Victims of sexual abuse are blasting a Honolulu high school for publicizing a scholarship named after a three-time accused predator priest.
In a letter to the president and board of directors of Maryknoll High School, members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPNetwork.org) say that a scholarship honoring accused predator priest Fr. James A. Jackson "hurts victims and discourages them from speaking up, thus endangering more kids."
They are urging that the scholarship be dissolved.
The endowed scholarship, advertised on the school's website is named after Fr. Jackson, a Maryknoll missionary priest. The scholarship goes to students who "demonstrat[e] a willingness to contributed to the continued excellence of the Maryknoll family."
In 2002, Fr. Jackson was accused of abusing three former students. At the time of the alleged crimes, Fr. Jackson was working as a missionary priest on the Big Island. He is now deceased. At least one of Fr. Jackson's victims came forward publicly at that time to warn the community of the threat Fr. Jackson posed.
SNAP believes that this scholarship deters victims from Maryknoll or any school in Honolulu from reporting predators.
"You may say that the scholarship is a 'simple oversight,' but that is little more than a cheap excuse." the letter says. "There is no room for 'simple oversight' when it comes to the safety of your students, the prosecution of predators and healing of children who have been horribly hurt by abuse."
The group wants the school to immediately dissolve or re-name the scholarship and apologize to Fr. Jackson's alleged victims and the school’s alums. SNAP is also inviting school officials to host a "listening session" with victims of child sex abuse, so that the Maryknoll community can “better understand the harm that abuse causes to victims and communities and the chilling messages such insensitive actions send to other abuse victims.”
"When an institution praises a credibly accused serial predator, it’s basically saying that adult criminals will be believed and kids will not be,” said Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach, CA, SNAP Western Regional Director. “It encourages silence about child sexual abuse, which leads to more abuse, and it rubs salt into the wounds of victims, which leads to more pain."
The group is also encouraging anyone who was abused, or who has seen or witnessed abuse, to come forward and report to law enforcement. A new Hawaii law allows child sex abuse victims to use the court system and expose their predator no matter when the abuse occurred. The law can help many victims of child sex abuse in Hawaii get justice and accountability, the group says. Similar laws in California and Delaware exposed more than 250 previously unknown child sex predators and helped law enforcement put at least five predators behind bars.
The law has already exposed ten predator clerics who worked at Honolulu's Damien Memorial School.
The letter, sent by email and fax, is attached below
Dear Mr. Martin and members of the Board of Directors;
We are victims of sexual abuse who are members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPNetwork.org), the nation's largest support group for men and women who were sexually abused in religious or institutional settings. We are writing you today because we are shocked and disturbed to discover that you support and publicize a student scholarship named after three-time accused predator, Fr. James A. Jackson.
In case you do not know, Fr. Jackson has been accused of child sexual abuse by three children from when Jackson was a priest working on the Big Island. One of those victims even came forward publicly to warn the community about Jackson and the alleged abuse. The only reason Jackson was not prosecuted was due to the statute of limitations, not the merits of the victims' accusations.
Having any honor for Jackson is implying that Maryknoll leadership honors silence when it comes to child sexual abuse. You are also saying that you admire and respect accused predators more than the brave victims who came forward and reported the crimes against them to law enforcement.
We hope you agree that this is a dangerous situation that must be immediately fixed. That is why we ask that you do the following:
• Immediately dissolve the Jackson scholarship,
• Inform the Maryknoll community of the accusations against Jackson,
• Publicly apologize to the Maryknoll community and victims of sexual abuse,
• Reach out other potential victims of Jackson or any predator who may have worked at Maryknoll School, and
• Host a 'listening session' with victims of child sex abuse so that members of the Maryknoll community can learn about the effect of abuse and abuse prevention.
You may say that the scholarship is a 'simple oversight,' but that is little more than a cheap excuse. There is no room for 'simple oversight' when it comes to the safety of your students, the prosecution of predators and healing of children who have been horribly hurt by abuse.
We look forward to your immediate response to this matter and are more than willing to help you schedule a listening session.
SNAP Western Regional Director