Victim of Alleged Sexual Abuse Comes Forward after Thirty Years

By William Seay
St. Joe Channel
April 26, 2013

It's a special breakfast, a special gathering of support for crime victims and their families and those law enforcement officers who aid in solving these crimes.

It begins with a prayer:

"Help us to replace the darkness of evil with your light. Give us the fortitude to stand up for justice," said Jimalee O'Connor.

The Crime Victims' Rights Week Annual Breakfast is a big "thank you" to all the volunteers who help with crime victims.

There's also a guest speaker: Tom Lewis.

Lewis alleges Kansas City priest Father Michael Tierney of sexual assault when Lewis was still a teenager.

"I was so blindsided with what happened to me. I couldn't fathom how it was possible," Lewis says to the crowd, fighting back tears as he recalls his story.

Lewis says when he was still just an eighth grade altar boy; Father Tierney had him over at his rectory in Kansas City.

It was after he was invited into the clergyman's bedroom that Lewis alleges he was sexually assaulted.

"I got up and I ran; I ran and I hid in the house," Lewis said. "I hid in a room behind a couch, thinking of ways to save myself. Thinking if I should go get a weapon. I never thought to find a phone or to run out of the house or to do anything other than hide. We find excuses for why we deny being victims. I think I denied being a victim for a number of years."

For thirty years, Lewis didn't talk about it much.

Father Tierney can't be charged with a crime; the time in which the alleged assault occurred is too long ago.

The priest was removed from his position at Christ is King Parish in Kansas City in 2011, but he remains in the priesthood, albeit retired.

Lewis says he sometimes wishes he would have come forward with it sooner.

"I think it's more that if you're a victim or if you know a victim, and you can help yourself, it will help them to come out and talk about it. I think every little bit that can be done to help stop this problem is worth doing at this point," he said.

Buchanan County Prosecutor Dwight Scroggins has organized this crime victims' breakfast for a number of years.

It's a thank you to those who help victims.

And for those victims it's a lesson in how to come forward.

"Whatever their response is, it's the right response. And always always for them to understand that their victimization - nothing about that is their fault," Scroggins said.








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