Every survivor of childhood sexual abuse deserves their chance to heal. This is true whether or not you want to confront your abuser, seek justice in the courts, or share your story with the public. None of that is required to begin the healing process. You won’t be reading about the clergy, scouts leaders, coaches, teachers, counselors, baby sitters, or family members in this piece. … Continue reading Hope For Healing
By Brian ToaleAugust 22, 2019 In 1970, a predator working at my high school sensed a vulnerability in me and began “grooming” me. He showed me more attention than I was used to, which made me feel special. When he first touched me inappropriately, I froze. He said I let him do it and used the fear and shame I felt to silence me and … Continue reading Why I Am Suing My School.
Horror, shock, sorrow and also determination are reasonable and appropriate reactions to the fire that nearly destroyed the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The damage was extensive and will be costly to repair. Many precious, rare and historically significant items may have been lost that can never be replaced. So, promises to rebuild this landmark along with generous pledges to fund the restoration effort came swiftly … Continue reading Thoughts on Notre Dame vs. Clergy Sex Abuse
The world’s highest-ranking bishops met in Rome over the past few days to discuss the sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church. There were many moments when it seemed at least some of the Church’s leaders understood that the real issue has been the Church’s lack of transparency. For survivors, it no longer matters what the Bishops, Cardinals or even the Pope say but only what … Continue reading Sick As Their Secrets
November 6th, Election Day 2018, is nearly upon us. Many politicians, pundits, and ordinary people are saying this could be the most crucial election in our lifetimes. It’s impossible to gauge if that will turn out to be the case, but there is a lot on the line this year, for everyone.
One issue that gets far less political attention than one would expect, considering the recent surge in media coverage, is the reform of statutes of limitations (“SOL”) for sex crimes against minors. There has been an intentional avoidance of this issue that politicians and voters have been unwilling to confront for too long. Empirical evidence tells us why current laws are outdated and work against public safety — actually endangering children today and into the future. It is an issue that can and should be addressed at the polling place this November.
In a civilized society, agreeing on the steps needed to protect children from sexual predators should not be difficult. In the US, it is conservatively estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys will be victims of child sexual abuse before they reach age 18. If these were the numbers for some disease or infection, we would be screaming “epidemic.”
The goal of SOL reform legislation, like the Child Victims Act (“CVA”) in New York and Senate Bill 261 in Pennsylvania (more on these below) is to address the absurdly short period of time that victims of child sex abuse are given to hold their abusers accountable. Practiced grooming and intimidation are the only tools needed to keep child victims silent long enough for their perpetrators to feel safe from prosecution and remain a threat to children for as long as they wish. Many predators have hundreds of victims in their lifetimes. It is the reason this problem has grown to such proportions.
Once the #MeToo movement took hold, we’ve been bombarded with reports of influential people abusing their power. Allegations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood, the media, and on Capitol Hill have provided us with many sensational headlines. But, it’s the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal that has given us an unprecedented look into institutional conspiracy and cover-ups that are decades, if not centuries, in the making. Here and around the globe, story after story of the sexual abuse of minors reveals complicity at the highest levels of the Catholic hierarchy. Today, they are still hiding sexual predators and their crimes against children in an attempt to protect the Church’s reputation.
In Chile, every bishop offered Pope Francis his resignation. In the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., both the current and former Cardinal Archbishops has resigned. In Pennsylvania, a Grand Jury investigating sexual abuse released a devastating report that describes how, over a seventy-year period, more than three hundred “predator priests” sexually abused at least one thousand children and then goes further to state that there were “likely thousands more.”
If you consider for a moment that Catholic priests account for no more than about six percent of all child sexual abuse in this country and then you do the math, the magnitude of the child sexual abuse problem worldwide can crush your spirit.
Since the groundbreaking 2002 Spotlight exposé of clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, many US states (as well as other nations) have reformed or altogether eliminated, their SOL laws as they apply to child sex abuse. Many are still working toward that end. However, two states, in particular, stand out for their intransigence.
These two states, New York and Pennsylvania, have much more in common than just the border they share. Both have large Catholic populations with politically active and influential bishops, lobbying hard for policies and laws they either want to see passed or need to have blocked. Thwarting SOL reform is at the top of their list, and despite being responsible for only a “small” portion of the totality of sexual abuse of minors, they can and do use the vast resources of the Catholic Church to prevent all survivors of this trauma whose SOL has expired, from having access to the courts. Unfortunately, in New York and Pennsylvania, politicians are willing to do their bidding. More on that, below.
Typically, sexual abuse survivors can’t begin the healing process until they are emotionally ready since it requires confronting their traumatic past. In New York and Pennsylvania, any legal recourse they might have had is long gone by this time because the SOL has run out.
