(Gallup, NM) A recent article in the Gallup Independent newspaper reminds us that we do not always have to know exactly what to do to protect kids as long as we do something. The article reports on the settlement of three clergy sexual abuse lawsuits. The cases involved a Roman Catholic priest named Fr. Charles (“Chuck”) Cichanowicz and his sexual abuse of a number of boys on the Navajo Nation reservation in New Mexico and Arizona in the early to mid-1980’s. Unfortunately, since the sexual abuse occurred on the Navajo Nation reservation, no one knew what to do. No one had ever brought a claim for sexual abuse against a non-Navajo Nation member in Navajo Nation Tribal Court and the applicable Navajo Nation law had never even been applied to a sex abuse case. However, something had to be done because investigation revealed that there were at least two more victims of Fr. Cichanowicz and Cichanowicz was actively working with children in Indiana. John Doe BF refused to be frozen by the lack of clarity, and, instead, he sprang into action.
Courageously, Doe BF filed a civil lawsuit in the Navajo Nation tribal court. Despite repeated challenges, Doe took his case all the way to the Navajo Nation Supreme Court. And won!! Now, the entire Navajo Nation community knows exactly what to do if a Navajo child is injured by sexual abuse. The other two victims also got help as well. The clarity in the legal system also deters sexual abuse because perpetrators and their employers will now face a Tribal Court armed with the clear law and procedure described by the Navajo Supreme Court.
It would have been easy for John Doe BF to become discouraged and not acted because he didn’t know what to do. Thank goodness he acted. Kids are now safer in his community as a result.
About the Author: Patrick Noaker is the Senior Litigation Attorney in the Jeff Anderson law firm. He has successfully litigated hundreds of cases involving childhood sexual abuse, exploitation and pornography for clients across the United States. Patrick has also won a number of landmark cases involving child pornography and sexual abuse and regularly fights for the rights of victims of child maltreatment in the court system. Patrick has written a number of scholarly articles on child sexual abuse and he is recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyer and a member of the National Crime Victims Bar Association, American Association for Justice and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Patrick was also one of the attorneys honored to represent the three courageous Navajo Nation men described in the Gallup Independent newspaper article.