'For our children’: Survivors of church sex abuse calling on action
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Almost one year after Pennsylvania’s attorney general called for statute of limitations reform for sexual abuse, SNAP - the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests -- is asking for those same changes here in Louisiana, so victims can pursue justice.
In a shady spot in Jackson Square, Kevin Bourgeois and Richard Windmann stood together Saturday (Aug. 10), united as survivors, feet from St. Louis Cathedral.
“I can’t believe I’m here today. I really can’t. And I can’t imagine being anywhere else today,” Bourgeois said.
Windmann, now a leader with SNAP, is no stranger to publicity. He told his story on FOX 8 last fall, detailing accusations of sexual abuse by Pete Modica, a Jesuit High School janitor and former officer Stanley Burkhardt.
But, Saturday was the first day Bourgeois has appeared on camera, having only recently become public with allegations of abuse against now deceased priest Carl Davidson.
“I feel like a thousand pounds has been lifted off of me,” Bourgeois said.
But that’s not the way he felt at first. Bourgeois said, for 35 years, he didn’t tell anyone what he says happened to him while he attended the now closed St. John Vianney Prep School in the 1980s.
“When Archbishop Gregory Aymond said he was going to release the list of names back in November, I’m like, ‘Wow, my secret is going to be out,’ because it was a secret. I’d never told anybody before,” Bourgeois recalled. “I didn’t have the ability to come forward as a 16-year-old boy. Not at all. No one was going to believe me. I didn’t want to admit it happened. It was horrifying and embarrassing.”
Bourgeois said when the list of credibly accused clergy members was released and Davidson was on it, he received nothing but love and support.
It’s one of the reasons he and Windmann addressed the media together Saturday afternoon.
“Those who were abused as kids, as teenagers that are holding onto a secret for decades and decades, that you’re not alone,” Windmann said.
The pair urged others to come forward, as they called for action, asking the state police to investigate the Catholic Church, the Louisiana Attorney General to establish an abuse hotline, the New Orleans District attorney to investigate the New Orleans Archdiocese and Archbishop Gregory Aymond to proactively release names of accused abusers.
“There is still a veil of secrecy that needs to be uncovered,” Bourgeois said.
“For our children,” Windmann said. “I don’t want to see what happened to me and countless others happen to our children.”
In a statement, representatives with the Archdiocese of New Orleans said its review of more than 2,400 priests since the 1950s turned up 57 names, all of which were released in November. They said the Archdiocese has added names to the list when new information or allegations have come to light, and if additional credible information is provided, they will add names, when appropriate.
“Our list of accused clergy has been turned over to law enforcement. We have fully cooperated and will continue to cooperate with any further inquiry from the authorities," the statement reads.
When that initial list of names was released, the Louisiana Attorney General said their office responded to each of the alleged four victims for whom they received criminal complaints. Additionally, a representative said the AG sent out referrals to law enforcement agencies in specific parishes where each crime was allegedly committed.
Windmann and Bourgeois said they hope greater awareness of their stories will help grow momentum for change.
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