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Child Sexual Abuse Survivors Respond To Report On Clergy Abuse

DENVER (CBS4) – Advocates of child sexual abuse victims and survivors themselves reacted Friday to the recent independent review revealing the abuse of victims from Catholic priests in Colorado. The report released Wednesday said at least 166 children were sexually abused by 43 priests since 1950.

The WINGS Foundation and survivors of clergy abuse hold a media conference in response to the recent investigative report documenting that at least 43 child predators were allowed to sexually assault at least 166 children within the Catholic Church in Colorado since 1950. (credit: CBS)

"They won't tell us what the worst part is because they simply don't want us to know," said Joelle Casteix, a founding member of the board of directors for Zero Abuse Project. "We don't know who the abusers are because the church won't tell us, the Olympics won't tell us, the Boy Scouts won't tell us."

Casteix was one of three speakers representing organizations that support victims, many survivors of abuse from the church. The group spoke at the Denver Press Club calling on the Archdiocese of Denver to be more transparent than what was shared in the report. Speakers said more documents and information from the past needs to become public. They said the challenges faced by victims from the Church are similar to those from other major organizations.

"If you don't know who the bad guys are, how do you know who the good guys are," Casteix said. "Unless you come to terms with the past, you can't change for the future."

Abused in high school while living in California, she later moved to Colorado and lived in the state long enough to meet other survivors. She now travels the country speaking on this issue.

Reform on the statutes of limitations in Colorado will give all victims the chance to come forward, she argued at the news conference. She wants to see the Church support this change in legislation.

"Every time a report like this issued, or a survivor comes forward, other survivors of child sexual abuse are empowered," she said. "Female survivors are sorely underrepresented in this report and we don't know why."

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila responded to the report with a four-page letter and an eight-minute video.

"I want to start by addressing the courage of the survivors who have shared the stories of their abuse," Archbishop Aquila wrote. "If any survivor wishes to meet with me personally, my door is open. I have met with many survivors, and from these heart wrenching personal interactions, I know there are no words that I can say that will take away the pain."

The Archdiocese of Denver has said it will adopt all the recommendations of the report. It also opened a compensation fund for victims. In his video statement released this week, the Archbishop addressed the suffering caused by the Church.

"I apologize for the pain and hurt that this abuse has caused, and for anytime the Church's leaders failed to prevent it from happening. I am sorry about this horrible history but it is my promise to continue doing everything I can so it never happens again," he said.

But Casteix says this is not enough and wants more details revealed not just about priests but other employees of the Church. She also shared part of her story and how she sued the Church, leading to the release of additional documents. Cases like hers are not often highlighted she says because the Church placed the blame on those young girls.

"I was told in my own fault and because I asked for it, and I was promiscuous," she said. "If you were sexually abused, you were the victim of the crime and no child ever deserves to be abused by anybody."

In the time she has started speaking out on this issue, including while in Colorado, she says there have been an equal number of men and women who have come forward to her as survivors. She believes a new civil window for victims to seek justice is the best approach, similar to other states like California. Her goal is to see a complete removal of any statutes of limitations for survivors. While she says a victim must do what they feel is right to address their abuse, she is skeptical of the compensation plan provided by the Archdiocese.

"There is help available, there are means available in which we can put predators behind bars," Casteix said. "Voices are needed, help is available, and no one should be alone."


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