Support group reaches out to clergy abuse victims
A national support group for victims of clergy sex abuse is launching a local chapter with the help of a native Savannahian.
Organizers for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priestsannounced plans to form the first local chapter of the nationalself-help group "focused on healing for anyone molested by clergy ofany denomination."
Southeast coordinator Ann Brentwood will conduct monthly meetings for the local chapter until a leader comes forward, she said. Brentwood is based in Maryville, Tenn.
Brentwood said the local group was spearheaded largely through the efforts of Allan C. Ranta II, a native Savannah man who says he was sexually abused as a child by a former St. James parish priest.
Ranta, 38, now lives in Atlanta.
"Iwas abused," he said. "My main intention here in coming forward with myname is to do whatever I can to protect the children currently outthere and hopefully help someone who is hurting, who may have beenabused."
Ranta said he has filed formal charges against a former Savannah priest but declined to say where the charges were filed. He referred questions regarding the case to his attorney, Blake Beckham in Dallas, who did not return a telephone call by press time.
About 15 other area residents have expressed interest in the newly formed group, Brentwood said.
Unlike Ranta, "most of the people in Savannah have not come publicly forward, and I don't know whether they will ever want to do that," Brentwood said.
"Wedon't try to push anyone to do anything. We support victims whateverthey decide. If they want to remain unknown, we honor that. If theywant to speak, we assist them."
The group issued a letter dated Aug. 11 to Bishop J. Kevin Boland, who presides over the Diocese of Savannah,asking the diocese to disclose the names of "proven, admitted andcredibly accused" church employees and their whereabouts, as well as alist of parishes, hospitals or schools where they have been assigned.
Thegroup requests that the information be published in parish bulletins,in local print and electronic media, and on the diocesan Web site. Thegroup also wants Catholic officials to personally visit each parishwhere "offending clerics have worked and prod victims to come forward."
In an e-mail response, diocesan spokeswoman Barbara King deferred to the Web site of the diocese, which documents church policy for handling reports of sexual abuse.
"The Diocese of Savannahfollows a policy of openness and transparency in accordance with theCharter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by theU.S. Bishops in Dallas, Texas, in 2002," King said.
In recent years, at least one former priest in the Diocese of Savannah has been convicted of sexual abuse.
The Rev. Wayland Brown was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2003 for sexually abusing two brothers while attending a seminary in Washington, D.C. The brothers were 12 and 13 years old when the abuse began in 1974 at their home in Gaithersburg, Md., court records show.
Brown served as a priest in the Savannah diocese until church officials removed him from active ministry in 1988. He continued to reside in Savannah, working as a bookkeeper until his arrest in 2002.
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