Lit­tle out­reach to mi­nor­ity vic­tims of priest

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Second Front - By GARY FIELDS, JULIET LIN­DER­MAN and WONG MAYE-E

The Sam­ples were a black Chicago fam­ily, with six chil­dren and few re­sources. The priest helped them with tu­ition, clothes, bills. He of­fered the prom­ise of op­por­tu­ni­ties — a bet­ter life.

He also abused all the chil­dren.

They told no one. They were afraid of not be­ing be­lieved and of los­ing what lit­tle they had, said one son, Ter­rence Sam­ple. And no­body asked, un­til a lawyer in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­leged abuses by the same priest prompted him to break his then 33-year si­lence.

“Some­body had to make the ef­fort,” Sam­ple said. “Why wasn’t it the church?”

Even as it has pledged to go af­ter preda­tors in its ranks and pro­vide sup­port to those harmed by clergy, the church has done lit­tle to iden­tify and reach sex­ual abuse vic­tims. For sur­vivors of color, who of­ten face ad­di­tional so­cial and cul­tural bar­ri­ers to com­ing for­ward on their own, the lack of con­certed out­reach on be­half of the church means less pub­lic ex­po­sure — and po­ten­tially, more op­por­tu­ni­ties for abuse to go on, un­de­tected.

Of 88 dio­ce­ses that re­sponded to an As­so­ci­ated Press in­quiry, seven knew the eth­nic­i­ties of vic­tims. While it was clear at least three had records of some sort, only one stated it pur­posely col­lected such data as part of the re­port­ing process. Na­tive Amer­i­cans, African Amer­i­cans, His­pan­ics, Asians, Pa­cific Is­landers and Hawai­ians make up nearly 46% of the faith­ful in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Ap­plied Re­search in the Apos­to­late, an au­thor­i­ta­tive source of Catholic-re­lated data. But the Catholic Church has made al­most no ef­fort to track the vic­tims among them.

“The church has to come into the shad­ows, into the trenches to find the peo­ple who were vic­tim­ized, es­pe­cially the peo­ple of color,” Sam­ple said. “There are other peo­ple like me and my fam­ily, who won’t come for­ward un­less some­one comes to them.”

Brian Clites, a lead­ing scholar on clergy sex­ual abuse and pro­fes­sor at Case West­ern Re­serve

Univer­sity in Cleve­land, said the church has demon­strated a pat­tern of fun­nel­ing preda­tor priests to eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties of color, where vic­tims have much more to lose if they re­port their abuse

“They are less likely to know where to get help, less likely to have money for a lawyer to pur­sue that help and they are more vul­ner­a­ble to coun­ter­at­tacks” from the church, which will hire in­ves­ti­ga­tors against the sur­vivors, said Clites.

Alaska leads the na­tion in rates of sex­ual vi­o­lence, and Florence Ken­ney said the Catholic church has played a role in per­pet­u­at­ing the abuse of na­tives there.

Ken­ney, now 85, said she was abused at the Holy Cross Mis­sion in Holy Cross, Alaska. Ken­ney is in­dige­nous, and she de­scribed the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Catholic Church and Na­tive Alaskan fam­i­lies as both preda­tory and sym­bi­otic: The church pro­vided food, money and re­sources to the vil­lage, Ken­ney said, in ex­change for la­bor and si­lence.

“The church needed those peo­ple, and the peo­ple needed the church,” Ken­ney said. “A fam­ily might sac­ri­fice one or two chil­dren, look the other way, to pre­serve their re­la­tion­ship with the church for the oth­ers.”

There is no ac­cu­rate count of clergy abuse sur­vivors. A spe­cial re­port com­mis­sioned by the Colorado at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice ex­am­in­ing abuse within state dio­ce­ses and re­leased in Oc­to­ber de­ter­mined “vic­tims of child sex abuse and par­tic­u­larly those abused by clergy are less likely to re­port their abuse than other crime vic­tims.”

As for mi­nor­ity sur­vivors, dio­ce­ses rarely col­lect de­mo­graphic data.

The AP con­tacted 178 dio­ce­ses to ask if they col­lect such data. Few who re­sponded knew the race or eth­nic­ity of claimants. Some said de­mo­graph­ics aren’t rel­e­vant, while oth­ers cited pri­vacy con­cerns.

One dio­cese — Alexan­dria, Louisiana — shared a spread­sheet of sur­vivors, in­clud­ing de­mo­graph­ics, and with­out names.

The dio­cese be­gan keep­ing such data in 2015, when Lee Kneipp, the vic­tim as­sis­tance co­or­di­na­tor, took the job. Kneipp said know­ing the race and eth­nic­ity of vic­tims helps in­ves­tiga­tive ef­forts and en­ables a deeper ex­am­i­na­tion of records and the po­ten­tial abil­ity to find oth­ers who have not been ac­knowl­edged.

