Sterling Heights woman says priest abused her in 1977 at Detroit church
A Sterling Heights woman said Tuesday she was victimized by a Catholic priest while working in a Detroit rectory as a teenager 42 years ago.
Jeanne Hunton said the sexual abuse happened during the summer of 1977, when she took a job as a housekeeper at age 14 in the rectory at Assumption Grotto Church on Detroit's east side.
The priest who allegedly abused her was at the rectory recovering from a medical procedure, Hunton said.
Hunton said she filed a report with Detroit police about the alleged abuse, although she said she was told the statute of limitations had expired. She added Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan State Police are investigating her claims.
The priest, whom The Detroit News is not naming because he's not been charged with a crime, lives "in a condo about three miles from me," Hunton said during a press conference outside the Archdiocese of Detroit's downtown offices. She said he is 94.
The archdiocese said in a statement Tuesday it hadn’t received any prior allegations.
"We are always deeply grieved to learn about any allegations of clergy abuse, especially involving minors or vulnerable adults, and we do everything in our power to provide assistance to victims," the archdiocese said. "Had this allegation been shared with the archdiocese in 2010, it would have been examined by our Review Board, and if deemed a substantive allegation (that is, having a semblance of truth), (the priest's) ministry would have been restricted at that time."
The archdiocese said it would look to local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Office on how to proceed.
"I think it's sad he's able to do anything he wants," said Hunton, who during the press briefing burned a book she said was written by the priest.
Hunton said she took the summer job at the rectory as a housekeeping assistant, which she said "was better than babysitting."
"On weekends, I worked at the rectory by myself," Hunton said. "I was a 14-year-old girl among priests everyone respected.
"I was sexually abused repeatedly," she said. "I was scared, ashamed, and I didn't know who to go to. I carried this with me in my life, through different addictions and problems."
Hunton said in 2009 she decided to confront the man she said abused her. "I left a message that I was an old friend, and gave only my first name," she said. "A couple days later, I got a return call, and he acted like he knew who I was."
Hunton said she arranged to meet the priest at a restaurant. "I had a three-page letter documenting everything that happened to me," she said. "As he was reading it, his eyes welled up. Then I saw rage. He finished the letter, slapped it onto the table, and said, 'I don't remember any of this.' I said, 'I remember everything.'
"His response was, 'I'm going to pray for you because anyone who holds a grudge this long needs prayers,'" Hunton said. "I told him, 'You need the prayers.'"
Hunton said someone from Nessel's office contacted her last year about the alleged abuse, and that she reported it to state police.
During Tuesday's press conference, Hunton said she knew of two other local priests and a nun who have been "credibly accused" of sexual assault. She said Nessel's office is investigating those claims.
Hunton said she is establishing a local chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. The first meeting is at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Serenity Club, at 60 N. Tilden Ave. in Waterford Township.
"I encourage survivors of sexual abuse to come forward," she said. "It's time we take this off our shoulders, and put it onto the shoulders of the people who victimized us."