Michele Stanton, left, and Gemma Hoskins, pictured with Teddy, 7, an Australian labradoodle, are the driving forces behind a GoFundMe page founded to aid survivors of sexual abuse with therapy costs.

(Sept. 13, 2019) Raising funds to offset therapy costs for victims of sexual abuse by Archdiocese of Baltimore priests Joseph Maskell and Neil Magnus, the subjects of the 2017 Netflix docuseries, “The Keepers,” is the intent of a GoFundMe page launched in April 2018, now about to qualify for nonprofit status.

Ocean City resident Gemma Hoskins, who, along with Abbie Schaub, was featured in the Emmy-nominated seven-part Netflix series about their efforts to unearth clues related to the unsolved 1969 murders of Sister Cathy Cesnik and Joyce Malecki, is one of the originators of the GoFundMe page. It was founded to aid survivors of sexual abuse at Archbishop Keough High School and nearby parishes where Maskell was assigned.

Although the cases remain open, suspicions exist that Maskell, now deceased, was behind both Cesnik’s and Malecki’s slayings.

Hoskins teamed with Michele Stanton, both Keough High School alumni, after recognizing the outcome of mediation settlements between victims and the Archdiocese would likely fall short of covering associated therapy costs.

“Some of the survivors of Maskell’s abuse sought mediation from the Archdiocese,” Hoskins said. “What that means is the statute of limitations is over for them to file against anybody.”

Hoskins explained the mediation process involved the victims engaging legal counsel to provide case details to archdiocese attorneys with, in most cases, a retired judge overseeing the civil proceedings.

“When they go to mediation, the church offers them a financial settlement and that’s all that they can get right now,” she said. “I know, personally, of about 25 people that chose that route.”

The settlements vary from $25,000 to $50,000 on average, Hoskins said, but attorneys take about a third of the sum awarded.

“Which isn’t very much for what they’ve been through,” she said.

As part of the financial awards, the victims were also given $5,000 to $10,000 for therapy reimbursement, but Hoskins said the funds were not permitted to be applied retroactively.

“Some of these men and women have been in therapy all of their lives because of this [and] they can’t use this … retroactively to pay for that,” she said. “It’s good until the money’s gone or two years.”

Setting time constraints on therapeutic processes struck both Hoskins and Stanton, who is a licensed psychotherapist and clergy abuse survivor, as flawed.

“Most of these people have emotional, physical and mental health issues because of what happened to them,” she said. “Especially the women, a lot of them have had physical health issues.”

Moreover, the price scale for  services is excessive, Hoskins said.

“Well, $5,000 doesn’t last very long, because to get in with a specialist who deals with survivors of sexual abuse … it’s really expensive running from $100 to $300 per session,” she said.

Envisioning scenarios where mediation funds dry up while psychological help is still needed, Hoskins and Stanton stepped in to help should that occur.

Initially, the duo tried to elicit support from the Sunday pews.

“We asked the church if they would have a special collection,” she said. “When you go to Mass, they collect money and we thought maybe people would like the option of making a contribution to the survivors of clergy abuse.”

That, however, failed to work, so the pair started a fund.

Because of privacy concerns and laws, associated application paperwork for abuse survivors to receive funding is kept confidential, with only Hoskins and Stanton privy to names.

“The woman who started this is also a psychotherapist and I’m a teacher,” she said. “We know about keeping our mouths shut.”

Pleas for continued assistance from the archdiocese fell on deaf ears, Hoskins said.

“Everybody’s money ran out and they weren’t done yet,” she said. “So they asked for [more] money and they were told ‘no.’”

The alternative offered by the archdiocese was less than optimal, Hoskins said.

“The church also said, ‘We offered for you to go to pastoral counseling for as long as you wanted for free,’” she said. “Well, pastoral counseling is going to somebody in the church for counseling.”

Just a few months after kicking off the GoFundMe page, Hoskins began hatching schemes to lure in substantial funds.

“I’ve done some crazy things online to raise money,” she said.

About a year ago, Hoskins belted out a round of money-themed ditties live on Facebook in hopes of garnering generosity.

“I had props and looked a mess, but I didn’t care,” she said.

To Hoskins amazement the showboating, or performing, was amply rewarded.

“I had an umbrella and was singing, “Pennies From Heaven,” and the Beatles, “You Never Give Me Your Money,” she said. “I raised $10,000 in ten minutes.”

About six months ago Hoskins held a repeat performance.

“I said it’s going to be a Beatles night [and] had people send in songs they wanted me to sing,” she said. “I downloaded all the lyrics for all the Beatles songs and I had myself set up on my little teacher chair that swings around.”

The fab four tribute lasted longer than anticipated, Hoskins said.

“I did almost an hour [and] was exhausted,” she said. “People told me they were singing along.”

In addition to musical pleas, Hoskins has also sought donations through social media platforms.

“I’ve got a couple different Facebook pages,” she said. “I post the link and what it’s all about.

 “We had some repeat donations of large amounts,” she said. “We have a gentleman who donates $100 every month.”

Hoskins said other backing has been generated by word of mouth.

“The class of ‘73 from Archbishop Keough, when they had their reunion, took up a collection and made a big donation,” she said.

With a stated fundraising goal of $250,000, Hoskins said this week the GoFundMe page hit the 10 percent mark after topping $25,000, which also makes the effort eligible as a charitable nonprofit.

“Michele [Stanton] and her husband, Jon, a research therapist/teacher, are going to start the paperwork for nonprofit status,” she said.

The nonprofit designation will provide added incentives for donating, Hoskins said.

“This way if people make a donation they can take it as a charitable tax deduction,” she said.

The larger challenge thus far has been locating recipients, Hoskins said.

“We only have a few who are taking advantage of it right now, so we’re trying to come up with ways to market it better,” she said.

Forging ahead, Hoskins and Stanton plan to continue underwriting therapeutic costs for clergy abuse survivors.

“I don’t think anybody should have to pay for therapy for clergy abuse,” she said. “The church won’t do it, so we are.”

To learn more visit the Sister Cathy Cesnik Fund for Survivors GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/5au8h7c

Newshound striving to provide accurate and detailed coverage of topics relevant to Ocean City and Worcester County

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