Editorial: a D.C. Council Member Discloses He Was the Victim of Sexual Abuse and Sets a Powerful Example
By Editorial Board
March 19, 2020
THE INDICTMENT last week of a former Catholic priest from Northern Virginia on a charge of sexually abusing a minor more than 30 years ago might have attracted little notice. The news is dominated by the novel coronavirus, and, sad to say, reports of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy are not all that uncommon. But the disclosure by D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) that he was the victim put a face to this terrible crime that hopefully will encourage other survivors to step forward and seek justice.
“The minor he assaulted was me,” Mr. Grosso wrote in an emotional email released on Monday, the same day the arrest of Scott Asalone, 63, the former rector of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Loudoun County, was announced by Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring. An indictment returned by a Northern Virginia multi-jurisdictional grand jury charged Mr. Asalone with one felony count of carnal knowledge of a minor. The indictment doesn’t name Mr. Grosso — the press release from Mr. Herring’s office refers only to a “former parishioner in 1985” — and Mr. Grosso had been assured he could remain anonymous.
Mr. Grosso, 49, said it was difficult to revisit this painful part of his life. Contacted by Virginia State Police, who had received a tip from a hotline set up in 2018 when Mr. Herring launched a probe into clergy abuse, he debated what to do. The investigation “ripped open old wounds, stirred dark memories and caused fresh trauma,” and was a factor in his decision not to seek reelection to a third term on the council. But he cooperated with investigators “to prevent Mr. Asalone from ever hurting another child,” and he decided to make the public statement “because I understand the tremendous burden that victims of sexual assault and abuse carry throughout their lives [and] we must find the courage to come forward.”
By telling his story, Mr. Grosso sets a powerful example, though he stressed it is important for victims to know their names can remain confidential. Credit also to Mr. Herring, who decided no crime of this heinousness is too old to investigate; he launched a probe into possible criminal sexual abuse and coverups in Virginia Catholic dioceses after reading an explosive report by a Pennsylvania grand jury in 2018. Mr. Asalone’s indictment is the first to result from that investigation. The number for the VirginiaClergyHotline.com is 833-454-9064.