After five years of defending the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas against sexual abuse lawsuits, Robert Scamardo publicly revealed this week his own sexual abuse by a priest and a lay minister while he was a teen-ager.
No longer part of the team that required those abused to sign confidentiality agreements, Scamardo, now 44, has made public the church’s practices to cover up the continuing scandal. Also, he said in an interview in The New York Times, that he may now be an expert witness on behalf of victims of abuse by Catholic priests.
Scamardo also told the Times that it was the Catholic Church that demanded confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements, not the victims.
David Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests–an organization where Scamardo is now a member–has reported that half of his membership is female. In an interview, however, with Women’s eNews, he added that women tend to underreport their abuse.
Scamardo settled with the Diocese of Austin–the district where he was abused–for $250,000 after seven months of battling church lawyers.
When Scamardo originally asked for a settlement to cover medical bills, pain and suffering and lost income, the Bishop of Austin claimed, “Any financial settlement would be taken from the money that is given by the parishioners on Sunday in the collection,” reported The New York Times.
“If they’re playing the game with me like that this year, then nothing has changed,” said Scamardo in the interview.
At the age of 15, Scamardo awoke one night at Catholic convention to find Reverend Dan Delaney, the director for youth ministry, molesting him, reported the Houston Chronicle. After disclosing the details to James Reese, the lay youth minister at Sacred Heart Parish in Austin, Scamardo was then repeatedly sexually molested by Reese.
The conflict between Scamardo’s past sexual abuse and previous job of defending the clergy had driven him to seriously consider suicide.
“I realized I had become part of the problem. Rather than doing something to heal (victims’) pain, I was making it worse. I couldn’t live with myself,” reported the Houston Chronicle.
For more information:
The Denver Post–“Betrayal in the Ranks”:
The Denver Post, after a nine-month investigation, determined that the U.S. military was a closed system that discouraged victims of sexual assault and domestic violence from revealing their abuse. Those who did find the courage to speak out often had their claims belittled, the paper reports in a series still available on its Web site, while the accuser frequently walked away with little or no punishment.
This survey is the latest, but not the first, to document the problem of sexual abuse in the military. In 1988, a Pentagon survey reported that over 90 percent of military sexual harassment victims refused to file complaints, fearing accusations of lying and disloyalty, reports the Denver newspaper.
According to army records, almost 5,000 accused military sex offenders have sidestepped prosecution since 1992, reports the Post. Furthermore, over the past 10 years, twice as many accused Army sex offenders were granted administrative punishment rather than a court-martial.
“The military system is like a get-out-of-jail-free card,” said Jennifer Bier, a therapist who has counseled military victims, reported The Denver Post.
— Carline Bennett.