SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Following a wrongful death lawsuit against Agape Boarding School, abuse survivors are bringing to light what they said are holes in the legal system.
”There’s been no serious independent law enforcement investigation of these horrors,” said David Clohessy, Volunteer Director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “Most of the wrongdoers at the school, both those who perpetuated abuse and who could conceal the abuse, most of those wrongdoers still today, years later, face no real consequences.”
In 2021, the state legislature passed a law that requires all boarding schools to be licensed.
“It was the fact that they could be unlicensed and fly under the radar, that all of these abuses could occur,” attorney Rebecca Randles said. “Unfortunately, the enforcement on that is still patchy, and not all of the boarding schools, even in Missouri, have yet complied with the licensure.”
As far as the consequences go for abuse at an institution like Agape, they are not always what survivors hope for.
“What they want is for this to stop,” Randles said. “Unfortunately, in the civil system, the only thing you can get is money. But money is a terrible means of exchange. The way our system is set up, not every perpetrator is going to go to jail.”
Abuse survivors said they want stricter punishments for everyone involved.
“No threat of penalty is going to deter a child molester,” Clohessy said. “I really believe that. But severe penalties and public shaming and jail sentences, those are going to deter all the folks who knew or suspected and kept quiet. There have been in the past and there will again be in the next legislative session, a measure to extend or eliminate the statute of limitations. We would urge lawmakers to seriously consider that.”
Hearings and motions for the wrongful death lawsuit will be heard in a Springfield courtroom.