Advocates rally for change to statute of limitations laws for victims of sexual abuse, investigation into abuse by Catholic priests

Survivors of priest abuse ask for better legal protections, actions to benefit victims

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A group that provides resources to victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests is demanding the Louisiana Attorney General’s office launch an official investigation.

The group is called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

“I was abused at Jesuit High School in New Orleans as well by a priest and a janitor,” said Richard Windmann.

Windmann is vocal as to what he allegedly happened to him on the Jesuit High School campus in the 70′s.

“I was going to commit suicide. I tried to commit suicide, and I woke up with a tube down my throat and charcoal all over my body and actually lived through the experience,” said Windmann.

In 2018, documents released by the Jesuits included the names of 42 priests, all credibly accused of sexually abusing children in the Catholic church. Windmann’s alleged abuser was on that list, as was another survivor’s, John Gianoli’s.

“In my eighth-grade year, I was molested by my parish priest who was also my teacher in the Catholic grammar school that I went to,” said Gianoli.

Both men are now part of SNAP.

The president of SNAP Tim Lennon, also a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, said nationally, 20 states have launched investigations into children sexually abused in the churches so why not Louisiana.“We are calling on the Attorney General Jeff Landry to enforce the law, to start a state-wide investigation of sexual abuse by clergy,” said Lennon.

They also held signs for statute of limitations reform because currently, anyone sexually abused as a child has until they’re 28 to file suit.

“I had been molested at 13 and at age 32, I came forward with a lawsuit. The Catholic church foght it tooth and nail and squashed me on grounds of statute of limitations,” said Gianoli.

Research shows the average age for a victim to speak up is 52, which is well beyond the statute of limitation.

“Aggravated rape in Louisiana has a mandatory life sentence with no statute of limitations whatsoever. But if you’re a kid, and it was only oral sex, well then the guy gets to go on and be a teacher or be a priest or do anything to get along in his life,” said Windmann.

SNAP said so far, at least 40 other states have revised their civil statutes of limitations in some way. Their question for the Attorney General Jeff Landry is, why not Louisiana?

The Louisiana Attorney General's office did release a statement:

“As a father and as the attorney general, Jeff Landry is deeply troubled by all allegations of crimes perpetrated on children. He strongly believes that no child should ever be taken advantage of, especially by someone they trust, and our office remains committed to helping anyone who may have been victimized seek justice. We continue to encourage anyone who may have been abused by clergy in Louisiana to call us at 1-800-256-4506; and we will continue responding to those who make complaints and sending official referral letters to the proper law enforcement agency in the parish where each crime was allegedly committed. We remain steadfast in our commitment to crime victims and their families. We will not waver in standing with crime victims in their pursuits for justice.”

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