Johnstown Man Confronts Past of Sexual Abuse by Priest
By Marty Radovanic
November 18, 2016
[Part 2: Dougherty plans to keep fighting for victims of child sex abuse]
The sexual abuse scandal within the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has been making headlines again after the release of a grand jury's findings on the case.
However, not many victims have come forward in an effort to move past that part of their lives.
But one man who said he was abused by his parish’s priest said he can’t keep quiet any longer.
Shaun Dougherty was born and raised in Johnstown with eight siblings.
Dougherty’s family belonged to the St. Clement parish in Upper Yodder Township, and St. Clement Church was a large part of the Doughertys' lives.
It was also where Dougherty met George Koharchik, a man described by investigators in the grand jury report as a monster.
Dougherty said Koharchik sexually abused him when he was in the fifth grade.
The grand jury report said Koharchik admitted in open testimony to the deputy attorney general to molesting boys.
Dougherty said it began when Koharchik pulled him onto his lap and let him steer his car.
“I'm driving down Goucher Street with my hands on the wheel, on our way to wherever we were going. What started on my knee worked its way up to a thigh, and then he ended up grabbing my genitals. And that was the first time, and then every single time I drove the car, which was countless,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty said he continued to get into the car with Koharchik because he felt like he didn’t have a choice.
“It was the priest. He was my teacher. He was my basketball coach," he said. "We were going to basketball practice. I mean, when they snapped their fingers, you genuflected. A bell rang, you had to be in a certain place. They snapped their fingers, you had to be in a line. I mean, he was the priest.”
He said that in the beginning he wasn’t even sure what had happened, or why it happened to him specifically.
Dougherty admitted that he wasn’t sure if anyone would believe him if he tried to talk about it.
As a child, Dougherty struggled with the secret of his abuse, and his grades also started to suffer.
“On report card day I would have to go and hear about it, being compared to every one of my older brothers and sisters," he said. "I was asked if I’m an underachiever, asked if I’ve been lazy."
No one would have blamed Dougherty if he had become a recluse because of what happened to him when he was a child.
However, Dougherty refused to let his past define him.
He joined the United States Navy, opened a restaurant in Johnstown and married his childhood friend.
Dougherty took his success a step further by moving to New York City.
Dougherty and one of his brothers bought an old empty building in Queens in 2012.
Together they built a successful business, the Crescent Street Grille.
Even though Dougherty’s life had moved on, and he was hundreds of miles away from Johnstown, he said he could not escape what happened to him as a child.
“I didn’t run to New York," he said. "I was building a restaurant in New York when Father Koharchik's picture was on the front page of the paper. When Bishop (Mark) Bartchak announced he was a pedophile and was being removed, I was in New York building my restaurant.”
When former State Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced the findings of the grand jury, there was shock throughout the diocese, except in the households of the abused.
Daughtery was one of 12 children whom the grand jury found were molested by a man whom jurors called a monster.
“Before that I was tickled, I was hugged. I was brought in close," Dougherty said. "You know, it was just a matter of getting used to being touched by Father Koharchik. He'd see you coming through the halls in a class. He'd pull you out of line (and) start tickling you. The tickling got further and further up the back of my thigh, until it started to go toward my rear end. To this day, I can’t be touched on my rear end and not think about Father Koharchik."
Dougherty said his mother apologized to him when she learned what had happened.
The next turning point in Dougherty’s life came when the grand jury released its report.