Three years since the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on Six Catholic Dioceses, SNAP Board President pens his thoughts.
We are approaching the three-year anniversary of the Pennsylvania Attorney General Grand Jury report, a scathing document that demonstrated systemic issues with childhood sexual abuse and a decades-long campaign to cover up child sex crimes in every Roman Catholic Diocese within the Commonwealth. Let us take a moment to examine the best of what has come from the release of this report and then focus on where we have fallen short of protecting future generations of Pennsylvania children from sexual assault.
Since the report’s release, more than 25 Attorneys General across the United States have opened their own investigations into clergy sexual abuse within their own states. It is also important to note that since the report’s release, the Office of Attorney General in Pennsylvania has received 2,020 calls to the hotline, and that hotline is still operating. There were 301 accused priests originally listed in the grand jury report. Since then, many of the dioceses within Pennsylvania have released or updated their list of "credibly accused," bringing the number to 389. A total of 585 named perpetrators are now listed statewide. Clearly, state investigations into clergy abuse can bring needed information forward that can help protect children today.
In addition to these investigations, many state legislatures have enacted laws either extending or eliminating the statutes of limitations on sex crimes committed against children. In the US, the average age that a victim will report their abuse to anyone is 52 years of age, so these reforms are bringing laws more into line with the science and realities of trauma. For far too long survivors of childhood sexual abuse have been denied the opportunity to hold their abusers accountable in our court systems. We applaud these reforms and encourage every state legislature to take steps to eliminate their own statutes on child sexual abuse moving forward.
The Pennsylvania Grand Jury recommendation for a retroactive “lookback window” has yet to be adopted. This legislation would give survivors an opportunity to hold their abusers accountable in a court of law. What has happened instead is a tremendous battle in the state legislature. Why? Why would any state legislator swear an oath to protect and serve their constituents, but time and time again leave children vulnerable to "hidden predators" who mean them harm? That is a question that must be asked by every concerned citizen in Pennsylvania. Many other states have already enacted “lookback window” legislation purely based on the Pennsylvania Grand Jury recommendations, why not Pennsylvania?
We call for Pennsylvania Legislators to heed the recommendation of the grand jury and immediately bring HB 951 to the Senate floor for a full vote. We urge the full Senate to put partisan lobbying efforts aside and pass this crucial law that will protect future generations of children. - Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner ([email protected], 517-974-9009), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, ([email protected], 814-341-8386)
(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)