The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Child Sex Victims Appeals to Parents
Statement by Mark McAllister, Southwest Virginia SNAP Director,(540-520-8674, [email protected])
We are here today representing SNAP, the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests, an international group of survivors of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. Our goals are to support the healing of victims, educate the public, and most importantly, to protect our children now and in the future.
In keeping with those goals, we are asking that residents of the Roanoke Valley contact their state representatives and request their support of a bill that will extend the rights of abuse victims in civil courts. Current Virginia law only allows a victim two years from the time they turn 18 to bring civil charges against their perpetrator. We in SNAP believe there should be no statute of limitations.
A Catholic priest, Father Gerald Howard, sexually abused me from the time I was 13 until I was 18. In so doing, he robbed me of my youth, my innocence, my dignity, and my self-worth. Appallingly, this man was convicted of sexually abusing another child less than a year before he abused me. Yet, church officials quietly moved him and let him molest more children. Predators like Father Howard and their enablers thrive on secrecy, silence, and shame to control their victims. Unfortunately, these influences persist long after the actual abuse ends, often for a lifetime. It was nearly 20 years before I spoke of my abuse for the first time. It was only then that I could begin to heal.
My story is not unusual. Victims of childhood sex crimes rarely speak of their abuse until middle age or later. The secrecy and shame that perpetrators create in their victims takes decades to overcome and even then, the scars of the abuse are carried for a lifetime. I was fortunate in that I was able to bring both criminal action against Father Howard and civil action against his enablers. Validation through the legal system has helped me to shed personal responsibility for his actions and has sped my healing immensely.
Victims of similar crimes in Virginia, under the current law, would not be so fortunate due to the existing two-year statute of limitations. Had I been turned away by the courts, I doubt I would be able to stand before you today. As a victim, as one who supports the healing of other victims, and most importantly, as the father of a childmyself, I support the proposed legislation that will extend this period to 20 years.
We wish to extend our thanks to our local legislators, Senator Edwards who spoke out in support of the bill when it was on the Senate floorand Representatives Cleaveland and Merrick, who voted yes for Senate Bill 1145 late last night. We ask that the residents of the Roanoke Valley do the same and speak up to all our legislators in support of our children who are yet unable to speak for themselves.
As a SNAP leader, I offer our support to anyone who has been wounded by clergy sex crimes. Towards this end, I am committed to providing a confidential monthly support group available to anyone in western Virginia seeking comfort and healing. Those interested may contact me in complete confidence at the number listedon the SNAP website.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support groupfor clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 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 Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests