NY--Report on abuse/cover up at Horace Mann in NY; SNAP responds

For immediate release: Wednesday, May 27

Statement by Mary Caplan of New York City, SNAP Leader, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (917 439 4187, [email protected])

We’re very grateful to the Horace Mann alums and victims who have painstakingly and courageously put this report together. Kids are safer because of their courage and hard work.

But of course Horace Mann officials, not Horace Mann victims, should have shown this courage and done this hard work. Tragically, they refused. They also refused to cooperate with this investigation in any way.

We support these victims in their recommendations for reform and prevention, especially regarding the statute of limitations.

One in four girls and one in eight boys is molested. So clearly, what our society is doing now to stop predators and protect kids, especially in churches and schools, is failing.

Institutions always have and always will be heavily focused on self-preservation. They simply cannot police themselves when it comes to child sex crimes and cover ups.

So our energies should be concentrated on new and approaches to preventing horrific child sex crimes and cover ups through external means, especially through our time-tested, impartial justice system. We must do more to let child sex abuse victims expose those who conceal or commit child sex crimes through the courts.

The single most effective step legislators could take to protect kids and prevent future Horace Mann-style scandals would be to pass Assemblywoman Marge Markey’s bill setting up a civil “window” enabling anyone who was abused at any time by any predator – for a short time – to use the civil courts to warn parents and the public about those who commit and conceal child molesters. This is a cheap, quick and effective way to expose dangerous predators.

We believe reforming New York’s archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly statute of limitations is crucial. Most New York men and women who were raped, sodomized and fondled by child molesters now cannot take legal action against the predators who hurt them nor against the employers who ignored or hid these awful crimes.

If employers do not hide child sex crimes, and if they act responsibly when abuse is suspected or uncovered, they have nothing to fear from this legislation.

Fixing the dangerously restrictive statute of limitations is the single most effective step we can take to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.

History, psychology and common sense indicate that civil "windows" helps prevent future abuse in at least four ways:

1) Prevention through exposing predators.

The "window" enables victims to publicly expose the predators who hurt them, through the open, impartial, time-tested American judicial system, so that parents, neighbors and employers will know about potentially dangerous men and women.

2) Prevention through exposing enablers.

Through the balanced judicial process - depositions, discovery, interrogatories and sworn testimony - anyone who ignored a sex crime, shielded a molester, destroyed a document or deceived a victim’s family may also be exposed.

New York families deserve to know whether their pastor or day care center director or athletic association harbored a sex offender, stonewalled a prosecutor, or lied to a parent.

New York citizens deserve to know whether a diocese or a summer camp director knowingly hired child molesters.

3) Deterrence through court disclosures.

Without the "window," a supervisor who’s been lax about child safety has no incentive to change bad habits or work harder.

With the "window” decision-makers will know that if they insensitively shun a victim or recklessly endanger a child, they may be exposed in court and face consequences for having done so.

4) Deterrence through financial consequences.

Passage of the "window" will prod defense lawyers, public relations staff and others to beef up child sex abuse prevention and education.

Concerned employees will start asking their supervisors "Do we do background checks on everyone here?" and "Are we ready for a potential lawsuit?"

Smart organizations will start or expand efforts to train adults about reporting abuse and teach kids about "safe touch," knowing that

- victims are less inclined to sue an institution that seems to take abuse seriously,

- judges and juries are more lenient with institutions that are already addressing the problem which led to a lawsuit.

This "window" makes New York kids safer, now and in the future. We hope all New York citizens, especially parents, work hard for its passage. It’s the least lawmakers can do in light of the horrific suffering of thousands of victims at places like Horace Mann and other institutions.

(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)

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected])

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