Shelley Oberste Hanson, Becca Carle Austin, Lauren White Hamilton, Julie Schmidt Marlbrough, Paul Oberste, Margaret Cassidy Dearing, Stacey Fleming Hain, Mary Flo Ouellette, Jac Brubaker, Stephanie Benning and Eve Grieringer Jorgenson.
A Google search indicates that many of them have Catholic ties. Francis works at MSM and Britt is the wife of MSM teacher Brendan Britt. Dearing is past President of Mount Saint Mary's and chairs its Alumni Board. Hanson, Ouellette, and Benning are MSM alums.
Other Griffin backers include Cheryl Carpenter, a former MSM teacher, and Jennifer Lasseter, a former MSM recruitment director.
On a Facebook page supporting Griffin, her supporters describe her as “sweet” and “amazing.” They are also collecting donations for “via PayPal or US Bank.”
Griffin now works for the Southwest Arkansas Development Council in Texarkana (headed by Sandra Patterson, http://swadc.com/contact/). She lives in Hope, Arkansas.
Pulaski County Judge Barry Sims sentenced Griffin to a year’s probation and a $2,500 fine. Griffin’s lawyer is Jeff Rosenzweig (501 372 5247). The prosecutor is Teresa Ball (501 340 8000).
SNAP and NSAC’s latest letter to Taylor, sent today by fax and email, is below.
See SNAP’s earlier letters sent to Bishop Taylor urging him to reach out to others who may have seen suspected or suffered crimes by Griffin & O’Rourke: