An attorney is running newspaper ads seeking information about possible victims of a Roman Catholic priest who’s accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a young female parishioner in the early 1970s.
A Seymour law firm representing Gretchen Mayerhofer in her claim against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis began running ads Tuesday in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star seeking information about other alleged victims of the Rev. Germain Belen while he was posted at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Terre Haute from 1968 to 1976.
Belen died in 2004, a year after Mayerhofer, who now resides in Placerville, Calif., filed a lawsuit in Marion County accusing him of repeatedly molesting and raping her while she was between the ages of 5 and 10.
Seymour attorney Roger Pardieck said soliciting information though ads is common and has been done in many other cases nationwide to locate similar such victims.
“It is very, very, difficult for people to come forth. By coming forth, they experience the trauma all over again,” Pardieck said. “We have had some response, but before anyone comes forth, there has to be consideration of their family, their friends and they can’t just take it upon themselves to step up. It is a very, very difficult decision.”
So far, the ad has generated one lead, Pardieck said.
Archdiocesan spokesman Greg Otolski said the archdiocese has encouraged people having information about sexual abuse by church personnel to report it to law enforcement officials and to the archdiocese.
Mayerhofer’s memories of being molested surfaced in 2002, Pardieck said.
“She was seeking treatment for an anxiety disorder, and in the course of those sessions started getting flashbacks, and as a result, she had a breakdown and became totally disabled,” Pardieck said.
Mayerhofer has since recovered and is working in the computer industry, he said.
Under Indiana law, a minor has two years from the date of their 18th birthday to file a civil lawsuit, unless they did not become aware of injury after that time, Pardieck said.