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Man who was sexually abused as a child wants state and local law enforcement to more aggressively investigate boarding schools like Agape

David Clohessy and an anonymous victim of child sex abuse stand outside the Federal Courthouse in Springfield (photo taken October 24, 2023)
Michele Skalicky
David Clohessy and an anonymous victim of child sex abuse stand outside the Federal Courthouse in Springfield (photo taken October 24, 2023)

Following the announcement of another lawsuit against the now-closed Agape Boarding School in Stockton, which alleged gang rape, among other abuses, David Clohessy and another survivor of sexual abuse spoke in front of the Federal Courthouse in Springfield.

Calling it a sidewalk news conference outside the Federal Courthouse in Springfield, Clohessy invited media to hear a statement and ask questions.

"We're here today outside a courthouse because this is where you go if you were physically or sexually or emotionally abused in an institutional setting, this is where you go for justice, healing, closure, accountability and prevention, to the admittedly flawed but time-tested and transparent legal system," he said. "You find justice, healing, closure, accountability and prevention in secular courts of law, not in the private offices of wrongdoers."

Clohessy lives in St. Louis and is volunteer Missouri director of SNAP. He said he was abused by a priest at his church as a child.

SNAP wants Missouri lawmakers to pass a new law that would expand the state's civil statute of limitations on abuse, which would allow more child sex abuse victims to expose in court those who commit or conceal child sex crimes, according to Clohessy.

He said he also wants local and state law enforcement agencies to more aggressively investigate schools like Agape and more vigorously prosecute wrongdoers.

Clohessy said help is available through SNAP for anyone who is a victim of child sex abuse.

"The biggest help we mostly provide is simply just being a safe place to confide and to share these secrets and to be comforted and consoled and reassured — reassured that none of the blame, none of the blame falls on them," he said.

The mother who filed the lawsuit against Agape, a transport company that flew him there from Idaho and the Cedar County sheriff, blaming abuse that occurred there for her son's death, sought help from SNAP, according to Clohessy.

To contact the organization, call 1-877-SNAP.

Clohessy said he hopes the most recent lawsuit will make a difference — even if it's not successful. Every time a survivor takes a step, especially towards accountability, he said, it's "very encouraging."

When victims speak up, he said, "We start to heal. We start to protect others. We start to expose people who commit or conceal heinous crimes against children. And we start to prevent those crimes — and the devastating consequences of those crimes."