For immediate release: Thursday, April 7
Now, reportedly four victims of a child molesting ex-Congressman Dennis Hastert have come forward. We commend each of them for their courage. We are also grateful to Kevin Ross and Jolene Burdge for speaking publicly about Hastert’s crimes.
The Chicago Tribune reports that some of Hastert’s abusive conduct “might come to light this week when prosecutors are expected to file sentencing memorandums.” We hope that happens. We also hope that at least one of Hastert’s victims testifies at that hearing.
It’s insulting for Hastert to claim he made “mistakes in judgment.” Backing your car into a grocery cart or buying a shirt that’s too small are “mistakes in judgment.” Repeated sexual violations of children are not “mistakes.” They are dreadful, deliberate and damaging crimes.
Every Hastert victim who speaks up increases the chances that he’ll be locked up and that, of course, would mean kids are safer. We encourage others who were hurt by Hastert to summon the strength to take action now.
And we urge others who saw or suspected his crimes to come forward, especially those who stayed silent. You may have a guilty conscience. Speaking up now may help you, Hastert’s victims and kids too. You can’t undo your wrongdoing but you can take steps now to ameliorate it.
The judge who will sentence Dennis Hastert on April 27 should ask himself three questions: Has a 74 year-old man ever molested a child? Has a man who’s had a stroke ever molested a child? And are kids safer when child molesters are locked up?
If Judge Thomas Durkin answers ‘yes’ to any of these questions, he should err on the side of public safety and put Hastert behind bars for as long as possible.
We also hope Durkin notes that one of Hastert’s victims was reportedly abused “all through high school” and died of AIDS while another reported has struggled with drugs, booze and financial problems. Real people and their loved ones have suffered and are suffering because of Hastert’s crimes, not his “mistakes in judgment.”
And think about this: What if we could only catch or punish a narcotics kingpin was by nailing him on jaywalking or improperly moving money, not for devastating lives by selling illegal drugs? We’d say “Something’s wrong with our laws!”
Yet Hastert, an apparent serial child molester, can’t be charged with child molesting. He was charged only with financial wrongdoing. That shows something’s terribly wrong with Illinois’ laws, specifically, the state’s archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly statute of limitations. We hope lawmakers remedy this, both criminally and civilly.
Finally, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling journalists, get justice by calling attorneys, and get comfort by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(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