IL- SNAP urges five steps in Dennis Hastert controversy
For immediate release Saturday May 30, 2015
Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747, bblaine@SNAPnetwork.org)
We’re here today to plead with a number of individuals and institutions to take action about Dennis Hastert.
But first, we want to say THANK YOU to the brave victims of Hastert who are cooperating with law enforcement. In child sex cases, when victims, witnesses and whistleblowers stay silent – everyone suffers, except of course those who commit or conceal these heinous crimes. But when victims, witnesses and whistleblowers speak up, call police, help prosecutors, file lawsuits and expose wrongdoers, wrongdoing is prevented and kids are spared.
So we’re very grateful to those who have been hurt by Hastert but have overcome their fears and helped warn parents, police, prosecutors and the public about him. They are heroes!
Also today, we are urging five steps to be taken immediately:
1. We urge Yorkville school/civic officials to seek out others with information about Hastert’s alleged crimes.
2. We urge Hastert backers to stop making insensitive public remarks that intimidate victims.
3. We urge others in law enforcement to “be more creative” in exposing abusers.
4. We urge those who may have seen, suspected or suffered abuse by Hastert to speak up now.
5. We urge Illinois lawmakers to give victims more time to take legal action against child molesters to prevent these types of situations from happening by creating an opportunity for survivors to get their day in court even if the statute of limitations has run out.
Let’s detail why these steps are crucial.
First, when predators are exposed, it’s always easy and tempting to their current or former employers and colleagues to do little or nothing. That’s irresponsible. All of us, but especially those who have hired or supervised adults who turn out to be predators, have a moral and civic duty to help protect others from perpetrators and help law enforcement pursue the wrongdoers.
So Yorkville officials – especially at the school district – must use mailings, newsletters, press releases and public announcements to prod not just victims, but witnesses and whistleblowers, too, to call police and prosecutors promptly. Those affected by child sex crimes often will stay silent unless gently but firmly prodded to step forward by those in authority.
Second, some of Hastert’s backers (including Senator Mark Kirk) have expressed concern for the accused predator and his family but not for his alleged victims. That’s wrong and hurtful.
When publicly discussing this case, it's important that Hastert's supporters use discretion and compassion so they don't inadvertently cause others who may have been abused to stay trapped in silence, shame and self-blame and rub more salt into their already-deep and still-fresh wounds.
It's hurtful when well-intentioned adults praise an accused abuser. It makes wounded and depressed victims of sexual violence - by any predator - less apt to call police, report abuse, protect others and start healing.
So defend Hastert if you must. But don't attack his accuser. And support Hastert privately and in ways that don't deter others who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes into remaining silent.
Third, the Hastert case brings to mind Al Capone, who was nailed on income tax evasion. The lesson here is that very often, “where there’s a will there’s a way.” We urge police and prosecutors to think more creatively and act more aggressively to pursue child predators – on a variety of charges. We’ve seen child molesting clerics, for example, get away with child rape but be convicted on other offenses – obstructing justice, destroying evidence, intimidating witnesses, endangering kids, child porn, giving alcohol to minors, and other charges. We’ve seen pedophile priests molest hundreds of times in Illinois and get away with it, but get charged and convicted for violating a child once at a Wisconsin cabin or Indiana beach house.
So we urge law enforcement officials to dig deeper, try harder and consider novel or indirect ways of exposing and punishing predators, even if they’ve skated on their most serious crimes.
Fourth, we urge those who may have seen, suspected or suffered abuse by Hastert to speak up now.
That’s the best way to help make sure that the truth is exposed, the wrongdoer or wrongdoers are punished, the vulnerable are protected and future crimes or cover ups are deterred. It’s easy to be complacent. It’s tempting to assume that Hastert will be convicted or be kept away from kids. But that’s irresponsible.
The burden of exposing, charging, and convicting a sex offender should never fall on one or two or three sets of shoulders.
So everyone who could play a role in resolving this case should search their consciences, find their courage, pick up their phone and call law enforcement today.
Finally, we can all agree that this is not the ideal way to expose a credibly accused abuser – years later through financial misdeeds. But it’s possible that Hastert’s victim sought to pursue a civil or criminal case long ago but was rebuffed. We’re just speculating but it’s possible that Hastert might have been exposed much earlier had Illinois lawmakers reformed the state’s “archaic, predator-friendly statute of limitations sooner and created a chance for those past the statute of limitations to get in the courthouse doors. Previous laws gave most child sex abuse victims very little time to file civil lawsuits or criminal prosecution against sex offenders.
So we call on Illinois legislators to adopt a civil “window” – as four others states have done (CA, DE, MN & HA) – enabling child sex abuse victims hurt by anyone at any time to expose predators through our open, time-tested justice system.
Again, if you have any information or suspicions about Hastert – or about anyone who might have helped him conceal his crimes – we beg you to do what his brave victims have done – help police and prosecutors safeguard others by sharing what you know or suspect with law enforcement now.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)