20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms

As leaders decline to act, the numbers grow. In the past 20 years, about 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. They were pastors. Deacons. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school and Christian school teachers. Church program volunteers. They left behind more than 700 victims.

First of three parts

Thirty-five years later, Debbie Vasquez’s voice trembled as she described her trauma to a group of Southern Baptist leaders.

She was 14, she said, when she was first molested by her pastor in Sanger, a tiny prairie town an hour north of Dallas. It was the first of many assaults that Vasquez said destroyed her teenage years and, at 18, left her pregnant by the Southern Baptist pastor, a married man more than a dozen years older.

Read more from link below. . .

Source: Houston Chronicle. 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms

Southern Baptist Convention grapples with sexual abuse report

The president of the Souther Baptist Convention, JD Greear, speaks to the denomination’s executive committee in Nashville, Tennessee on 18 February.

After two newspapers rocked the evangelical Vatican, members who work with victims say much remains to be changed

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), one of the largest Christian organizations in the world, is grappling with allegations that more than 250 of its leaders sexually abused more than 700 congregants over the last two decades.

. . .

“It’s similar to the Boston Globe story in that people have been desperately shouting about this for years and it’s only just now receiving the attention has deserved,” said Boz Tchividjian, founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (Grace), an investigative and educational organization.

“The 700 victims revealed in this investigation are only the tip of the iceberg, since very few survivors of abuse ever come forward.”

Tchividjian is also the grandson of Billy Graham, the world’s most famous evangelical preacher. For him and many others, part of what contributes to the sexual abuse problem within some SBC communities is to be found within “purity culture”, a set of principles that portray women as virginal objects for men to court, educate and marry.

Read more at link below . . .

Source: The Guardian (UK) Southern Baptist Convention grapples with sexual abuse report

Attorney General Nessel to Catholic Church: Stop self-policing

Nessel asked the Diocese of Lansing and its counterparts to pause internal reviews as her office investigates clergy abuse. That may take up to two years

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has asked the Diocese of Lansing and its six counterparts across the state to stop self-policing.

And she told Michigan residents not to rely on the church to handle any allegations of sexual misconduct.

“If an investigator comes to your door and asks to speak with you, please ask to see their badge and not their rosary,” Nessel said during a Thursday morning press conference. “Victims may believe that they cannot or should not report abuse to us because the church is going to handle it. That’s simply not true.”

Anyone can report abuse to the attorney general’s office online or by calling an investigation hotline at 844-324-3374. Reports can be made anonymously.

More than 300 tips received

The office has received more than 300 tips of clergy abuse through that hotline, Nessel said.

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Source: Lansing State Journal. Attorney General Nessel to Catholic Church: Stop self-policing

Ex-Jehovah’s Witness faces new child sexual abuse charges in Mont-Laurier, Que. | CBC News

A former Jehovah’s Witness from Mont-Laurier, Que., is facing new charges of sexually assaulting two girls in his congregation in the 1980s — 23 years after he was acquitted of the sexual assault and indecent assault of one of the alleged victims in the case.

Michel Courtemanche, 63, was acquitted of assaulting 1 of alleged victims in 1996.

A former Jehovah’s Witness from Mont-Laurier, Que., is facing new charges of sexually assaulting two girls in his congregation in the 1980s — 23 years after he was acquitted of the sexual assault and indecent assault of one of the alleged victims in the case.

Michel Courtemanche, 63, is charged with three counts of sexual assault, one count of sexual interference of a minor and one count of indecent assault. He is to appear in court in Mont-Laurier, 240 kilometres northwest of Montreal, on March 18 to enter a plea on those five charges.

It will be the second time Courtemanche will face judicial proceedings in connection with a complaint by the main alleged victim, Pénélope Herbert.

In 2017, Herbert told Radio-Canada’s investigative program Enquête she was just 11 years old when she began babysitting Courtemanche’s children while he was leading a Bible study group.

. . .

“Those nights, he would come to my room. I am talking about rape, night after night.”

Read more by clicking the link below . . . 

Source: CBC. Ex-Jehovah’s Witness faces new child sexual abuse charges in Mont-Laurier, Que. | CBC News

NY Child Victims Act: What new law means for sex abusers, victims

Legislators said the Child Victims Act will pass as the Catholic Church eases its long-held opposition to the bill.

Source: (Syracuse.com) NY Child Victims Act: What new law means for sex abusers, victims

DC attorney general proposes bill to make clergy mandatory reporters

The bill would extend to a range of positions and professions across church, state, and private insitutions, but provides explicit exemptions for the confessional, and priests would not be required to report abuse they learned about in that context.

Excerpts from story as reported in CNA (Catholic News Agency):

.- A law has been proposed in the District of Columbia which will broaden the classification of those required to report instances of child abuse or neglect. The bill would apply to clergy but make exceptions for the sacrament of confession.

“Teachers, health professionals, and clergy have a special responsibility to protect children, but far too often abuse goes unreported or is covered up,” said Attorney General Karl Racine in a statement to the media.

“To help stop child abuse in the District, this bill requires more adults to report it and trains them on how to spot it.”

Currently, everyone over the age of 18 in the District of Columbia is required to report suspected or known abuse of a child under the age of 16 to police. Mandatory reporters, however, are subject to enhanced requirements, and can receive thousands of dollars of fines and up to six months in prison for failing to report cases of abuse.