In look­ing into one African Amer­i­can sur­vivor’s abuse claim, Kneipp was able to lo­cate two more sur­vivors of color from the same par­ish; the priest, he said, abused only boys in low-in­come black com­mu­ni­ties.

Levi Mona­gle, an Al­bu­querque lawyer whose firm has close to 200 clients, in­clud­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans and His­pan­ics, said there can be cul­tural and lo­gis­ti­cal im­ped­i­ments to con­tact­ing sur­vivors who have not come for­ward.

“We don’t go cold-call­ing peo­ple, knock­ing on doors, even if you have a se­rial per­pe­tra­tor and a sur­vivor who says we know there were other al­tar boys who trav­eled with this guy,” he said.

The firm puts out press re­leases but some of the Na­tive Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion and com­mu­ni­ties are in “ex­treme ge­o­graphic iso­la­tion” com­pared with other places and of­ten don’t have ac­cess to me­dia.

Richard King, 70, was sex­u­ally abused on the Assini­boine reser­va­tion in Fort Belk­nap, Mon­tana, where he grew up. He said taboos and shame kept him silent. In­stead he abused al­co­hol and drugs. That, he be­lieves, is how tribal mem­bers dealt with the abuses they face, rather than speak­ing out.

His mother’s tribe was de­voutly Catholic, and he doubted he would be be­lieved.

“If chil­dren tell their par­ents that the cler­ics abused you, I would prob­a­bly have got­ten a whip­ping. I would have got­ten one at church and one at home,” King said. “They’d say, ‘Shut up, that doesn’t hap­pen.’”

He be­gan speak­ing to small groups he coun­seled, shar­ing some of his story. But it was nearly 50 years be­fore he met with an at­tor­ney, An­drew Chasan; he was ready to share what hap­pened to him, and sit down with Mon­tana me­dia.

When the So­ci­ety of Je­sus, Ore­gon Prov­ince, faced scores of suits ac­cus­ing its priests of abuse, it filed for bank­ruptcy. King filed a claim and re­ceived a set­tle­ment, though in a state­ment to the AP the prov­ince said King’s abuser was not a Je­suit priest.

Phillip Aaron, a Seat­tle-based

at­tor­ney who rep­re­sented the Sam­ple fam­ily, said his client base, which in­cludes hun­dreds of African Amer­i­can sur­vivors of clergy abuse, stayed silent be­cause they feared ridicule, or worse.

“It was such a stigma,” Aaron said. “That is still present now. We haven’t touched the top of the bar­rel of black vic­tims. There are so many black vic­tims who have not come for­ward who are suf­fer­ing in si­lence be­cause of the stigma.”

Some sur­vivors, like Sam­ple, kept quiet be­cause they did not want the re­sources their abusers pro­vided to dry up, Aaron said.

Sam­ple, now 58, was a mid­dle school stu­dent at St. Pro­copius Catholic school, when his abuser, a priest there, took an in­ter­est in him. He was groomed, iso­lated and as­saulted for sev­eral years, he said.

“I was think­ing I have to keep this se­cret,” Sam­ple said. “One, we have to eat and two, we have to stay in school, and this would kill my mom if she knew.”

Ja­cob Olivas’ se­crecy em­anated from an­other source. He was raised in Cal­i­for­nia, the son of two Mex­i­can im­mi­grants. His fa­ther, he said, was the em­bod­i­ment of machismo: strong, silent, stoic. Olivas was abused by a priest at age 6, and when his fa­ther found out he in­structed Ja­cob to stay quiet. It was never dis­cussed, he said. He had no ther­apy, no op­por­tu­nity to process what had hap­pened.

“I was sup­posed to keep quiet, to for­get about it,” Olivas said.

“That’s just the way the His­panic com­mu­nity is. They have a rev­er­ence for the church, there’s no ands, there’s no buts, there’s no ques­tions: You re­spect the church, you re­spect the fa­ther,” he said. “I think it was some­thing that made my fa­ther feel more proud: This priest is tak­ing an in­ter­est in my son.”

Such re­luc­tance to come for­ward, whether fu­eled by so­cial or cul­tural bar­ri­ers, shame or fear, means some vic­tims will stay silent un­less they are drawn out.

“How big is the ice­berg that’s un­der the wa­ter still, when you’re talk­ing about sur­vivors?” Mona­gle asked. “Ev­ery cul­ture car­ries the weight of its own taboos.”


Ter­rence Sam­ple poses for a por­trait in Ba­ton Rouge, La., on Dec. 12. Sam­ple, now 58, was a mid­dle school stu­dent at St. Pro­copius Catholic school, when Fa­ther Terence Fitzmauric­e took an in­ter­est in him. He was groomed, iso­lated and as­saulted for sev­eral years.

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