Iowa Clergy Sex Abuse Survivor Calls For Statewide Investigation Into Abuse

May 23, 2019

An Iowa native who heads a national support network for people abused by priests is calling for a statewide investigation into child sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

Tim Lennon was sexually abused by a Catholic priest at age 12. At a Thursday news conference in Sioux City, the president of the board of directors for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said he is looking to states like Pennsylvania and Illinois as models for what should be done in Iowa. Attorneys general from those states have released statewide reports on clergy sex abuse.

“I’m asking that Iowa does something similar,” Lennon said. “That they establish a hotline. That they advocate for stronger laws around sexual abuse.”

In an email, Lynn Hicks, the communications director for the Iowa Attorney General's Office, said the office is “actively working on this issue” but he declined to discuss their work. Hicks and Chief Deputy Attorney General Eric Tabor met with Lennon this week.

“We listened to his requests and he provided some information on clergy abuse in Iowa and the response of other states,” Hicks said. “We informed him that we continue to collect information from survivors, diocese officials and other state AGs and examine our authority to do a statewide investigation.”

Under state law, sexual abuse victims have 10 years after they turn 18 to file criminal charges. Lennon, who grew up in Sioux City, said victims in Iowa should have no time limits to file charges.

“The injury caused by sexual abuse is lifelong,” he said. “I was raped and abused when I was 12. I’m 72. And every day that I wake up … it’s there. And the great amount of fire, anger that I feel, that happened to me … keeps me going every day.”

He added people don’t often come forward to share their story until years and years after they’ve been abused.

“Too many go free. I mean, statute of limitations is a 'get out of jail free' card for predators,” Lennon said. “I didn’t come forward with some of my memories until I was 43. The rape, I didn’t come forward until I was 63.”

State lawmakers have considered bills to remove the time limit, but these bills never made it through the Iowa House.