The state of Maine is now safer for children because of a law that went into effect on October 18, 2021, that will help expose dangerous child predators. Adults of all ages who were abused as children will now be able to file lawsuits for child sex abuse, even if their claim was expired under the prior law. This change opens the courthouse doors to victims who, until now, were denied justice. It also means that at least some child molesters - and any colleagues or supervisors who helped them hide their crimes - can no longer hide from the eyes of the public.
We understand that no amount of money can make up for a lost childhood. But when survivors are allowed to use the tried-and-true civil justice system to name their abusers, obtain secret records, exposing cover-ups, and provide valuable evidence to law enforcement, today's children are safer, and victims can begin to heal. Similar laws in California, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware have helped to publicize the names of hundreds of perpetrators, and thousands of pages of evidence of abuse have exposed cover-ups and in some cases even led to criminal prosecutions.
We are stunned by the apparent callousness of the Loudoun County Public School District for failing to report alleged sexual assaults. Moreover, the District apparently compounded their mistake by allowing the accused perpetrator to transfer to another school, where he is alleged to have assaulted another student in the exact same manner.
We hope that these failures are thoroughly investigated and that charges are pursued against the responsible parties where possible. There is absolutely no excuse for keeping silent about child sex abuse reports, or for exposing additional children to possible assaults.
Sadly, those who ignore or conceal child sex crimes, or who endanger additional young lives, are rarely prosecuted. We hope this case is timely enough to make criminal charges possible. If not, we hope the state of Virginia or the federal government will continue changing the laws in the future. Mandatory reporters are often children's first line of defense, and failure to report and endangering additional children should not be taken lightly.
We echo the thoughts of Virginia State SNAP Leader Becky Ianni who said, 'How can parents protect their children if they don’t know there is danger?'
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager,( [email protected], 267-261-0578) Becky Ianni, SNAP Virginia State Leader ([email protected], 703-801-6044), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Yesterday the second victim of Fr. David Huneck also spoke out publicly. We admire the bravery and courage it took for her to come forward. We hope that these two teens know that in reporting what they experienced with Fr. Huneck, they may have helped to save others from a similar fate. Hopefully, both of these brave survivors are getting all the help they need to heal. We are confident that others will hear them and also find the strength to disclose their own suffering to family, friends, law enforcement, or groups like ours.
It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and talk about their abuse, especially if their perpetrator is a trusted religious authority figure. It is even more difficult to come forward at a young age. The average age for a survivor to disclose their abuse is 52.
In a statement to WANE-15 news outlet in Indiana, the second survivor said “this road has not been easy. I have been on a roller coaster of emotions. I am hurt, embarrassed, confused, and sad to have lost a trusted role model. Most importantly, I am relieved to finally be speaking up. I am ready to be a light to all girls affected by abuse. I want to help, just like I have been helped. I want victims to know that there is a light, even though it may not seem like it now.”
We feel it is important for all victims who have suffered through the horror of abuse to know that these feelings are completely understandable, and we empathize with them. Those who have suffered sexual assault by trusted figures in their life, especially at the hands of clergy, suffer from many challenges that can last a lifetime. Some survivors even refer to such assaults as ‘soul murder.’ The most important part of the journey and the biggest first step is speaking out. The two girls in this case are ahead of the curve by many years and we know their story will inspire others.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager, (267-261-0578, [email protected]) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]), Melanie Sakoda, Survivor Support Coordinator (925-708-6175, [email protected]) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, (814-341-8386, [email protected])
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is www.snapnetwork.org)
Fr. David Huneck was recently charged with sexual abuse in a case involving two teen-aged girls. In the initial hearing held this week in Whitley County, Indiana, Judge Douglas Fahl, a member of St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church where Fr. Huneck had worked until his arrest, recused himself from any further court proceedings. The Judge noted that the normal procedure would be to have the circuit court judge take over. However, the circuit court judge was also a member of St. Paul's. For Fr. Huneck’s next court appearance in November, a special judge from another county will oversee the case.
We applaud Judge Fahl for making the appropriate decision to recuse himself and appoint a special judge. However, we cannot help but observe the reach and influence of the Catholic Church in Whitley County, when both the sitting judge and his usual replacement were members of the accused's congregation. We believe there would have been a time in the not-so-distant past where a special judge would not have been appointed, and the integrity of the judicial process would have been compromised. We are encouraged that Judge Fahl did the right thing in this case.
The Diocese of Camden is seeking the approval of the bankruptcy court to set up a $26 million dollar fund to compensate at least 320 survivors of clergy sexual abuse. This translates to an average payment of about $81,250 per victim. We stand with the survivors and agree with their lawyers who called this offer an "insult" to those sentenced to a lifetime of suffering.
Victims sued the Camden Diocese for child sexual abuse under the "window to justice" opened in New Jersey. In response, the Diocese sought bankruptcy protection. We believe that this was done not just to protect its assets, but also to prevent information about the way it handled abuse cases from being revealed to the public. Camden is now attempting to further protect their assets by providing an insultingly paltry fund to compensate the victims it created with its moral bankruptcy. Attorneys representing the claimants are not only outraged at the inadequate offer, but they have also accused the Diocese of attempting to conceal assets.
We are grateful that former priest Neil Kalina will face a criminal trial in Michigan. For far too long, in far too many cases, Catholic officials who concealed child sex crimes succeeded in “running out the clock,” allowing perpetrators to escape responsibility for their damaging crimes. We applaud the tremendous work of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office (OAG) in its ongoing investigation into abuse by the clergy.
Kalina was a priest at St. Kiernan Catholic Church in Shelby Township from 1982-1985, and he is accused of sexually abusing children 13-15 years old there. He was first charged in May of 2019 and was arrested in Littlerock, California, where he operated "a faith-based service program for at-risk young men” in LA County.
On Tuesday, a judge ruled there was enough probable cause to send Kalina’s case to Macomb County Circuit Court for trial. He is charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) against a child 13-15 years old, punishable by up to life in prison, and two counts of second-degree CSC against a child 13-15 years old, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. His next court appearance is set for November 1.
On Tuesday the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed a lawsuit from survivors of abuse by Catholic clergy, ruling that the Vatican cannot be sued because it is a country. We can only agree with Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability, who said in response that the decision is "a galling reminder of the Vatican's impunity, made possible by its status as a sovereign state."
A group of 24 survivors from Belgium, Holland, and France, who had been abused by Catholic clergy as children, had appealed to the ECHR after Belgian courts ruled they had no jurisdiction given the See of Rome's immunity as a sovereign state. After battling since 2011, the survivors argued in the ECHR that they had been denied the right of access to a court under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone is entitled to a fair trial.