Guernsey County Priest Formally Accused of Sex Abuse

By Renee Cardelli & Chandi Lowry
January 7, 2008

A woman who claims she was sexually abused by a priest said she came forward because keeping silent will only hurt others.

The alleged victim field a complaint Monday with the Guernsey County Sheriff's Department against Rev. Gary Zalenski, a Catholic priest who formerly served in Neffs.

The woman, who is now 28 years old, said Zalenski abused her over a span of years starting when she was 10 years old.

"I did this to help protect other children so it doesn't happen to other victims, because healing is a lifelong journey and process that doesn't happen overnight and it takes a long time," the alleged victim said.

Monday, representatives from Survivors' Network of Those Abused By Priests, also called SNAP, rallied outside of the Guernsey County Sheriff's Department holding signs in protest of sexual abuse and standing up for survivors who have endured pain.

"A victim of a priest is very much alone because a lot of times their family, even if they go to their family, will not accept it," said Judy Jones, SNAP leader. "This helps them to know that they are not alone."

The alleged victim is also a member of SNAP.

Some parishioners have questioned the alleged victim's past. In response, she said, "It has nothing to do with family history or pasts. It's something separate that has happened in my life."

Zalenski, who had always denied the allegations, was removed from Sacred Heart Church in Neffs in November as a result of the allegations.

He referred media questions to his attorney, who did not immediately return a phone call.

As of Monday afternoon, police were reviewing the complaint. Once a report is finalized, the prosecutor said charges could be filed. Stay with NEWS9 and for continuing coverage.


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