By now, most everyone has heard the story of abuse that I suffered as a child while growing up in Johnstown.
I will spare you the gory details as I’m sure that most everyone is growing quite tired of hearing them, as I am of telling them.
Today I’d like to give credit where credit is due, and to hopefully stimulate a larger political conversation about the statutes of limitations in the commonwealth.
First and foremost, I would like to sincerely thank my wife, D’Arcy. I told you before we were engaged that I had this thing in my past that you needed to consider before we discussed marriage, and you married me anyway.
At the time, I never imagined it would reach the magnitude that it has. You have faithfully stood by me, and fully supported me through these incredibly difficult times. I am more in love with you today than I was the day we married.
To my family, extended family and my wife’s family, thank you for the overwhelming show of support while I have been going through what I can easily describe as the most difficult thing that I have had to endure in my 48 years. I love you all dearly.
I would like to thank Chip Minemyer, Dave Sutor and everyone at The Tribune-Democrat for their constant commitment and dedication to the issue of child sexual abuse. To the staff of WJAC-TV, and my dear friend Marty Radovanic, for airing my story throughout our region, and helping to make childhood sexual abuse a little easier to speak about.
I have no doubt that the news media have played a vital role in changing the way in which we as a society view such a sensitive subject as child sex abuse.
I am especially grateful to the 12-year-old girl who had the strength and courage to speak out about her alleged abuse by Dr. Johnnie Barto, to her family that listened and called the police. Also to the Richland Police Department, which took the allegations seriously and made the arrest. I have the utmost respect for you all.
I have a very special thank you to two locally elected officials and lifelong friends.
First to Cambia County District Attorney Kelly Callahan. Kelly, words can’t describe the love and gratitude that I have for you, as proof by the tears rolling down my cheeks as I write this section. You have changed the lives, for the better, for so many of us, by turning this over to the state attorney general. I am forever grateful.
The second public official is Rep. Frank Burns. When the story broke about the attorney general’s report into the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, I called Frank and said, “Hey Bud, not to floor you, but I’m one of those guys in the report. I’d like to come out publicly and I’d like to have your support.”
Frank, you have stood by my side publicly ever since, never wavering, even under what must have been extreme pressure from lobbyists to walk away. You’re true to you word and are protecting your constituents every day in Harrisburg.
In that spirit, I would like to personally invite, and publicly ask, all local elected officials to join Rep. Mark Rozzi, of Berks County, Teresa Lancaster, from the Netflix series “The Keepers,” myself, advocates, and survivors of childhood sexual abuse at his rally at the Capital on Tuesday from 3 to 4 p.m.
We have many boroughs, townships and municipalities throughout the region, therefore we have just as many borough and county presidents and council members. Every municipality has children, and I’m positive that every municipality has long active pedophiles as well.
Which of the two are you protecting? You can’t protect both.
Join me publicly and call for the elimination of the statutes of limitations against sex crimes committed on children within the commonwealth.
The end of June is fast approaching and the Pennsylvania attorney general will release his 884-page report into child sex abuse and the Catholic Church’s willingness to cover it up.
I caution that when that day hits, so too will the national media spotlight hit the region again.
I ask the public officials, and the general public to travel to our capital on Tuesday and get ahead of the #TimesUp train that is making its way down the main line into Johnstown.
I truly believe that brighter days are in store for our region, as shown through the good works of the Vision 2025 campaign. However, I feel that we can’t move forward until we address our dark past.
I would like to credit Attorney General Josh Shapiro and his deputy, Daniel Dye, for their fierce dedication and willingness to take on such a powerful opponent on the behalf of we the abused in Pennsylvania. I know exactly how exhausting and trying this work can be for you and your families.
As always, I am incredibly thankful for the support.
We survivors will be forever grateful.
Johnstown native Shaun Dougherty is an advocate for sexual abuse victims.