Survivor of Clergy Abuse speaks out

KFXL-TV, Fox-51 [Lincoln NE]

November 19, 2021

By Alex Whitney

Two weeks ago the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office released a report that revealed widespread sexual abuse by Catholic Clergy in Nebraska.

Between the lines of the report were the experiences of hundreds of victims, some of whom are speaking out for the first time about their ordeals and how they overcame the cover up of their abuse.

For every survivor of abuse there is a story to tell and it often starts out as a familiar one for most of us.

“I was very athletic, academically motivated, happy, ambitious, outgoing, just a normal kid,” said Stacey, a survivor of abuse who agreed to share her story with NTV News.

Stacey grew in a small town in Northeast Nebraska and like many lived in a community that centered around its church.

“My whole family grew up Catholic. We were very devoted, we went to church weekly. As a student attending Catholic school we went during the week to mass. It was everything at the time that’s what our community was,” said Stacey, who asked that we not give her last name.

Things would soon change though for Stacey when her priest began trying to get closer to the ambitious and outgoing high school student.

“Not only was he a priest he was also my religion teacher. He gained the trust of myself and my parents, in fact my parents invited him over to the house,” said Stacey.

Stacey said that her situation did not start with abuse but rather the slow grooming of victims that was common in the Attorney Generals report.

It wasn’t until she was recovering from a surgery at 15 that the abuse began.

“I was isolated after my surgery, I needed someone to lean on. He was highly respected and trustworthy and he ultimately took advantage of me,” said Stacey.

The abuse would continue for months before Stacey realized what was happening.

Once she realized something was wrong she immediately went to her parents who reached out to law enforcement.

“They went and investigated my abuser also. He admitted to everything but ultimately they came back and said there were no grounds for pressing charges,” said Stacey.

The news that no action could be taken was devastating for Stacey and her family and they were given little explanation about why charges could not be filed, but things would only worsen when they saw the reaction to the abuse from their church.

She said the Priest was only given counseling and moved to another Parish and her congregation had little interest in supporting the victims of his abuse.

“The lack of support that I had when my abuse happened was more trauma on itself. The emotional and psychological trauma of a child, having to carry that shame and guilt. Its indescribable,” said Stacey.

Stacey would hold on to her story and live silently as a survivor for nearly two decades before the AG’s office opened up its Clergy Abuse hotline and she had a chance to reach back out to investigators to speak about what happened.

She said despite the age of her case, the AG still worked diligently to confirm her story.

“I know they asked for documents from several churches, several schools, the Arch Diocese I know there were interviews done there as well,” said Stacey.

Unfortunately for Stacey, and the hundreds of other victims of abuse, there would be no justice that came from the investigation.

The AG’s office said due to a statute of limitations, none of the cases of abuse could be prosecuted.

While those responsible will not see justice Stacey is not letting the story end here.

“As a victim myself and as a parent, anything that I could do to protect my children or our future children is totally worth the fight,” said Stacey.

Stacey is now sharing her story to show other victims that they are not alone and is taking her fight to the state Capitol to help change the legislation that kept so many abusers from being prosecuted.

“I have been working closely with Senator Pahls, he plans to introduce legislation to remove the statute of limitations against child abuse,” said Stacey.

That legislation will likely be coming in January when the Unicameral reconvenes, but in the meantime, Stacey said she is continuing to tell her story to let other victims know that there is support for them and their abuse will not be forgotten.

“I know that its not easy and that’s part of the reason I’m trying to do this, for my healing. To try and help other people as well. Just know you are not alone. I have been amazed at the amount of support that I have today compared to twenty three years ago, it’s completely changed,” said Stacey.