Author: Adam Horowitz, Attorney

Catholic sexual abuse

Parishes Can Be Victimized Too

If you’re a bishop, what do you do with parishioners when their beloved priest is accused of child sexual abuse?

One option: Do virtually nothing.

Another option: Express compassion.

A third option: Give them information, context and guidance.

That’s the smartest and most caring choice.

Sadly, however, most Catholic officials opt for saying nothing or token expressions of sympathy. (A common one is “Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone touched by these allegations.”)

What do we mean by “information, context and guidance.”

—“Information” is easy. Tell the flock as much as you can without jeopardizing the privacy of the accuser. For example, “Fr. Bob allegedly molested a boy on a camping trip.” That way, other parents whose kids went camping with Fr. Bob are more apt to ask their children “Did Fr. Bob ever do anything that made you hurt or feel uncomfortable?”

—“Context” is a little bit harder, but just as crucial. By definition, a “beloved priest” is popular. And no one wants to believe they and their loved ones are or have been at risk of horrific abuse. So naturally, the accused predator’s congregants desperately hope and believe he’s innocent.

But a real leader would make sure the flock knows that fewer than two percent of abuse reports against priests are false. There’s a bunch of evidence proving this at BishopAccountability.org

https://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/data.htm#falseallegations

Wouldn’t you, as bishop, want to spare Catholics more pain by explaining that the likelihood of Fr. Bob being exonerated and returning to work is pretty low?

—“Guidance” means teaching parishioners how to act in the wake of the accusation. Let’s face it: to most church-goers, having their pastor charged, publicly or criminally, with such a heinous crime is highly unusual. They’re in uncharted waters. They need guidance from spiritual figures.

And they can either help or hurt others through their actions. Here’s a short, simple list of recommendations, from survivors themselves, on how to make a dreadful situation less dreadful.

https://www.snapnetwork.org/links_homepage/when_priest_accused.htm

The tragedy is that we at Horowitz Law have rarely seen church authorities, in any denomination, offer such guidance to wounded, confused congregants.

We bring this up now because of the case involving Fr. Michael Pfleger in Chicago. He’s been a popular community crusader, taking on drug dealers, violence, disrespectful depictions of women in the media and other causes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Pfleger

But he’s also been accused of child sexual abuse of two boys and sexual abuse of a then-18 year old. Thankfully, his superior Cardinal Blasé Cupich, has suspended Fr. Pfleger.

But sadly, Pfleger’s flock is aggressively rallying around him. By doing so, they’re making the investigation into the abuse reports tougher. And they’re very likely scaring other witnesses, victims and whistleblowers who might shed light on the situation into keeping quiet.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/investigations/ct-pfleger-abuse-new-accuser-20210303-mayzala3afhchkhhfifttzyeki-story.html

Let’s not, however, blame the parishioners entirely. Much of the fault here lies with Cupich. He has the experience, resources, education and, in fact, the duty to teach his flock how they can privately express support for their ousted pastor while at the same time protecting the privacy of accusers.

Cupich hasn’t done so, however. And virtually none of his clerical colleagues have either.

He’s acting selfishly, doing and saying little, when he should be acting responsibly, doing and saying lots to make sure a tough situation isn’t made tougher for all.

The Steps to Take After Being Sexually Assaulted by a Massage Therapist

Massage Sexually assaulted

Attorney Adam Horowitz is among the most experienced attorneys in the country in representing survivors of sexual assault by massage therapists (otherwise known as masseurs or masseuses).  Our law firm has represented dozens of people sexually assaulted by massage therapists and obtained justice in countless cases against large national chain spas, luxury hotels, and local spas.  An explosive Buzzfeed News investigation in which Adam Horowitz was quoted blew the cover off the massage industry and exposed the fact that over 180 people had reported sexual misconduct at Massage Envy franchises nationwide.  Since that time, the number of abuse claimants has continued to soar.

We have handled sexual misconduct cases involving incidents at Massage Envy, Hand & Stone, Massage Green, Massage LuXe, Elements Massage, Massage Heights, and many other locations.  In some cases. we have represented multiple victims of a single massage therapist.  It is often the case that after one client comes forward with an account of assault and then additional victims of the same perpetrator gain the courage and strength to come forward as well.  There is strength in numbers and having the courage to expose your perpetrator may provide support to other victims in telling their story.

