Deadline for sex abuse victims to come forward approaches

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Wednesday is the deadline for sex abuse victims in the Diocese of Scranton to come forward.

Nearly a year ago, a grand jury report found Scranton and five other Pennsylvania dioceses had decades of sexual abuse by its clergy. As the clock starts winding down, the diocese wants sex victims to know the time is now to start the healing process.

Dr. Robert Hoatson holds a sign outside the Diocese of Scranton. The New Jersey man who represents Road to Recovery came to the Electric City to make his voice heard ahead of a very important deadline.

“When a child’s soul is murdered, they live a death sentence,” Dr. Hoatson said.

The diocese serves 11 counties in northeastern and central Pennsylvania and wants sex abuse victims to come forward. In January, Bishop Joseph Bambera launched a program called Independent Survivors Compensation.

“It’s open to survivors of abuse committed by priests from the diocese of Scranton, members of religious communities or lay employees of the diocese,” said Bambera.

Bishop Bambera says the program is voluntary. Victims who have not come forward have until midnight Wednesday to report the alleged abuse. Those victims who have reported it in the past have until September 30.

“They deserve to tell their stories, to identify their abusers and to receive compensation as they continue down the path of healing and recovery,” said Bambera.

According to Dr. Hoatson, an 85-year-old woman was sexually abused in 1940 by Father Martin Fleming who was a priest in Swoyersville, Luzerne County. To protect her identity, we’re calling her Jane Doe.

Hoatson says at the age of six, Jane Doe was sexually abused twice by Fleming after her mother passed away. She reported the abuse in 2006 to Bishop John Dougherty. Decades after the abuse, she was awarded compensation through the program.

“A low six-figure amount is a fairly significant acknowledgment by the Diocese of Scranton that they believed her,” Dr. Hoatson said.

The Diocese of Scranton provided Eyewitness News with a statement saying: “The sexual abuse of any child is wrong. The sexual abuse of a child by a member of the clergy, no matter when it occurred, is particularly abhorrent. While nothing can erase the resulting pain and suffering of a sexual abuse survivor, the Diocese of Scranton established its Survivors Compensation Program in January 2019 to bring some peace and healing to survivors. A news conference held in Scranton on Wednesday, July 31, 2019, involved a courageous survivor who reported abuse that occurred nearly 80 years ago and who has now been offered compensation through the Independent Survivors Compensation Program. The Diocese applauds her strength for coming forward and hopes that the compensation aids in her healing. As a Church, we must recognize the burden of what has happened and continue to encourage anyone who may be a survivor of abuse to come forward.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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