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Source: DC attorney general proposes bill to make clergy mandatory reporters

New attorneys general to continue investigating clergy abuse

Newly inaugurated state attorneys general are promising to continue investigations of clergy abuse in the Roman Catholic church as thousands of victims are reaching out to state hotlines and online reporting systems

At least 14 attorneys general around the country have confirmed investigations or reviews of clergy abuse in the wake of a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report in August detailing seven decades of child sexual abuse by more than 300 predator priests. Six of those offices — New York, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Florida and Delaware — are helmed by newly elected attorneys general, including three of the states reporting the largest numbers of victims contacting them.

Almost 3,000 calls, emails and online reports of clergy abuse have been made in the last five months. Nearly half of those calls were made to the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office after its investigation was released.

That number doesn’t account for reports made to seven states that declined to disclose numbers from their reporting systems to The Associated Press, including states with large Catholic populations like New Jersey and California with a dozen dioceses. The number could be much higher with those included. Several states are seeing lower responses; Delaware reported only five victim contacts as of the beginning of the year.

Read more . . .

Source: Philly.com [Philadelphia Enquirer] New attorneys general to continue investigating clergy abuse

Cardinal Timothy Dolan Proves Once Again the Church Will Never Reform Itself without the Law and Civil Society Behind It

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the Child Victims Act, for which we have been fighting for 15 years, will pass this year with his full support. With both houses controlled by Democrats, the leadership of Sen. Brad Hoylman, now Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, he is surely correct. The barrier to passage until now has been Republican lawmakers kneeling to the Catholic bishops and in particular New York City Archdiocese’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan. The latter is not going down, though he is decidedly going down on this issue, without a final whining tour about justice for child sex abuse victims.

Dolan’s latest volley was an op-ed in the New York Daily News that is filled with misstatements and ugly implications.  He tries two “Hail Mary” passes. First, he says that the governor’s bill will not treat public schools the same as private institutions. This is simply not true, but even if it were, there is no question the intent is to put private and public entities on the same footing and any additional language Dolan wants to further nail home this point can be easily added. The Democratic leadership in New York is 100% on board in wanting to protect children from sex abuse in every arena. Therefore, at least from Dolan’s rhetoric, he should be on board with the CVA. Not so fast.

Read more . . . 

Source: Verdict.Justia.com Cardinal Timothy Dolan Proves Once Again the Church Will Never Reform Itself without the Law and Civil Society Behind It

Gov. Cuomo: Child Victims Act to be included in executive budget

ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that the Child Victims Act will be included in the 2019 Executive Budget.

Gov. Cuomo vows to enact the act within the first 100 days of the new legislative session.

The legislation would ensure anyone who abuses children will be held accountable criminally and civilly and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a path to justice.

This legislation:

  • Increases the amount of time during which perpetrators of these crimes may be held criminally accountable;
  • Allows victims of these crimes to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach 50 years of age;
  • Provides victims whose claims have been time-barred a new opportunity for their day in court by opening a one-year window for them to commence their action;
  • Eliminates the need to file a notice of claim for sexual offenses committed against a minor;
  • Requires judicial training with respect to crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors;
  • Authorizes the Office of Court Administration to promulgate rules and regulations for the timely adjudication of revived actions.

The Governor’s office says under current law, child sexual abuse offenses cannot be prosecuted after five years from their occurrence. Civil lawsuits for this conduct must also be brought within three years from the victim’s 18th birthday.

Deb Rosen from Bivona child advocacy has been waiting for this, saying, “there’s been significant pushback from large institutions who worry about an onslaught of lawsuits that could result in bankruptcy or other repercussions.”

One of those institutions has been the Catholic church, which has taken issue with the part of the bill that would allow victims who’ve passed the statute of limitations to have a one year window to reopen their case.

The Catholic Conference released a statement in 2016 on the bill saying: “this extraordinary provision would force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge, and in which they had no role, potentially involving employees long retired, dead or infirm, based on information long lost, if it ever existed.”

Source: Gov. Cuomo: Child Victims Act to be included in executive budget

Childhood abuse increases risk of adult suicide, finds research

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Largest study of its kind shows ‘devastating’ impact of sexual, physical and emotional abuse

People who experienced sexual, physical or emotional abuse as children are two to three times more likely to kill themselves as adults, new research has found.

Experts said the findings confirmed the “devastating effects” of child abuse on mental wellbeing, while one suicide charity said 70% of people who had either tried to take their own life or who had thought about it had been abused.

People who were sexually abused as a child were three times more likely than others to try to kill themselves, according to the new study in Psychological Medicine.

And people who were either physically or emotionally abused or neglected in childhood were two and a half times more likely to try to end their lives.

The findings come from research undertaken by academics at the University of Manchester and South Wales University, who analysed the results of 68 previous studies on the subject from around the world.

Dr Maria Panagioti, from Manchester University who led the research, said about “one adult in every three has experienced abuse as a child. This study conclusively gives us solid evidence that childhood abuse and neglect is associated with increased likelihood that they will be at risk of suicide as adults.”

The authors said the paper was the most comprehensive review of the evidence underlying the issue. The 68 studies were based on the experiences of 216,600 adults in countries including the US, Canada and Italy, while two of the studies were from the UK.

Read more . . . 

Source: The Guardian, U.S. Edition: Childhood abuse increases risk of adult suicide, finds research

California court upholds $4 million sex abuse judgment against Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower organization

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (Legal Newsline) – A California appeals court has affirmed a more than $4 million judgment against the nation’s leading body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in favor of a woman who claims she was molested as a child in by a church elder.

Source: California court upholds $4 million sex abuse judgment against Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower organization