Speaking out on Clergy Abuse
Victims Urge Others to Come Forward
By Frances Grandy Taylor
October 4, 2006
It felt strange to be standing in front of St. Augustine's Church again, Norm Cormier said Tuesday. More than 30 years ago, Cormier was a student at the Hartford parish's school when the Rev. Daniel McSheffery was the director. Cormier said McSheffery molested him over a two-year period when he was 12 years old, telling him not to tell anyone "because no one will believe you."
After years of silence, Cormier, 47, decided to come forward when he began hearing press reports about others who said McSheffery had molested them. "At that point I realized that I was not his only victim. After living in silence for 34 years, I decided to stand up to this perpetrator and make my voice known."
Cormier recently settled out of court with the Archdiocese of Hartford for an undisclosed amount. On Tuesday, he was joined by several members of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to urge other victims to come forward, and to call for a change in the law that would lift the statute of limitations on when criminal charges can be brought in cases of sexual abuse of minors.
"Right now, those laws protect [perpetrators] from their victims. It works to their advantage," he said, adding that people have until age 32 to file a criminal case against a childhood sex abuser, and until age 48 to file civil charges. "Not everyone is ready at the same point in their lives to do this, and sex abuse is crime."
The office of the Rev. John Gatzak, archdiocesan spokesman, said he was out of town and there would be no comment on the case.
Cormier said McSheffery repeatedly groped and sexually fondled him at the school and on church-sponsored trips. "It was a horrible nightmare," he said.
"The amount of money I received does nothing to replace what was taken from me," said Cormier, of Middletown. "I would have rather had my day in court, to see him squirm and have to answer questions." Cormier said he also provided information in a case filed by another victim of McSheffery, and that he told his father just before his death what McSheffery had done to him.
Joe Hackett, co-director of Connecticut SNAP, said he hoped other victims would come forward. "By the church covering this up for so many years, these guys just got more and more victims. There are many more out there, and they are coming forward all the time."
Hackett, 47, said he was part of a settlement of a class action suit against the Hartford archdiocese.
Since 2003, at least four men have filed complaints against McSheffery and the archdiocese. An Old Saybrook cottage owned by McSheffery was recently sold as part of a $22 million settlement of sex abuse claims by 43 plaintiffs who said they were abused by 14 priests of the archdiocese.
McSheffery, who has denied any wrongdoing, is now 75 years old and living in Florida. He was stripped of his duties when allegations were first made against him in 2002. He was director of the St. Augustine School in Hartford during the 1960s and later served as priest of St. Augustine Church in North Branford for 16 years.
Contact Frances Grandy Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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