Diocese: Help available to abuse victims

YOUNGSTOWN – A representative from the Diocese of Youngstown said help is available to anyone who has been identified as a victim of sexual abuse in connection with the church.

Nancy L. Yuhasz, chancellor, said that if it is determined someone has been sexually abused by an individual connected with the church in any position or capacity, the diocese provides counseling to the victim at the church’s expense.

Connection to the church could include, but is not limited to, clergy, teachers or other school staff and parish ministers, she noted.

“We always want to talk with (the victims) or, when possible, meet with them,” Yuhasz said Friday. “Some people don’t want to meet face-to-face and that’s fine.”

On Wednesday, two men revealed that they and nine others had reached an out-of-court settlement with John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, the Youngstown Diocese and the Third Order Regular Franciscan Order on claims of abuse by a Franciscan brother in the mid- to late-1980s at the school.

Brother Stephen Baker now lives at St. Bernardine Monastery near Hollidaysburg, Pa. He has declined to comment on the accusations on the advice of an attorney. He has not been criminally charged in the matter.

Yuhasz said said if the diocese determines an allegation is credible, the church will cover the cost of the counseling – either through its own counseling services or a therapist chosen by the victim.

Yuhasz said it is difficult to determine how widespread or effective counseling is.

“I’ve had some victims who have continued counseling for years and others who do not,” she said. “It just depends on the individual, the situation and the circumstances. Some people want help, and others don’t.”

She said the diocese, when it becomes aware of the alleged abuse, makes a report with local children services in the county where the reported abuse is said to have taken place.

She read from the diocese policy addressing sexual abuse:

“The diocese will make reasonable efforts to help victims receive immediate competent therapeutic assistance and spiritual support.”

She said the diocese will work with victims living outside, the area as well.

“We work with everyone, even those out of state and their therapists, to make sure they get the help they need,” she said.