Award-winning Journalist Stephen Jimenez, Child Sex-abuse Survivor, Blasts Lawmakers Protecting Predators by Dismissing Child Victims Act
By Michael O’keeffe
New York Daily News
May 17, 2016
|Stephen Jimenez breaks into tears as he recalls the scars of his sexual assault as he returns to Windsor Terrace after almost 25 years. (JEFFERSON SIEGEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Stephen Jimenez returned to Windsor Terrace for the first time in 25 years Tuesday and was bombarded by warm memories — and raw, gut-wrenching emotional wounds.
Jimenez grew up in a three-story home in this leafy Brooklyn neighborhood surrounded by a loving extended family.
This was also where a Holy Name of Jesus Elementary School teacher named Brother Romanus repeatedly sexually abused Jimenez for nearly four years in the 1960s. Jimenez said Brother Romanus, a member of the Xaverian order who died in 1992, assaulted him dozens of times between the ages of 10 and 13 in a classroom closet, bathhouse locker rooms and swimming pool changing rooms, even under the boardwalk at Coney Island.
“I love this place,” Jimenez, 62, said as he sat on a park bench and wiped tears from his face. “But it is really difficult to come back. I feel like a piece of my life has been stolen from me.”
The panic and anxiety that haunted the award-winning journalist 50 years ago as a petrified child bubbled up again as he took the F train to his old neighborhood Tuesday for the first time in decades, fear turning into terror as the subway got closer to the 15th St./Prospect Park station.
Jimenez regained his composure and hiked a few blocks to his old school, now called St. Joseph the Worker Academy. He toured the school with staff members who expressed sympathy for his suffering.
“You can’t have healing and reconciliation without coming to terms with the past,” Jimenez said after visiting the school.
|Jimenez sits in the room that was his 8th grade classroom of St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Academy in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. (JEFFERSON SIEGEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Jimenez returned to New York from Albany late Monday after spending the day lobbying state lawmakers to eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex abuse, which bars survivors from pursuing civil litigation and criminal charges after their 23rd birthday.
He is furious that some lawmakers dismiss the Child Victims Act, which would eliminate the statute of limitations, as anti-Catholic legislation.
Jimenez said the lawmakers seem more intent on protecting predators than children.
|Jimenez experienced panic and anxiety as he went back to the neighborhood where he used to live. (JEFFERSON SIEGEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
“I want to know why. Why is this where they stand? What is it about helping people who were victimized in heinous circumstances? I want them to understand this in not anti-Catholic — sexual abuse happens in families, in other schools, at Penn State, at Poly Prep. We are not targeting the Catholic Church,” he said.
Jimenez says he struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts for years after the abuse ended. He says he was “saved” by two priests — Tom King and Bill Watters — he met as a student at Georgetown University in the ‘70s.
Jimenez said he didn’t feel strong enough to report the abuse to Church officials until the early 2000s, long after the statute of limitations had expired. The Xaverian Brothers, he said, did not question his allegations and ultimately offered him $75,000.
|From age 10 to 13, Jimenez was abused by a staff member at St. Joseph the Worker Academy, then known as Holy Name of Jesus. (JEFFERSON SIEGEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Jimenez said the money does not even cover a fraction of the money he has spent on therapy, but he accepted the offer because the statute of limitations barred him from pursuing a lawsuit and the Xaverian Brothers told him they would rescind the offer if he did not take it.
Brother Lawrence Harvey, a spokesman for the Xaverians, said the order gave Jimenez “a month, if not two months” to consider the terms of the settlement.
“We found Steve to be credible and we believed his claim,” Harvey said.
Jimenez said the Brooklyn Diocese, which operated Holy Name, has refused to take any responsibility for the sexual abuse he suffered as a child.
“Anytime a child is hurt within a Catholic institution our entire community is devastated and we all share responsibility,” said Carolyn Erstad, a spokeswoman for the diocese.