|Hidden Victims of Sex Abuse Face Deadline
By Dimitra Lavrakas
August 27, 2009
Workers in Alaska’s jails, therapists and care providers are being urged by a support group for clergy sex abuse victims to spread the word about an upcoming deadline that may allow hundreds of sex-abuse survivors to receive compensation for crimes committed against them by child-molesting clerics, according to a news release from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
SNAP, the nation’s largest support group for men and women sexually abused in religious organizations, is alerting statewide therapeutic, health care and corrections officials about the upcoming deadline for men and women who have been sexually abused by Jesuit priests, brothers and volunteers. Many of these victims may be eligible for monetary compensation to help aid in their healing.
Victims have until Nov. 30 to file a claim. Anyone also hurt by Jesuit staff or volunteers in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon is eligible.
“I would encourage all people to talk to someone and know their rights,” said Elsie Boudreau, SNAP Native American Outreach director in Anchorage and survivor of sexual abuse by a Jesuit priest. “Talk to someone and find support because you are not alone — it’s been a secret for too long.”
The compensation program is a part of the February 2009 bankruptcy of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. The Jesuit order allegedly sent predator clerics to Alaska, where they sexually abused hundreds of children across the state, mostly in rural, isolated Alaska Native villages. Victims who live in villages might have been unlikely to report abuse or have little access to services, counseling and care.
“I’m Yupik Eskimo, and I’m a survivor,” Boudreau said by phone.
The Jesuit order filed suit for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in response to a lawsuit in which 63 Native Alaska victims alleged they were sexually abused by Jesuits and that leaders covered up the abuse.
According to bankruptcy documents, the Society of Jesus has $4.8 million in assets and $61.7 in liabilities. The province paid $50 million in settlements in November 2007 in response to a previous sexual abuse lawsuit.
Many of the most damaged victims never set foot in a church after their abuse, a leading advocate said.
“When children are sexually abused and get little to no counseling, many begin to self-destruct,” Boudreau said. “Alcohol and drug abuse, anger, suicidal thoughts, violence and mental illness are just a few of the results that we have seen.”
Few of these victims, Boudreau believes, are going to read about their rights in the newspaper or on the bulletin board of a local parish.
While the money might help to deal with the effects of the abuse, it will not give back the time stolen.
“Money doesn’t give you back your childhood, but coming forward and saying ‘this happened to me, I will find my voice and move on,’ ” Boudreau said. “I got rid of the shame and guilt. I don’t need it anymore.”
To begin the process of filing a claim, contact: Elsie Boudreau, SNAP Native American outreach coordinator, 907-529-2843, email@example.com.
Dimitra Lavrakas can be reached at 907-348-2419 or 800-770-9830, ext. 419.
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