All sexual contact by massage therapists during a professional setting is prohibited.  For  instance, Section 480.0485, Florida Statutes, provides as follows:

Sexual misconduct in the practice of massage therapy. — The massage therapist-patient relationship is founded on mutual trust. Sexual misconduct in the practice of massage therapy means violation of the massage therapist-patient relationship through which the massage therapist uses that relationship to induce or attempt to induce the patient to engage, or to engage or attempt to engage the patient, in sexual activity outside the scope of practice or the scope of generally accepted examination or treatment of the patient. Sexual misconduct in the practice of massage therapy is prohibited.

In most jurisdictions, sexual contact by a massage therapist is a crime and can result in the massage therapist losing his professional license.  In addition to contacting a civil attorney to find out your rights in a lawsuit, there are others to whom you should also report a sexual assault by a massage therapist:

  1. Notify the police department or other law enforcement agency in the city where the massage occurred.  It is important that you report the assault in full detail to criminal authorities so that the massage therapist can be exposed and held criminally responsible where appropriate.  In criminal cases, there is a high burden of proof. Not every perpetrator will be criminally charged, but it is important to get the report on record. It could cost the therapist his job or prevent him from committing abuse in the future.
  2. Notify the Department of Health or other licensing agency in the state where the massage therapist is licensed. You should submit a report in writing detailing all inappropriate contact initiated by the massage therapist.  Remember — it is not your fault that the massage therapist touched you in a sexual manner and it is not your fault if you did not immediately stop the perpetrator.  It is also not your fault if you did not immediately report the incident while you were still figuring out how to process these events.  When you go into a massage, you are expecting a relaxing experience from a trained professional.  You are not expecting the massage therapist to initiate sexual contact.  In most jurisdictions, the Department of Health or Board of Massage Therapy will commence an investigation of the massage therapist upon receiving a sexual assault allegation.  The Department is authorized to impose a variety of remedies, ranging from removing a message therapist’s licenses to suspension to public reprimand.  Sanctions against a massage therapist may become a public record and you can protect other clients from being exposed to a potential sexual assault by reporting an assault to the Department of Health.
  3. Contact a therapist.  After a traumatic event such as being sexually assaulted during a massage, it is typical to have feelings of anxiety, stress, intrusive thoughts, depression, restlessness or fear, making it difficult to adjust or cope for some time afterwards. In particular, survivors of sexual trauma may experience severe feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While it is natural to have some of these symptoms after a traumatic event, if they last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, it might be PTSD. As important as it is to notify an attorney and civil authorities about a sexual trauma, there is no substitute for also receiving therapy from a trained professional.

If you have a been sexually assaulted in a spa or during a massage, or if you know someone who has, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to attorney Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com

Let’s Recognize the Courage of Black Sexual Abuse Survivors During Black History Month

During Black History Month each year, we collectively turn our attention to brave and accomplished Black figures, everyone from Harriett Tubman  to Dr. Martin Luther King and beyond.

It’s of course very valuable to lift up and remember such inspiring figures as Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglas, Shirley Chisholm, Jackie Robinson, Langston Hughes and others.

But it’s also safe.

Their heroism is decades old and their oppressors are long gone.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/muterkelly-oronike-odeleye_n_60074a54c5b6ffcab9685e10?e18

What about CURRENT Black heroes? They should not be overlooked.

We’re talking about Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo Movement, who recently explained, “The stakes are higher in a lot of instances for us than they are for a lot of other women… that creates a dynamic where you have women of color who have to think a little bit differently about what it means for them to come forward in cases of sexual harassment.”

And Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas who spoke out against Dr. Larry Nassar and USA gymnastics.

And R. Kelly’s victims, including Faith Rodgers, Andrea Kelly (Drea), Tracey Sampson and Tiffany Hawkins (who sued him back in 1996).

https://time.com/5546990/r-kelly-timeline/

“The stakes are higher in a lot of instances for us than they are for a lot of other women,” said Tarana Burke, a black activist who founded the #MeToo movement on Twitter in 2006 to raise awareness around sexual violence. “That creates a dynamic where you have women of color who have to think a little bit differently about what it means for them to come forward in cases of sexual harassment.”

 

We could obviously go on and on. The heroic – and recent – actions of these brave Black women, and others, should be recognized, not just in February, but forever.

https://time.com/5546990/r-kelly-timeline/

Florida Diocese Hides Abuse Even During a 2020 Criminal Investigation

And in the category of Most Secretive Florida Catholic Diocese, the award goes to. . . .St. Augustine!

