A Lesson in Civics & Humanity

By Kathy Kane

On Tuesday Justice4PAkids traveled attended a press conference on PA House Bill 832 and 878 at the PA capitol building in Harrisburg.

John Salveson, of the Foundation to Abolish Sex Abuse (FACSA) opened the press conference by speaking of his own abuse by a priest when he was 13 and the response of the Church when he brought his claims of abuse forward. In an ironic turn of events, a rally for the school choice vouchers was being held directly after the press conference addressing the child sex abuse legislation. The capitol was flooded with school children, many from Catholic schools. As John was speaking, a group of children in Catholic School uniforms walked through through the rotunda. It was a surreal experience to hear the words from John’s past and look at the Catholic school children of today.

Last month we were joined in Harrisburg by a rabbi from New York who has been involved in protecting children within in his community from child sex abuse. On Tuesday another rabbi, this time from the Harrisburg area, attended the press conference. He introduced himself, telling us that ever since an incident of child sex abuse within his congregation a few years ago, he has been involved in the cause. He is interested in joining us in our legislative efforts. He was soft spoken but passionate about the protection of children. There were many Pa. State Representatives present at this conference, as well as a very good turnout of media.

The Penn State crisis has focused attention on necessary legislative reform in Pennsylvania. Along with speakers addressing the need for statute of limitation reform, there was also discussion of legislation that would improve the Mandatory Reporting laws. Many speeches were peppered with references to both the Grand Jury reports of the Philadelphia Archdiocese and Penn State.

Pennsylvania State Rep. Louise Bishop, the sponsor of House Bill 832, spoke at our press conference last month and again was on hand this past Tuesday. Rep Bishop is a very polished and professional Representative who has spoken to many audiences throughout her career. At our press conference last month she delivered a passionate and informed speech. On Tuesday however we saw something very different. When Rep. Bishop began she stammered a bit and seemed to lose her place. A few minutes into her speech Rep. Bishop explained her demeanor. At age 12, Rep. Bishop was raped by her stepfather. We were no longer standing in the Capitol rotunda, we were now in the bedroom of a scared child. Her stepfather entered her bedroom and raped her on a night when her Mother was not at home.

Bishop described the emotions that she felt as a child, the fear, confusion, embarrassment. Not wanting to tell her family of the abuse because she feared the reaction. She talked about how from that point as a child, she learned how to keep herself safe so another attack could be prevented. Before our eyes, this polished politician transformed into a 12 year old little girl. She looked so vulnerable, so tiny, so child like. It was amazing to witness this happen and there was not a dry eye in the room by the time she finished her speech. She said that she was nervous “down to the tips of her toes” about delivering this speech and sharing her own personal story of abuse. Her ending comment was “I have may have spoken too long today, but I have waited far too long to speak.” When Rep. Bishop finished and returned to stand with her fellow legislators, it appeared the emotion of it all was simply overwhelming her. Someone got her a chair so she could sit down; colleagues were holding her hands, rubbing her shoulders.

A short time later Republican State Rep Denny O’Brien spoke and called Rep. Bishop back up to the podium as he delivered his passionate speech about what we need to do for the children of Pennsylvania. He stood with his arm protectively around his Democratic colleague, holding her up so she could stand with him.

I have often said that I want to take my children with me to one of my trips to Harrisburg. I want to show them the legislative process, have them meet some of the State Reps, attend a press conference. I thought it would be a good lesson to show how a legislative process unfolds. I wish I had taken my children with me yesterday. It is difficult to be a child in Pennsylvania right now. It seems there are far more fallen leaders who have failed children, than heroes who have stood up for them. I wish they were there so I could point to Rep. Bishop and tell them “there is a hero.” I wish they could have seen the support Rep. Bishop received from her Democratic and Republican colleagues. I may have wanted to bring them there for a lesson in government but they would have left with a lesson in humanity.

22 thoughts on “A Lesson in Civics & Humanity

  1. Thank you so much, Kathy, for sharing Rep. Bishop’s story in such a sensitive and moving way. Thank you also for all your efforts to end child abuse and to obtain justice for abuse victims. With efforts like yours, the laggards in the PA legislature do not have a prayer to bloc the needed legislative improvements. Whether or not your children ever make it to Harrisburg, they must proudly see their mother in action very day. They will never forget that.

