11 in Area Report Priest Sex Assaults
Increasing Number Come Forward during Texas Investigation
Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
October 18, 2002
The number of Lehigh Valley and Berks County men who say they were sexually assaulted by former Allentown Diocese priest Edward R. Graff has reached 11, according to Texas authorities prosecuting him.
Word of Graff's arrest in Briscoe County, Texas, has brought emotional calls from now middle-aged men who say Graff abused them while they were teenagers, Texas Ranger Jay Foster said Thursday.
Some wept as they recalled repeated abuses while they were altar boys or students in Bangor, Coplay or Reading, and others relayed tales of friends and classmates they said were also victims of the 73-year-old priest.
Their names have been added to a growing list of men who said Graff abused them while he served for nearly four decades in Pennsylvania and Texas.
Foster said he couldn't release many details about the reported cases coming from the Lehigh Valley and Reading, but he said most followed a similar pattern. The men, aged 39 to 59, told of abuses they said occurred after 1958 and before he left in 1988.
The reported victims were between 12 and 16 years old at the time, Foster said. Several said they were repeatedly abused over months or years.
Graff was charged with a June assault on a boy in Briscoe County, about 60 miles east of Amarillo, but Texas officials say they have heard from 15 other youths who say they were abused in Texas.
Since Graff's arrest, the Allentown Diocese heard from a man reporting that Graff abused him in the early 1980s, said diocese spokesman Matt Kerr. The statute of limitations has run out on that case, but the report was referred to all five district attorneys in the Allentown Diocese, Kerr said.
"This is not a man who woke up at 73 years old and decided to abuse children," Foster said. "This is a man who has been doing this all of his life."
Graff has not been active in the Allentown Diocese since 1988, when he was sent to New Mexico for treatment of alcoholism.
Seven Allentown Diocese priests have been dismissed since 2000 on allegations of sexual abuse, and an eighth priest resigned amid allegations in August. All of the cases date beyond the state's statute of limitations, which gives adults until they are 23 to file abuse charges from their childhood.
But that won't stop local victims from affecting Graff's case in Texas, Foster said. Accounts from Lehigh Valley and Reading victims can't be used in a trial, but if Graff pleads guilty or is convicted, they can be used during the sentencing phase.
Some of the alleged victims gave their names, Foster said, but a few made anonymous complaints. "These were not reports of exhibitionism or indecent exposure," he said. "These were serious sexual assaults."
In most cases, Foster said, the calls were more therapy than investigation. "A lot of them said they felt a burden had been lifted from their shoulders," he said. "It's a burden that many of them had been carrying around for decades."
Foster said anyone with information can contact him at 1-940-937-3122, or Briscoe County District Attorney Becky McPherson at 1-806-983-2197. "I'll tell them what I've been telling the others," Foster said. "They are not alone. There are others out there dealing with the same pain."
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