Alexa

Austrian recalls abuse by priest

 Klaus Fluch, a self-described victim who says he suffered clerical sexual abuse, speaks at a news conference in Vienna, Austria, on Friday, April 2, ...
 Klaus Fluch, a self-described victim who says he suffered clerical sexual abuse, speaks at a news conference in Vienna, Austria, on Friday, April 2, ...

Austria Church Abuse

Klaus Fluch, a self-described victim who says he suffered clerical sexual abuse, speaks at a news conference in Vienna, Austria, on Friday, April 2, ...

Austria Church Abuse

Klaus Fluch, a self-described victim who says he suffered clerical sexual abuse, speaks at a news conference in Vienna, Austria, on Friday, April 2, ...

Klaus Fluch says he was about 10 when his parish priest first sexually assaulted him.
Decades later, the 46-year-old Austrian still vividly recalls the horror of being forced to kneel and endure five years of abuse by a trusted adult who was also his religion teacher in the southern village of St. Gallen.
"This priest played such an important role in our family, with my mother _ that's why I couldn't imagine that what he was doing was so bad," Fluch told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "Only much later did I fully realize what had happened."
Fluch is one of an increasing number of Austrians going public to allege abuse by clergy and employees of institutions _ such as schools _ run by the country's Catholic church.
While the number of actual cases remains unclear, a newly created group called the Platform Of Those Affected By Church Violence said Friday that more than 150 people have called its hot line since late last month to report 174 incidents of alleged abuse.
The group, which includes victims, psychologists, psychiatrists and lawyers, said about one-third of the callers claimed they had been sexually abused by priests or Catholic church employees, with the rest reporting physical or verbal abuse.
Earlier in the week, the Catholic church said its abuse hot lines have logged 566 calls or e-mails this year. Officials said it was unclear how many of the reports would turn out to be concrete abuse claims, but that all would be followed up diligently.
Fluch _ who said he suffered from depression due to what happened to him _ claimed he knows of 25 others who were also abused by the same priest, identified as Berthold Stiebellehner who died earlier this year.
But most, he said, are too frightened to come forward.
"There are also cases that don't go back that far but these people are reluctant to out themselves," he said.
Fluch said he repeatedly tried _ in vain _ to report his abuse to church officials.
"For years, I tried to contact church representatives _ I sent registered letters and made calls _ but no one ever called back and that's why I came forward," said Fluch, who previously talked to local media and plans to publish a book about his experiences.
The abbot of the Admont monastery to which Stiebellehner belonged apologized for the abuse when allegations against the cleric surfaced several weeks ago.
"The damage caused by such culpable behavior can't be undone," Abbot Bruno Hubl said in a statement that also urged all victims to speak out.
Fluch, speaking about the situation countrywide, said he talks up to 10 hours a day to other victims who only feel comfortable opening up to him.
"The couple of hundred that have come forward so far aren't even the tip of the iceberg," he said.