Records obtained by law enforcement, show that St. Augustine diocesan officials hid recent abuse reports against a priest, EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A STATEWIDE ATTORNEY GENERAL INVESTIGATION into church abuse and concealment cases.
https://www.news4jax.com/i-team/2021/02/04/former-jacksonville-bishops-failed-to-report-sexual-abuse-allegations-records-show/

And the records contain the names of several credibly accused predator priests whose identities would have almost certainly remained secret if not for that Attorney General probe.

Remember, it was nearly 20 years ago that every U.S. bishop pledged to reform their mishandling of abuse reports, a pledge often honored only in the breach. This pledge, it turns out, was apparently easier for them to make than to uphold.

While the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution was investigating the Catholic abuse scandal just a year ago, a St. Augustine priest – Fr. D. Terrence Morgan – was under investigation by a local police department for a lewd and lascivious act on a child, including allegations he grabbed a child’s butt and sent sexually explicit text messages.

Did St. Augustine Bishop Felipe Estevez share that report with the AG’s office? Nope.

Here are more details:

In 2019, St. Augustine police interviewed Fr. D. Terrence Morgan and his former pastor Fr. Tom Willis.  Fr. Willis admitted he got complaints about Fr. Morgan’s ‘boundary issues’ and he relayed them to his church superiors in 2017.

Fr. Morgan told investigators he’d had “inappropriate contact with a male student” and had “a relationship with two 19-year-old men” but denied any sexual contact with them.

Again, in 2019, St. Augustine’s bishop and his staff – virtually all of them – knew the Florida AG was looking into clergy sex crimes. But not a single person called or wrote the investigators.

Nor did the church hierarchy tell investigators with the Office of Statewide Prosecution about an allegation Fr. Morgan had a sexual relationship with a teenager in 1977.

According to a news account: “The report was filed with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in September 2020 during the state’s investigation.

The Office of Statewide Prosecution didn’t publish its findings until November 2020. The next month, finally, St. Augustine diocese told parishioners the next month there were allegations against Fr. Morgan with a “semblance of truth” and the diocese was conducting a canonical investigation.

The files obtained from the Diocese of St. Augustine have internal investigative documents, emails and notes from cases involving Fr. Thomas McNamara, Fr. Richard Bowles, Fr. William Malone and Fr. William Weinheimer — all credibly accused of sexual abuse. Noticeably missing from the records are files on Fr. John H. Dux, a priest named in the state’s probe of sex abuse in the church and who the Diocese of St. Augustine reported was credibly accused of molesting a child in 1976.

(Morgan taught at Bishop Kenny High School and worked at Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. He retired in 2019.)

(At least three clerics on that list are still alive: Fr. Dux, Jr., Fr David McCreanor and Fr. Michael E. Morse )

Just three months ago, the AG’s final investigation was published. It named 97 priests across Florida who were credibly accused of sexual abuse.

But given how St. Augustine church officials kept silence about allegations against Fr. Morgan, we can’t help but believe that the AG’s report just scratched the surface of abuse here. And we tremble when we think of how many other child molesting priests, brothers, bishops, seminarians, nuns, monks and lay employees have been accused of abuse and are still being protected by Catholic authorities.

Time for Catholic Bishops to Be Transparent About All Alleged Abusers

This is the story of two US Catholic bishops and a simple word: “transparency.”

One is the just-installed head of the Springfield MA diocese, Bishop Bill Byrne. The other is a New York native who now heads the South Carolina diocese, Bishop Robert Guglielmone.

These two prelates apparently differ radically in their interpretation of the word ‘transparency.’   Both of course have pledged, as has every single Catholic bishop for the last 20 years, to be ‘transparent’ in abuse cases.

Let’s start with Bryne.

Before he even took office, he promised to release the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics even if the abuse reports against them came after they were dead.
The purpose, he said, is so that “true healing can begin.”   “It’s not a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity to be able to provide people with the information that they need so that we can begin to bring healing to the victims,” Byrne explained.

He apparently has an appropriate and expansive view of who the victims of clergy sex abuse are: “When we talk about victims, we’re not just talking about the individual that experienced the devastation at the hands of somebody who should have been protecting them — a clergy person, or someone who worked for the church. We’re talking about their mom or dad. Their brothers and sisters. Their best friends.”

Good for Byrne. That’s real transparency – releasing the names of ALL predators. This should be common practice among bishops, but sadly, is not. Many of them split hairs, arguing that it’s unfair to ‘out’ deceased predators who can’t defend themselves.

