Activists Seeking Possible Victims of Former Alton Priest
By Cynthia M. Ellis
The Associated Press, carried in The Telegraph [Alton IL]
February 20, 2006
ALTON -- Members of the country's largest support group for clergy sex molestation victims passed out leaflets Sunday to parishioners at St. Mary's Catholic Church.
David Clohessey, the national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, and others with the St. Louis-based national activist group weathered the frigid temperatures in an effort to reach worshippers who may have been abused by the Rev. John Steven Rabideau.
"We want to reach anyone who may be a victim of Rabideau's abuse," Clohessey said.
"This is our first outreach in Alton," Jeff Mueller, a SNAP member, said.
The flier explained that the former priest, who served at St. Mary's and the former St. Patrick's Catholic Church, 918 E. Fifth St., Alton, in 1991 and 1992 is accused of molesting three boys in Michigan in the 1980s.
Rabideau is accused of having sexual contact with three boys between the ages of 6 and 14 in Bay City, Mich. Authorities issued a warrant for Rabideau's arrest in 1998 and he was considered a fugitive until earlier this month when Colombian authorities arrested him.
St. Patrick's closed its doors several years after Rabideau left.
Clohessey and Mueller politely handed fliers to those entering and exiting the church. As Mueller passed out a flier to one woman she declined to take it.
"I'm running late," she said, running up the front steps and into the church.
Mueller said he's not offended by anyone who does not want to accept the information.
A passenger in a truck stopped at the corner of Henry and Fourth streets and a woman jumped out and asked for a leaflet.
"I went to church last night but I wanted to make sure I got one," she said.
The woman, who did not want to be identified, said she felt the members of SNAP were doing a terrific job of informing the parish about what they could do to get help.
"I really appreciate what you are doing," she said.
Clohessey, who has served as the organization's national director since 1991, said the support group's mission is to get the word out about Rabideau.
"We hope Rabideau's arrest will prompt others who were hurt to come forward," he said.
The case is a constant reminder to victims of sexual abuse that suspects will do whatever it takes to evade the law, Clohessey said.
Rabideau has been charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. He also is charged with six counts of second-degree criminal sexual assault. Each of those counts has a maximum penalty of 15 years.
Rabideau was enrolled in the seminary at the Oblates of the Virgin Mary in Boston at the time of the reported offenses and was studying in Rome, an attorney for the organization said. Rabideau, who he was from the Bay City area, was allowed to return home during the summer.
Besides being on the run in South America, Rabideau reportedly also served as a priest in the Philippines in 2004.
Clohessey said he wants to remind the public that just because there are criminal charges pending against a person doesn't automatically equal a conviction.
"The thing is abusive priests usually get very good defense attorneys," Clohessey said. "And those that were abused get nothing."
The flier explained to parishioners that they could help by discussing Rabideau's behavior; tracking down former parishioners and ex-employees of the church; contacting authorities to find out more about the former priest's crimes; encourage victims to come forward and insist that parishioners encourage the Springfield diocese to talk more about it.
The leaflet also included the organization's Internet address, www.snapnetwork.org, and phone number, (314) 566-9790.
Although parishioners did not want to talk to Clohessey as he stood on the sidewalk in front of the church, one woman did. After reading about the event in The Telegraph, the Alton woman wanted to meet with someone from the organization to discuss what happened to her years ago.
"She is not ready to be publicly identified," he said. "But she said she was abused by her priest and she's never told anyone before."
He said that if what they did reaches one person, the efforts are worth it.
"Every time we do outreach work like this we always get results," Clohessey said.
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