Advocate Group Urging Attack Victims to Step Forward

By Erica Pitzi
August 8, 2011,0,4281121.story

THE BRONX, N.Y. (PIX11) In the wake of sexual assault charges against a Bronx priest, one group is sending a strong message to this Catholic church community.

People with 'Road To Recovery' based out of New Jersey, canvassed the campus of Nativity of Our Blessed Lady in an effort to encourage more possible victims of sexual abuse to come forward.

Rev. Bob Hoatson of Road to Recovery told PIX 11, "We're here today number one to congratulate the 16-year-old who had the courage to stand up and tell someone about the sexual abuse she endured."

Last week, Father Jaime Duenas, 87, known as Father James of Nativity of Our Blessed Lady, was arrested on sexual assault charges. On Sunday, a fellow man of the cloth is sending a message to Duenas' congregation.

"Most pedophiles do not have just one victim. Our fear is there are many, many victims here. The man has been here for 20 years as pastor," said Hoatson. Reverend Hoatson speaks from his heart because he says he was sexually abused by clergy when he was young.

"A person from my high school, a religious person, went after me. Then, I was subsequently abused by about five other people in religious life and in the priesthood." It took him more than 30 years to come forward.

He now shares his story openly through a non-profit organization called 'Road to Recovery.'. The group's goal is to educate catholic communities, like this one, to learn a lesson from what happens to some of their own. "This happens all the time. One in three girls and one of five boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18," said Hoatson.

Longtime parishioners, like Rosa Medina, do not want to hear this man's message. "I think it's not fair what he's doing, but I'll pray for him," said Medina, adding, "We support Father James." Others are downright defiant, refusing to even look at the informational leaflets he's handing out. "One lady told me to go to hell," said Hoatson.

In response to the protest outside of the church, members of the congregation inside the church have their own kind of protest in defense of Father James. They are asking parishioners to sign a petition to support him.

Parishioner Ruben Algusta signed the petition saying, "If for some reason Father James would be sentenced to jail for whatever reason, I would sacrifice my own liberty and ask the judge to put me in jail instead because I know for sure Father James wouldn't do something like this."

The people from Road to Recovery are not just offering victim support here, they are also calling for Archbishop to ban all employment of children as church workers.

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