  2. Congrats to each of you who went to Harrisburg and also to Rep. Bishop for her courageous and heartfelt disclosure. Our hearts to out to her, and to everyone in PA who suffered childhood victimizatoin.

  3. Absolutely perfect example of the power of being vulnerable in the face of overwhelming fear while the surrounding community offers the loving support needed to begin the healing process. I have worked with victims of abuse over 30 years and I have found nothing I did in the office was as healing as the love and support provided by a community of friends and family who had the compassion to hear the voice of the pain hidden for so long. God Bless You.

  4. I agree with all the comments above. Also, how great to see humanity triumphing over partisanship and poilitics. That’s exactly what we need to see with this legislation.

  5. Well said, Kathy! Rep Louise Bishop will forever be remembered by me as a hero for standing up in front of all of those people and cameras and telling her story. What a victory it will be if we can get her bill passed!!!

  6. Thank you for sharing this Kathy.

    Rep. Bishop…a courageous woman!

    The way you wrote it made me feel like I was there…from the school children in the rotunda, to hearing a survivor speak, to Rep Bishop sharing her story.

  7. Time will tell
    By Mike Ference

    September 2008, was a big month for the Pittsburgh Diocese. 32 alleged survivors of clergy abuse are to split $1.25 million for crimes the Pittsburgh Diocese will never have to admit ever occurred. At least the settlement doesn’t tarnish the stellar reputation of Archbishop Donald Wuerl who never had to pay a dime (of diocese money, does not include insurance money paid to victims) to any clergy abuse victim during his tenure as bishop in the Pittsburgh Diocese.

    Oddly enough, an underling – so to speak – Auxiliary Bishop Bradley saw the need to reconcile this situation, only weeks before Bishop David Zubik was to be installed as the new leader of the diocese. So it seems everything has fallen into place.

    32 survivors get a few bucks, the diocese is off the hook for any future civil or maybe even criminal suits based on the settlement. Wuerl goes back to Washington D.C. to do whatever it is that Archbishops do and Zubik is allowed to get a fresh start in the Pittsburgh Diocese without the interference of those civil suits that were resting in limbo the past few years.

    The settling of the civil suits certainly allowed for an impressive and dignified installation of Bishop Zubik, no hecklers or demonstrators from any groups with compassion for children sexually abused by Catholic priests.

    And, although I have no proof, nor anyway to calculate, I would be willing to bet the farm that more money was spent on Zubik’s festivities than was awarded to 32 survivors of alleged abuse by Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese priests. No big deal, the worst is over.

    Unless of course, somewhere down the road – maybe a year, a few months, a couple of weeks, or perhaps in the next few days – information turns up that the cases of sexual abuse actually occurred and that cover ups were the norm in the Pittsburgh Diocese just like cover ups and shifting priests from parish to parish was the norm in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    The Philadelphia Grand Jury investigation into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued a scathing report on Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua and other church hierarchy. It should be noted that Bevilacqua served the Pittsburgh Diocese prior to being assigned to Philadelphia. Anyone with a little common sense would be concerned that a man of the cloth might be tempted to hide crimes of clergy sexual abuse of young children only on the eastern side of the commonwealth of PA and not the western side as well.

    That’s a lot of if’s and’s or but’s – only time will tell.

    1. Mike, Bevilacqua was an auxiliary in Brooklyn just before Pittsburgh. There is clear evidence in the public domain that Bevilacqua, a regular lawyer as well as a canon lawyer, moved around alleged pedophiles while in Brooklyn. It is comforting to know that he will now have to testify for his magnum opus cover-up, his time in Philly.

  8. Today I’m going out into town to get a nice picture frame. I’m going to download and print a photograph of Pennsylvania State Representative Louise Williams Bishop and that picture is being hung on my office wall next to the rest of my heroes. It will hang among the 2008 World Champion Phillies, Harry Kalas, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., and my partner.

    There is not many child sexual abuse victims who can stand amongst other people and tell their stories. It’s so difficult to do it, and as I see a public figure stand in front of media and the audience, I become proud to be her witness. Rep. Bishop was able to lift me up today from the rut I’ve been in and through her words and her story she makes me want to get back in the fight to do more – to do my part and much more.

