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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release

For immediate release: Thursday, March 4, 2010

For more information: David Clohessy 314 566 9790, Barbara Blaine 312 399 4747

Support group slams “pro-pedophile” measure

Those who hire and shield molesters would escape justice

Victims maintain proposal would make SD “most predator-friendly” state

Bill gives institutions "an incentive to be risky, deceitful, callous," SNAP says

A national support group for abuse victims is blasting a proposed South Dakota measure that limits the legal responsibility of institutions that hire or hide child sex crimes.

“This is a gift to child molesters, a threat to vulnerable kids, and a ‘free pass’ for reckless, deceitful, and callous employers who hire or shield sex offenders,” said Barbara Blaine, president and founder of a Chicago-based self help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (

The proposal, which passed the state senate on Tuesday, is headed back to the House, which earlier had enacted a similar bill.

It prevents anyone who was molested as a child from taking civil legal action against a church or school that hired his or her perpetrator, no matter what the circumstances of the crimes. It also puts what SNAP calls “arbitrary, archaic and predator-friendly” time limits on civil lawsuits involving child sex crimes.

“No laws can deter compulsive sexual predators,” said David Clohessy, SNAP's national director. “But good laws can deter reckless colleagues and supervisors and bad laws can enable and reward reckless colleagues and supervisors. This is a very bad law.”

One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Cooper Garnos, R-Presho, say the proposal is important because some attorneys are seeking clients who were molested at schools and churches.

“Because a couple of politicians don’t like a couple of lawyers, that’s no reason to help dozens of serial child molesters and hurt dozens of deeply wounded child sex abuse victims,” said Clohessy. “Men and women who were assaulted as kids are often still suffering the life-long, traumatic effects of horrific childhood betrayal. They need and deserve compassion, not contempt, from lawmakers.”

According to dozens of pending civil lawsuits, child sex abuse took place at schools run on native lands by Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls; Blue Cloud Abbey of northeastern South Dakota; Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, based in Pennsylvania; and Oblate Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament of Marty and Catholic Diocese of Rapid City; the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus; the Franciscan Sisters of Penance and Christian Charity of Stella Niagra, N.Y.; and School Sisters of St. Francis.

SNAP suspects that lobbyists for Catholic officials are behind the measure.

“Almost every other state is working harder to protect kids, not molesters,” said Jeffrey R. Dion, Acting Executive Director of the Washington DC-based National Center for Victims of Crime (202-467-8717). “This ill-conceived proposal moves South Dakota in the opposite direction by safeguarding the predators, not the prey.”

Dion’s group is sending a letter to every South Dakota legislator expressing opposition to the measure.

Criminal authorities lack the resources to go after every child molester, Blaine said, and the civil justice system is the “next best option” for crime victims who “feel duty-bound to warn the innocent and vulnerable about predators.” But this measure makes that harder, she maintains.

SNAP leaders also took issue with the claim that lawsuits could still be brought against child molesters themselves.

“That’s just deception, plain and simple,” said Clohessy. “It’s like saying you can take legal action against a low level grocery clerk who knowingly sells you poisoned food but must ignore the truly callous corporation which deliberately made and distributed the dangerous food.”

Few victims could afford a lawsuit against an individual child predator, he contends.

“And many victims take legal action because they feel a moral obligation to stop decision-makers from hiring and moving and covering for criminals,” Clohessy said. “It’s very healing for a victim to know that she has put a predator behind bars and exposed those who ignored or concealed the predator’s crimes.”

But this measure, he asserts, denies victims that civil remedy, leaving just one legal avenue – criminal prosecution – over which victims often lack control, having to defer to police and prosecutors.

(For legal perspective, please contact Marci Hamilton, 215 353 8984, [email protected], professor at Cardozo University and author of “Justice Denied.”)

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests