ALBANY — Anti-abuse advocacy group CFCtoo will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Million Dollar Staircase in the New York State Capitol Building.
Abuse survivors and clergy will make statements in support of the Child Abuse Reporting Expansion (CARE) Act.
Former St. Lawrence County residents Abigail Nye and Bonnie Ogilvie will be attending. Ms. Nye, traveling from Wisconsin, is a former member of The Christian Fellowship Center, an evangelical religious organization with several hundred members, and churches in communities including Madrid, Potsdam, Canton, Richville and Moira. Ms. Ogilivie, who is coming from Florida, is the mother of Sean M. Ferguson, a church member who was arrested and charged with felony first-degree sexual abuse in the summer of 2021. St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua said the allegations against Ferguson went back to 2015.
Ferguson eventually pled guilty to second-degree sexual abuse.
“The authorities couldn’t bring strong charges against him because they needed three things: recent witness testimonies, recent victim testimonies, and cooperative guardians. They did not have any of these things,” Ms. Ogilivie said. “The gap between when the abuse occurred and when the abuse was reported to CPS (Child Protective Service) was too large. When pastors are not required by law to report child sexual abuse, what happened to my grandbabies will happen to other children.”
Ms. Nye founded the group CFCtoo when Ferguson was arrested. CFCtoo refers to the -MeToo and -ChurchToo movements that sexual assault survivors have taken to the internet, sharing their stories of abuse and sometimes naming their abusers.
The survivors of sexual abuse that CFCtoo represents are seeking to amend the current legislation on mandated reporters, Ms. Nye said.
“My church leadership’s failure to report my children’s abuse set them up for a lifetime of trauma,” said Michelle Wilbur, abuse survivor and CFCtoo advocate said in a prepared statement. “For far too long, predators have been able to hide in churches where the pastors do not report the offender’s vile acts to authorities. Churches are a place for all sinners to feel loved. But it must be a place where the most vulnerable are protected.”
Former Christian Fellowship Center members are raising awareness of the Child Abuse Reporting Expansion Act, or CARE Act, a state bill that would make clergy mandatory reporters of child abuse or mistreatment mandatory.
The survivors of sexual abuse that CFCtoo represents are seeking to amend the current legislation on mandated reporters, the press release announcing the Albany press conference states.
There is cross-denominational support of the act, interfaith leaders around New York State are signing a letter of support for the CARE Act.
“The New York State Council of Churches stands in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who advocate for the passage and enactment of the CARE Act legislation,” New York State Council of Churches President Gary VanKennen and Executive Director Rev. Peter Cook said in the press release. “This legislation is one more way to identify and minimize abuse of the vulnerable. We wish to stress that in nearly half the states, clergy are mandated reporters. As a Council, it’s incredible to us that New York did not make this a requirement many years ago.”
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