Alleged Sex Abuse Victims Accuse Chicago Police of Wrongdoing

By Morgan Lord
Chicago Defender [Chicago IL]
July 20, 2005

An advocate group of sexual abuse victims filed a complaint Tuesday accusing Chicago police of complicity in abuse of its members by a Chicago priest more than 10 years ago.

Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the complaint accuses some police officers of involvement in the supposed silencing of eight South Side boys who were molested by their Catholic priest, Father Victor Stewart, in 1992.

After the molestation incidents, eight of the boys were picked up by the police, threatened and held without the consent of their parents, according to Blaine and the victims. They were told not to speak to anyone about what happened.

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"The boys' innocence was shattered by their priest, and the actions of the Chicago Police Department led the victims to feel further guilt and shame," Blaine said, speaking outside police headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave. "The officers should have informed the parents."

This complaint is the first such abuse charge that moves beyond the accusations against the Archdiocese of Chicago to the police.

A police department spokesman accepted the complaint. Dave Bayless said that although it is difficult to open a case that is more five years old, "We still plan on fully investigating. Although it presents challenges, we'll definitely look at it."

All of the victims and family members of victims who attended the demonstration held up large pictures of Stewart and themselves and family members who were abused as boys.

"This priest should have been arrested -- and if he had been, innocent lives would have been saved," said Phillip Aaron, an attorney for 22 of these abused victims.

Aaron said he believes that racism may have been a factor in the failure of the department to respond more decisively at the time.

Stewart was a Black priest who worked at St. Charles and St. Ailbe churches as a priest, associate priest and boys' basketball coach for several years before his death in 1994. Most of his victims were also Black.

Aaron, who helped 14 abuse victims settle with the Archdiocese for more than $3 million in 2003 and 2004, currently represents eight more clients who say they were abused by Stewart. They have not yet received any compensation.


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