Earlier this week, the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese put an end to 30 years of tribulation for Rosemary and Donald Teeman, surviving parents of Brian Teeman who took his own life in 1983 after being repeatedly sexually abused in his hometown church. At fourteen years old, Brian Teeman shot and killed himself in his parents’ home. The only explanation of his death was found by his parents on a handwritten note that said, “I didn’t want to be yelled at. Love, Brian.” The diocese that was accused of knowing about and concealing the reported abuse settled for $2.25 million, just days before the case was set for trial.
The lawsuit was filed in 2011 after a man who served as an altar boy with Brian Teeman, came forward about the long history of sexual abuse at the church. According to the lawsuit, then-priest Monsignor Thomas J. O’Brien forced Teeman and three other altar boys to perform sexual acts in the sacristy at Nativity of Mary in Independence, Missouri. O’Brien warned the boys that they would be excommunicated from the church, disowned by their parents, and sent to Hell if they told anyone what they were forced to do. According to charges, the St. Joseph Diocese knew that O’Brien – a man charged in over 2 dozen other sexual abuse lawsuits – was abusing Brian Teeman, but prevented the public or his parents from finding out.
Sexual abuse of children within religious and educational institutions is not a new hardship our society must face. Cases such as these, however, provide a platform for victims to stand up against their assailants – and the institutions who shelter them – even if the abuse occurred years ago.
Indeed, just this month, a group of 22 men filed a lawsuit against New York City-based Yeshiva University, an all-male Jewish high school, who claim they were sexually abused by administrators and faculty members between 1971 and 1989. Charges indicate that despite the multiple reports of abuse these men filed with the school during this time period, high-level administrators never reported the issue to the police and allowed sex abusers to “go quietly”.
These reports do not fall on deaf ears, and our justice system no longer tolerates the nightmare of a child’s sexual abuse to be buried under years of silence.
If you or someone you know have been the victim of sexual abuse by a religious leader, organization, or school, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or 713-222-7211.