“It’s not one hole in the ice, it’s a crack that spreads through the entire unit of the family and friends and the community. The tentacles go deep,” he said. “If we’re ever going to begin to heal, then the first step is, we have to be honest. We have to lay this out. … Transparency and communication. That’s what people are asking of us.”

And, we at Horowitz Law would add, that’s also what police, prosecutors, parents, parishioners and the public also DESERVE.

https://www.wnpr.org/post/springfields-new-chronically-hopeful-bishop-pledges-transparency-abuse

The diocese’s spokesman predicts the move – which is to be made public early next year – “will amount to a significant addition to our current list.”
Chancery staffer Jeffrey Trant echoed the bishop’s thinking: “Publishing the names of all credibly accused clerics provides survivors with information that may help with their healing process,” Trant said.
https://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/local/in-shift-springfield-diocese-will-name-all-credibly-accused-priests/article_672cfed6-3bf5-11eb-86e8-c3ed2f96ed03.html

Good for Bryne, Trant and everyone involved in this transparency.

On the other hand, there’s Bishop Robert Guglielmone. He’s accused of molesting a child but he now says

—the Vatican has cleared him of wrongdoing,

—Rome has sent him a letter in which it claims that the sexual abuse allegation against (him) has no semblance of truth and is thus unfounded,”

—an unnamed law firm hired by Catholic leaders in New York investigated the allegations and provided its findings to the Vatican, but

—Guglielmone’s legal team claimed it has a sworn statement from a family member of the accuser that bolsters their defense, and

—the bishop’s lawyers said the accuser admitted that he made up the allegations in order to get money from the church.

In the news article that details much of this notes that “efforts to reach attorneys for Guglielmone were not immediately successful.”  Here’s the problem: none of this is ‘transparent.’ None of it has been released to the press or the public. Not the letter from the Vatican. Not the supposed sworn statement from the accuser’s relative. Not the so-called ‘investigation’ by New York church officials. Not even the name of the lawyers who conducted that purported probe.

In fact, Guglielmone is even keeping his own staff in the dark about this. His current press secretary, Michael Acquilano, said “Charleston church officials do not know the name of the law firm that investigated the matter and haven’t seen a copy of the investigative report.”

https://www.postandcourier.com/news/sc-bishop-says-vatican-has-cleared-himof-sexual-abuse-allegation/article_26db3ea8-3815-11eb-9363-dbaa3da23510.html

It’s such a simple word: transparency. It’s so disappointing that unlike Byrne of Massachusetts, most bishops aren’t even transparent with the names of all the predator priests. And it’s so disappointing that most bishops, like Guglielmone of South Carolina, transparency goes out the window when they themselves are accused.

Massage license sexual

Report Inappropriate Touch by Massage Therapists to the Department of Health or Other Licensing Agency

Had a bad massage experience? Here’s an unusual suggestion.

If you’ve gotten a massage and suffered any inappropriate conduct (uncomfortable touch, suggestive remarks, unusual requests), you’ve likely considered calling the police or a civil attorney.

Good for you. But few ever think about contacting the health department in the state where the therapist is licensed.

Here are four reasons why you should consider this step:

–Sometimes police or prosecutors are overworked and can’t move very quickly to expose a wrongdoer. And until an offender is publicly exposed, he’s still a risk to others. Health departments can sometimes more take action quickly.

–In many statesthe Department of Health or Board of Massage Therapy can impose remedies like yanking a therapist’s license, suspending him or her, and issuing a public reprimand.

–Sometimes, these sanctions become a public record and are publicized by news media, thus warning other unsuspecting massage clients.

–Many victims feel better once they’ve taken steps to protect others. (And sometimes, inaction leads to nagging thoughts of “What if he’s still hurting others?)

https://adamhorowitzlaw.com/massage-therapist-sexually-inappropriate/

Finally, if you’ve never had a massage, or a creepy experience during a massage, you may well know others who have. It’s a billion dollar industry and one in four adults have had a massage just within the past year.

So you can help just by asking friends and family “Hey has a massage therapist ever made you feel awkward or uncomfortable?

If the answer is yes, tell them “I believe you and will support you no matter how you choose to handle this.” Listen intently to them. Assure them that however they reacted to the abuse at the time is understandable. Discourage them from ‘kicking themselves’ about not responding in a different way.

And gently urge them to consider reaching out to independent sources of help: therapists, police, prosecutors, health officials and attorneys.

