The show is called Vanity Fair Confidential, and it can be seen on the Investigation Discovery Channel. Maybe you are familiar with the show. A recent episode, called St. George’s Hidden Dragons, featured our law firm’s client, Forrest Parker. It’s not every day that one of our clients has the opportunity to convey an important message on national television, so we want to celebrate it and urge you to watch.
What is our client’s story?
Forrest wasn’t looking for the limelight, but he has an important story to tell. He is a grown man now, but when he was 15 he was sexually abused by an Episcopal priest who got access to him through the Haywood County Department of Social Services. Forrest’s mother, who was poor, was dying of cancer at the time and couldn’t take care of Forrest or his brothers so they were put in foster care. The abuser had volunteered to “help” needy kids.
Why go public?
Forrest is telling people about his story because he knows he wasn’t to blame for the abuse and he is working to make sure nothing like that happens to another child ever again.
What is the TV story?
The episode is about the cover-up in the 1970s of sexual abuse by priests and faculty at St. George’s School in Rhode Island. At the school, both boys and girls were molested. One of the abusers, Howard W. (“Howdy”) White, Jr. admitted to his boss, the headmaster, in 1974 that for years he had sexually abused a teenage boy. We think the headmaster should have known was that unless something was done to stop him, White would go on to molest more kids.
But instead of reporting White to police, the headmaster fired White and told him to “stop working around children.” Ten years later, White was again working around children. Because he had no criminal record, White was allowed to serve as the Rector of Grace Church in the Mountains in Waynesville, NC. Then, because he was a respected priest, he was allowed to volunteer as a placement for foster children like Forrest.
Copeley Johnson & Groninger also represents another victim of White. Childhood victims of Rev. White have now come forward in the states of West Virginia, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and North Carolina. White was defrocked in Pennsylvania, the last diocese where he served, after it was finally revealed publicly that he had admitted the abuse from the 1970s.
What comes next?
Hopefully the Episcopal Church can answer why a serial abuser was allowed to be moved from placement to placement. In the 1990s, White was sued in West Virginia. The lawsuit went on for three years while White served in Wayesville, but his church stood by him. Later, another church welcomed him in Pennsylvania.
Accoring to the Episcopal Cafe, the Episcopal Church is going to investigate how this priest could have been allowed to serve in diocese after diocese. We hope that the investigation is thorough.
Meanwhile Forrest Parker is ready to spread the word to whomever will listen that it’s essential for abusers to face consequences and for people who use the services of “volunteers” to check their backgrounds. He knows all to well what can happen when they don’t.