South side church accused of failing to report claims of sexual abuse

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind (April 20, 2016)--An Indianapolis church is under fire for allegedly failing to report accusations of sexual abuse.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP, claims leaders of the Southport Presbyterian Church knew about an incident involving two of its members and did not take appropriate action.

A church member is partly responsible for blowing the whistle and bringing the allegations to light.

Last August, "Jane" heard that a 15-year-old was allegedly  sexually abused at the hands of a 19-year-old. Both were members of the Southport Presbyterian Church.

"I went to the board of elders and tried to talk with them and I felt that their response minimized what happened to the young child," said Jane.

Jane took the information to leaders at her church and assumed they  would take the appropriate steps and call police. However, Jane says that never happened.

"In that first week it became pretty clear that they weren't going to report it. It was 20 days and maybe longer than that before the church notified anyone" said Jane.

This week, SNAP sent letters to roughly 800 church members.  The note informed parishioners about the allegations and offered resources and suggestions for how the church should move forward.

"We firmly believe that a youngster in the church was sexually violated by an older teen. And we strongly suspect that church officials did not promptly or fully report to law enforcement," said SNAP Executive Director, David Clohessy.

SNAP encourages church leaders to talk openly about the alleged incident.  The letter even asks anyone with information to come forward.

"It’s tempting to do nothing. It’s tempting to stay silent and it’s tempting to assume that someone else with more authority or more information should be picking up that phone and calling 911," said Clohessy.

Jane says she was getting nowhere with the church and filed a police report herself with the Johnson County Sheriff's Department.  The case was investigated and no criminal charges were filed.  However, there are now serious questions surrounding what church leaders knew and when.

"If there's one spot in the story that I wish I made a different decision-- I wish I would have known to just to call police first," said Jane.

As the church is accused of remaining silent in a case of sexual abuse, they also remained quiet when it came to returning phone calls requesting a comment.

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