Over the years, Horowitz law has pursued cases like this in many massage chains, including Massage Envy, Hand & Stone, Massage Green, Massage LuXe, Elements Massage, Massage Heights, and many other locations.  https://adamhorowitzlaw.com/who-we-sue/massage-therapists-spas/

New Tool May Identify Pedophiles in Online Chats

Ready for some good news? Here is an encouraging new developments you may have missed:

–“On the basis of words and patterns of speech,” Microsoft has “created an automated system to detect sexual predators trying to groom children online.”

https://www.technologyreview.com/f/615033/microsoft-has-created-a-tool-to-find-pedophiles-in-online-chats/?utm_campaign=site_visitor.unpaid.engagement&utm_source

Let’s hope this works, works well, and spreads quickly. (At the same time, however, let no one get complacent and assume any new or improved technology can ever take the place of involved and vigilant parents and loved ones.)

At the risk of sounding ‘preachy,’ we must remember that ALL OF US have a duty to protect the vulnerable. When we choose to adopt, as our default posture, supporting those who report sexual violence (instead of being overly skeptical), we are indeed helping to both protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.

Ray Vontae Brown Horowitz Law Massage Envy

Massage Envy Therapist Ray Vontae Brown Arrested in Riverside for Sexual Battery of Client

Ray Vontae Brown, a massage therapist at Massage Envy in Riverside, California was arrested on October 15, 2019 on misdemeanor sexual battery charges.  According to law enforcement records, it is alleged that a female customer reported that Brown inappropriately touched her during a massage session.  The customer immediately reported the alleged incident to Massage Envy and then to law enforcement.  The sexual assault is alleged to have occurred at Massage Envy located at 19029 Van Buren Boulevard in Riverside.

Brown is twenty-three years old and has been a massage therapist since 2018.   Investigators have discovered a possible second victim.  Ray Vontae Brown is no longer employed with Massage Envy.  Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact the Riverside Police Department.

Attorney Adam Horowitz has filed numerous sexual misconduct claims against massage therapists on behalf of clients who were inappropriately touched at Massage Envy.  A massage therapist is never permitted to have sexual contact with a client.  If you have a been a victim of sexual assault or sexual battery during a massage at Massage Envy or any other spa, or if you know someone who has, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz  at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com

 

Nicholas McLoughlin Horowitz Law

Lawsuit Filed Against Diocese of Venice for Alleged Sexual Assault by Father Nicholas McLoughlin

Horowitz Law has filed a lawsuit in Sarasota County on behalf of an adult female client alleging that she was sexually assaulted in April 2018 by Diocese of Venice priest Nicholas McLoughlin in the confessional at Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park, Florida.  McLoughlin, known to parishioners as “Father Nick”, was the Pastor at Our Lady of Grace at the time of the alleged incident.

According to the Complaint, at the start of confession, Father McLoughlin abruptly stood up, approached the parishioner and reached out to touch her.  As he reached out to touch her, she thought that Father McLoughlin was going to make the sign of the cross on her forehead.  Much to her surprise and dismay, Father McLoughlin proceeded to forcefully grope L.B.’s right breast and aggressively kiss her.  She yelled at Father McLoughlin to stop and she struggled to break away from his power grip.

This is not the first time that Father Nicholas McLoughlin has been accused of sexual misconduct.  In November 2018, the Diocese of Venice announced that McLoughlin was being placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into a complaint alleging that he molested a child at Corpus Christi Parish in Temple Terrace, Florida in the 1970’s.  At that time, McLoughlin would have been under the supervision of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

Additionally, in 1997, McLoughlin was named as a co-defendant in a lawsuit, in which the Catholic Diocese of Venice agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a suit with a former Port Charlotte altar boy who was molested by Nicholas McLoughlin’s brother, Ed McLoughlin, then assistant pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church where Nicholas McLoughlin was pastor at the time.  The choir director was also accused of molestation.

Nicholas McLoughlin served as pastor of Corpus Christi Parish, Temple Terrace from 1973 to 1982. He previously served as associate pastor of St. John Vianney, St. Pete Beach and pastor of Bishop Barry and Notre Dame High Schools in St. Petersburg from June 1972 to August 1973.  He was appointed Pastor of Our Lady of Grace in March 2007.

Horowitz Law files civil lawsuits representing children and adults who were victims of sexual abuse by priests, ministers, rabbis, deacons, nuns, or other clergy of any faith. If you or someone you know was a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault at a church or other religious organization, please contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or send a confidential email to adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com