In New York, if you were sexually abused as a minor, you are barred from bringing any criminal or civil charges against your alleged abuser once you turn twenty-three. Once you turn twenty-one, you may no longer bring a civil case against an organization that was negligent in reporting or engaged in a cover-up of abuse.
In Pennsylvania, if you were a minor at the time of the sexual abuse, you have until age thirty to bring a civil claim against your abuser or a culpable organization. A prosecutor can file criminal charges until a victim’s fiftieth birthday (or within a year of new DNA evidence). Sexual predators avoid discovery and escape accountability because victims do not usually disclose the abuse for decades after they’ve been violated. Studies show that the average age to disclose is 52, with the median age 48.
Sexual predators, and the organizations that protect them know this and run out the SOL clock with impunity.
The Pennsylvania Grand Jury mentioned above was able to subpoena the “Secret Archives” kept by the Church to learn that there was a virtual “playbook for concealing the truth” being used by the bishops. “The cover-up made it impossible to achieve justice for the victims,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The most effective strategy employed over and over by the bishops to keep predatory clergy concealed was to “transfer him to a new location where no one will know he is a child abuser.” Bluntly stated, it shows that the bishops were giving known sexually perpetrating clergy new hunting grounds of vulnerable children and unsuspecting families, to protect the Church.
The ubiquitous use of this tactic, along with the rest of their playbook, was well documented in the Church’s own records. In Pennsylvania, it took a Grand Jury subpoena to see those archives. However, if adults who were sexually abused as children were able to bring a civil suit against their abuser or the institution that harbored him, countless predators would be unmasked and their current and future victims protected. This is not just true for survivors of clergy abuse, but for all sexual abuse victims whose SOL has run out. This is why the Church fights tooth and nail to prevent any adults molested as children from having the ability to sue their abuser.
A key provision being fought over in both the New York and Pennsylvania bills is known as the look-back window. It gives child abuse victims a limited time to revive time-barred cases where the SOL has already lapsed. It has been called “toxic for us” by New York’s Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan. The lookback window is the part of SOL reform that is most feared by the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and their insurance companies because it can potentially open a window into past cover-ups. It remains the focus of much of the fight nationwide.
Here are the most often cited “anti-window” talking points, easily debunked with known facts:
Old cases are unfair to the accused and too hard to defend (memories, evidence, and witnesses disappear with time)
- It is the same memories, evidence, and witnesses that are available for the accuser as for the accused, but the burden of proof is only on the accuser.
- Often Church records (Secret Archives) contain detailed documentation, contemporaneous to the crimes themselves.
The number of resulting lawsuits will overwhelm the court system.
- In the eight states with one-year window provisions, a total of fewer than 3,000 people filed lawsuits
- New York State Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks told lawmakers at a budget hearing that the Child Victims Act would not be a burden on the court system: “I’m sure we would be able to accommodate any additional cases that came from that law.”
The increased number of payouts will cause devastating cuts in services, ultimately leading to parishes and dioceses having to file for bankruptcy.
- 65% of the money used for Catholic charities comes (in various forms) from the government
- Once again, in states that have enacted similar legislation, there have been few instances of this occurring.
- Religious organizations have insurance covering negligence (specifically “sexual misconduct” liability).
- The Church uses “self-serving financial maneuvers” and files for bankruptcy as a legal tool to shield church assets from settlements.
- A large portion of the Church’s wealth is in real estate, so they move their properties into separate corporations, putting them legally beyond the reach of plaintiffs.
The Catholic Church has been calling its own shots for most of its two thousand year existence. A law unto itself, the Church ruled Europe for centuries, waged its own wars and picked its own kings. At times, they were the law of the land and, at other times, had to settle for manipulating it. Today, they get what they want by lobbying politicians with campaign money or threatening to call them out by name from the pulpit for turning against the church, if they support the reforms. For the most part, at least in New York and Pennsylvania, they still get their way.
We are at a pivotal moment in our society and our culture. One with the potential for a leap forward and escape from the gravitational prison of the long-entrenched ruling class. This old guard fights tooth and nail against this moment because they fear the change it will bring will be their demise. It need not be. But their tactic of clinging to the status … Continue reading The Furthest Thing From “He Said, She Said”!
Arlington, Virginia — 1973
A part of my story I have not yet told, and which you may be about to read, was much harder to write about than what I have always considered to be the “real” sexual abuse chapter of my life. This was only a single encounter, and I remember very, very little of the details. Although I can reconstruct the events that led up to it, the few memories and vague impressions that remain can only help me surmise what happened. However, knowing what I now know about predators, I have a pretty good idea.
Please allow me to fill in the background first?