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Victim of child sex abuse dies before priest can be prosecuted

Earlier this month, we wrote about an elderly Catholic priest in Philadelphia who was charged with sexually molesting an alter boy when the boy was between 11 and 14 years old. As an adult, the victim recently decided to file criminal charges against the priest.

The priest is suspected of sexually abusing many more young children but could not be prosecuted in those cases due to the statute of limitations. As such, the most recent victim's allegations were especially important. Tragically, that young man is now dead and the sex abuse charges against the alleged child molester will now have to be dropped.

The 26-year-old victim died of what appears to be a drug overdose. In the wake of his fatal overdose, prosecutors determined that they would not have enough evidence to convict the priest without the young man's testimony. Therefore, they reluctantly dropped the charges.

Commenting on the young man's death, an attorney representing the family noted that "He had really straightened out his life. He was motivated to pursue justice. This was his goal, so this was shocking to all of us. . . He made it through college. He was battling demons all the way through."

While not specifically mentioned in news articles, the drug problem the attorney alluded to may have been related to the alleged sexual abuse the young man suffered. It is common for victims of childhood sexual abuse to use drugs, alcohol and self-destructive behaviors as coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma they experienced.

It is a tragic irony that sex abuse victims may live for years with fear, shame and anger over events which they did not cause and could not prevent. Meanwhile, their abusers may go on to molest others until or unless they are caught and prosecuted.

Sadly, the death of this young man means that justice against this alleged child sexual abuser will be delayed and possibly even denied.


Source: ABC Action News, "Priest sex abuse charges dropped against Rev. Robert Brennan," Oct. 23, 2013

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