Sexual Abuse Victims Backed

By Martha Quillin
News & Observer [Raleigh NC]
March 16, 2007

A victims advocacy group says people shouldn't immediately rally around teachers and others accused of molesting children because it will discourage other victims of sexual abuse from coming forward.

The Raleigh chapter of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, held a news conference Thursday to discuss public response to the recent arrest of a teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School. Justin David Scranton, 33, was arrested Feb. 28 on charges that he took indecent liberties with a female student.

Scranton, a high school teacher, has gotten public support.

About a dozen people, including family members, students and parents of students, attended Scranton's first court appearance March 1 in his support. Some said they did not believe the charges.

A search warrant in the case said Scranton told police he had acted inappropriately with the student, though it did not report how. Scranton has been suspended pending an investigation and is not allowed on campus.

"SNAP wants officials to aggressively seek out other witnesses and victims" in the Scranton case, said Marigrace Labella, director of the group. But those people will be discouraged, she said, if they fear being discredited.

Labella and other SNAP members also complained that the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh has not worked to create an atmosphere in which victims and witnesses feel comfortable speaking out. Cardinal Gibbons is a Catholic school.

Diocese spokesman Frank Morock said the diocese has done everything it can. He added that Bishop Michael F. Burbidge will meet with SNAP to discuss how the church deals with sexual abuse.

SNAP offered a list of 21 steps for church members to take in the case of abuse allegations, including making only private gestures of support for the accused and not allowing others to make disparaging remarks about the accuser. If parishioners are aware of abuse, they should contact police, the group said.


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