The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Release
For immediate release: Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010
For more info contact David Clohessy 314 566 9790 or Barbara Dorris 314 503 0003.
Clergy sex abuse victims praise prosecutor & police
Church officials are charged with “failure to report” abuse
"Prosecution of such cases is rare," support group says
SNAP: “Going after selfish accomplices is best way to stop molesters soon”
A national support group for clergy sex abuse is praising New Hampshire law enforcement agencies for charging four officials of a Baptist church with failure to disclose suspected child sex crimes.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing Conway Police Department chief Edward Wagner and prosecutor Jessica Hollenkamp about charges filed last week against leaders of Valley Christian Church in Redstone. Four officials there have been formally accused of one misdemeanor count of violating a state law requiring them to report child abuse to authorities.
“This pattern – church authorities keeping silent about suspected abuse – is terribly common but rarely punished,” SNAP said in a letter the group sent by fax and email today to Wagner and Hollenkamp. “But
going after selfish accomplices who do nothing to stop a predator from hurting kids is smart. It may be the best way to stop a child molester after his fourth victim, instead of his 44th victim.”
All too often, SNAP contends, police and prosecutors focus solely on alleged sex offenders, neglecting to file charges against others who knew of or strongly suspected the crimes but kept quiet.
“Deterring child molesters is hard. But deterring by-standers and witnesses is much easier,” said SNAP’s letter. “That’s what you’re doing and what few in law enforcement ever do.”
“It’s hard to imagine a sick, compulsively-driven sex offender being stopped by the threat of any penalty,” said SNAP’s national director David Clohessy of St. Louis. “But it’s easy to imagine congregants and
church workers seeing these charges against Valley Christian and deciding ‘Wow, if I see something unusual or troubling in my church, I’m going to call 911.’”
According to the Union Leader, the four were “church Pastor Timothy Dillmuth, 33, of Stowe, Maine, and elders Richard Eland, 61, of Brownfield, Maine; Michael Wedge, 32, of Conway; and Robert Gagnon, 69, of Brownfield."
According to its website, Valley Christian Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist Convention of New England. The church is on East Conway Road.
“In all faith groups, if more church officials across the country had faced similar charges years ago, we’re confident it could have spared hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids from devastating child sex crimes,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s national outreach coordinator.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. It has been around since 1988 and has more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in its title, SNAP has members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Its website is SNAPnetwork.org.
A copy of SNAP’s letter is below.
Contact David Clohessy (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home), Barbara Dorris (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)
Chief Edward Wagner
Dear Chief Edward Wagner and Prosecutor Jessica Hollenkamp:
We are writing about charges filed last week against officials and members of Valley Christian Church in Redstone. As you know, the pastor and three elders were each charged with a single misdemeanor count of violating a state law requiring them to report child abuse to authorities.
We are grateful for your efforts and success in having these men charged for turning a blind eye to the abuse. We hope others in law enforcement will follow your example.
This pattern – church-goers keeping silent about suspected abuse – is terribly common but rarely punished. But going after selfish accomplices who do nothing to stop a predator from hurting kids is
smart. It may be the best way to stop a child molester after his fourth victim, instead of his 44th victim.
All too often, police and prosecutors focus solely on alleged sex offenders, neglecting to file charges against others who knew of or strongly suspected the crimes but kept quiet.
Deterring child molesters is hard. But deterring by-standers and witnesses from staying silent is much easier. That’s what you’re doing and what few in law enforcement ever do.
We hope that hundreds of church authorities and church-goers – in all denominations – learn of these charges and vow to never stay quiet if they see or suspect child sex crimes. We hope that a few of them will search their consciences and find the courage to report known or possible sex crimes right now.
We are very grateful and wish you well in your prosecution of these men.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests