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Family of clergy sexual abuse victim hopes others will come forward

Posted: 9:36 PM, Jan 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-31 23:37:44-05

A family from Tynan hopes all the victims of predatory priests will come forward and start healing. They know the pain they suffered when their daughter was raped by a priest in their home seven years ago. Father Stephen Dougherty is now serving time in prison for that crime.

Jimmy and Sheryl Hunt say they’ve been fighting for justice for years for their daughter. They got it last February, when a Bee County jury found Dougherty guilty of sexual assault and sentenced him to 60 years in prison.

However, the Hunts say the toll that the abuse has taken on their family continues to this day.

“Our whole lives have been destroyed ever since then and nothing, nothing will ever be the same,” Sheryl Hunt told KRIS 6 News. “Nothing anybody does will change the pain that that child has been through, and that I could not have helped her because I did not know anything and I tried everything.”

The parents never thought one of Jimmy’s childhood friends would commit the ultimate betrayal, especially after Stephen Dougherty entered the priesthood.

“He said it was something that he always wanted to do and I believed him,” Jimmy Hunt said of Dougherty’s decision.

But last year, Dougherty was convicted of sexually assaulting the Hunts’ daughter. Sheryl says her child said nothing for years, and then troubling signs started to show when she was around 12 years old.

“She started acting like a totally different child. I didn’t know what was wrong. She was sick. She was throwing up. I’d take her to the doctors,” Hunt explained. “No child that age had ulcers and stuff and rashes and [was] scared and [had] nightmares.”

Finally in 2015, the girl revealed that Dougherty had raped her three years earlier. That started a three-year journey to justice that included a mistrial, then a conviction and a subsequent 60-year sentence for Dougherty.

“I had to insist that that I would not go away until this was done. I did my job. I was not going to go away until Father Dougherty was in prison for what he’s done,” Sheryl Hunt said.

Now that Dougherty and names of other clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing minors has been acknowledged and released by the Diocese of Corpus Christi, she said she’s not sure what difference it will make.

“So what, they put a list out. Who cares? How’s that going to help the victims?” Hunt questioned.

However, Hunt and the diocese agree on this. Each encourages other victims — no matter how far the abuse dates back — to come forward so, hopefully, they can also get justice.

“If any child needs my help to find somebody to help them or look up things, that’s what we want to do.”

The Hunts say they’re now estranged from their daughter, but they say she’s coping the best she can following the abuse. She’s now 20 years old, attending school again and focusing on being a good mother to her three-year-old son.