Kate Sanchez, citizen of the Colville Confederated Tribes and former student at St. Mary’s, told ICT in an earlier interview that she noticed abusive priests targeted Native students who were placed at the mission by child welfare authorities.
“They picked on the ones whose parents weren’t involved at the school,” Sanchez said. “I think they figured that those of us in foster care were lost anyway. They seemed to know our families wouldn’t say anything.”
Sanchez, who took part in the class-action lawsuit against the Oregon Province, was placed at St. Mary’s through the 1960s and 1970s by child welfare authorities. She was abused by one of the priests on the Jesuit West list and witnessed other priests abusing classmates.
Child abuse experts say perpetrators often target children from single-family or broken homes. Children without either parent present are 10 times more likely to be abused than children who live with their biological parents, according to the Children’s Assessment Center of Houston.
The rates of child sexual abuse among Native people is hard to come by, but some researchers estimate that it could be as high on one in every two children, according to a report by Tucson Weekly.
And the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that Native people are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes than other groups.
Holscher and Downey hope to include other data sets of abusive priests in the database but have been frustrated by the lack of records among other Catholic orders. In most cases, researchers aren’t allowed to see the personnel files of priests until 50 years after they have died.
“There is an almost complete lack of records from the last decade, which is when most of the accusations from the 1960s and 1970s came out,” Holscher said.
Downey acknowledges that the database includes only a small amount of data available about sexually abusive priests, but she notes that it presents an important example of how mapping data can provide useful information for survivors, Native communities and the general public.
“This could present a means to get a sense of the scope of what happened at a particular place,” Holsher said.
The researchers hope to secure funding and expand the project. Leaders at the Jesuit West Conference did not respond to emails from ICT requesting comment.