    I believe that every time we speak up about what happened to us as children, we are protecting present and future children from abuse. We are raising awareness of the issue and we are also showing our abusers that we’re fighting back. Our abusers can only silence that child for so long and now that child inside of us is screaming from the rooftops.

    Run Jerry Sandusky. Run Catholic Church. Run Citadel. Run! Your time is over. Our time is just beginning.

  9. Kathy thanks for the blog. I also read an article before this blog about Louise Bishop and it left me very moved. She said in the article she always asked God what she was suppose to do as a rep. and now she knows what he wants her to do. I agree. I feel God’s presence in the work we are all doing including Louise Bishop. God can do pretty amazing things if you trust him and he can work miracles through people.

  10. Thank you Kathy. Well done. I wish I had known about my mother’s abuse at the hands of her father before my mother was too frail for me to talk to her about it. I wo;uld hug her again. In an article about the Joseph Peters Institue for Child Sexual Abuse and Treatment Program for offenders, during a workshop presention the speaker said he was going to show a picture of a typical offender. He showed a large photo of a very large family gathering. In the photo were mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, uncles, older brothers………………. the lesson being that within our families there may well be a child abuser. I have such a photo of my own family with four generations of family present – including the abuser.


    1. I am sorry for the pain that goes with sexaul abuse inside the family. My concern is that the mandatory reporting laws might not be affective with wives reporting husbands and stepfathers. I know a few grown adults molested by their fathers and stepfathers. In man cases the wives were in too much denial to protect their own children let alone tell anyone. I don’t know if the threat of legal penalities will make a difference in these situtaions. I really don’t know what the solution is. I definitely believe changes in statue of limitations will at least protect future generations from abuse.

      1. Beth, there is stong evidence that clear laws with stiff penalties forcefully applied deter crimes. While spouses may always be slow to report, these laws will likely move others to step in. These laws will never deter all sexual abusers, but they will deter many. Hence, these laws should be enacted and enforced if at all posssible.

      2. Jerry I agree. I have read Marci Hamilton’s ideas on mandatory reporting and I think they are excellent. I am all for a hotline and penalites just I feel there is something that’s needs to be done. Not sure what yet but will think about it.

      3. I mean something needs to be done in addition to mandatory reporting and statue of limitations changes to close up loopholes.

  11. Somewhere in all of the reporting on PSU and the RCC I read that only 10%, ONLY 10% – as in TEN PERCENT of all child abuse cases are reported by the child. How utterly devastating – how unjust – how disappointing, how hidden this is from ourselves and from the public at large. As an aside, Google AlterNet or go to http://www.AlterNet.com and read an article by Soraya Chemaly( or Google her name): SIX WAYS TO TEACH GIRLS HOW TO DEAL WITH IDIOTS THAT SEXUALLY HARASS THEM ON THE STREET. This article is all part of a whole about the abuse of girls. Too bad a man did not write the article or a similar article: SIX WAYS TO TEACH BOYS HOW NOT TO BE IDIOTS ABOUT SEXUAL HARRASMENT OF GIRLS. “The least of these……….”


    1. Only 10 percent…………that is why we need to look into why only 10 percent report and see what we can do to change this. Fear, shame, guilt, isolation……… we need to do alot of education about child sexual abuse for parents, children and all of society. Sadly if it does happen we need to teach people to stop it from continuing. I don’t think alot of people have the knowledge to always do that or they think someone else wil do it for them. People really need to be involved and not look the other way if we are to rid our society of this devastation.

    2. I think the 10% issue is a stat from Marci Hamiltons FindLaw piece on the learnings when the CA statute of limitations was opened up…relative those 300 ‘unknown’ predators that were found in CA.

      See Marc’s quote :

      Third, until the window was in place, society had been making public policy based on too little information. The window revealed that the laws we have focused upon, like sex offender registries and pedophile-free zones, have assumed we know who the predators are. One of the greatest shocks in the last ten years is to learn that we only know about 10% of the perpetrators because of a broken legal system that shuts victims out of court before they get there. (Victims usually cannot name their perpetrators without the legal system, because perpetrators can and will sue the victim for defamation. If nothing else, child predators are adept at lying and dissembling.)

  12. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing the events of the day in Harrisburg and especially of Rep. Louise Bishop’s tremendous courage in telling her story. She and so many other victims are speaking out and leading us to work for the passsage of HBs 878 and 832 and to never quit until they are law.

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