The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Friday, March 27, 2009
Catholic bishops fight child sex abuse victims at legislature; SNAP responds
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)
Catholic bishops want to have their cake and eat it too. They claim few priests molest anymore and few bishops conceal such crimes anymore. Yet they're still fighting tooth and nail to stop child sex victims from having the chance to expose predators in court.
If they've truly reformed, they should stop protecting predators and secrets and start protecting kids and families. But they obviously haven't reformed, and that's why they fear this long-overdue reform.
This proposal will safeguard kids, stop crimes, and deter future recklessness, deceit and secrecy by those who might otherwise be tempted to shield known and suspected child molesters. It deserves the support of every caring adult. It is opposed by those few who put their narrow, short-term obsession with their own comfort and convenience over the broader interests of child safety.
Statutes of limitations are arbitrary, archaic, and predator-friendly time limits. They give criminals and their accomplices an incentive to destroy evidence, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, fabricate alibis, and sometimes flee the state or the country, so they can start molesting again among unsuspecting families. Reforming or eliminating these outdated barriers is the quickest, cheapest and most effective way to warn parents about and protect children from serial child molesters.
We hope that Connecticut lawmakers will ignore the fear-mongering and see past the absurd Chicken Little claims by self-serving church officials. We hope they will side with the innocent, vulnerable and wounded, not with the guilty, callous and corrupt.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 20 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. 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)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688)
Connecticut Lawmakers Consider Extending Statute Of Limitations In Child Sex Abuse Cases
He typed up testimony and went to Thursday's hearing, prepared to tell lawmakers about being one of the children pictured in the stash of pornography found in the former home of Dr. George Reardon. He planned to ask them to imagine a boy, once happy, wondering what had happened to him, afraid to ever speak of it.
He planned to tell them that he was too old to bring legal action, but that he should be heard, that the state should make an exception to the statute of limitations in extraordinary cases like this one.
But he got to the judiciary committee hearing Thursday and saw more people than he expected. It was too emotional.
So the man, who asked that his name not be used, did not get the chance to tell lawmakers why, despite his age, he filed the lawsuit against St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, where Reardon worked. It was the same reason that John Conran, another man who says he was sexually abused by Reardon as a child and now is too old to sue, wanted the chance to bring his case.
"I don't want money from these people," Conran said. "I just want the world to know."
Reardon died in 1998 after agreeing to stop practicing medicine following complaints of abuse. But staggering proof of his crimes did not come to light until 2007, when a homeowner renovating Reardon's former West Hartford home uncovered more than 50,000 slides and 100 movie reels of child pornography, hidden in basement walls.
Since then, more than 135 people have sued St. Francis, alleging that the hospital was negligent in failing to stop the abuse. Some of the lawsuits have been filed by people for whom the statute of limitations has already expired. The statute in child sexual assault cases gives people 30 years after they turn 18 to file civil actions.
On Thursday, lawmakers considered a proposal that would extend the statute where material evidence is found that could not reasonably have been discovered before, giving victims over 48 three years from the discovery to bring civil claims.
Plaintiff attorneys in the Reardon case and sexual assault counselors who argued for the bill said victims of sexual abuse often do not come forward because of a lack of corroborating evidence and fear that they will not be believed. But often pedophiles keep "trophy evidence" that could one day support a case if discovered, said Susan Smith, an Avon attorney representing Reardon victims.
She said the proposal is in line with laws in other states that base the civil statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases in relation to the victim's realization of injury, rather than the victim's age or time since the abuse.
Opponents of the bill, including law professors retained by St. Francis and the Archdiocese of Hartford, argued that changing the statute of limitations would be problematic and unfair, and would put institutions at particular financial risk since they could be liable forever.
In written testimony, St. Francis President and CEO Christopher Dadlez described the difficulty of defending old cases. "Potential witnesses and sources of information may no longer be available, documents may have been lost, and memories undoubtedly will have faded, to name a few," he wrote.
He said the financial impact of the proposal "could seriously undermine our mission of providing quality care to those in need."
St. Francis officials have said the hospital did not know of the specific allegations against Reardon until 1993, when state health officials tried to revoke his license. The two sides are currently in mediation in an effort to settle the case.
Some lawmakers expressed support while others were skeptical of the proposal, including state Sen. Edward Meyer, who questioned why the discovery of evidence should merit an exception if victims knew of the crime and could have sued earlier.
Conran knows how he was hurt by the abuse, which he said began when he was 8 and lasted three years. "I'm 50 years old. I live with my mother. I'm an alcoholic. I've never been married," he said as he waited to testify before the committee. "Those, I think, are attributable to this."
For the past few years, he tried to get answers from St. Francis. He wondered how Reardon could have been allowed to practice there for 30 years, how no one could have looked into what he was doing and tried to stop him. Conran said he was stonewalled by hospital officials, until the pictures were discovered in 2007 and the hospital reached out to victims.
A few years back, sick of how he was being treated, Conran said he spray-painted a message on the St. Francis parking garage: "Dr. Reardon molested children. D'Eramo stop the cover up," it read, referring to former hospital President David D'Eramo.
He said he was caught and spent three hours in jail. "That's more time than Dr. Reardon ever got, to my knowledge, for what he did," Conran said.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests