New Adult Sexual Abuse and Misconduct Task Force announced

Tue, Jan 22nd 2019 11:30 am
Office of Communications

The Diocese of Buffalo has established the Adult Sexual Abuse and Misconduct Task Force. The group will review and recommend policies and procedures for assessing and responding to allegations of sexual misconduct with adults by priests, deacons, religious and lay employees. The Task Force will ensure that the diocesan policies for adult abuse and misconduct complement the existing diocesan policy on child abuse. In addition, the Task Force will review the investigation framework of sexual abuse allegations to ensure compliance with federal and state law, canon law, and the Diocese of Buffalo Code of Conduct to ensure the protection of all of God's people.

The Task Force members include:  Patricia Brunsing, Ellen J. Christensen, Maureen Pratt, James N. Schmit and Dennis J. Wittman.

Brunsing has been self-employed since 1986 having partnered with her husband, Anthony, in the development, construction and operation of four assisted living residences in New York State (Eden Heights) and two in Ohio (which have been acquired by Premier Senior Living and Inspirit Senior Living respectively in recent years). The facilities specialize in providing services to the aged as well as memory care for those suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia. In the early '80s, Brunsing was a licensed nursing home administrator at the Gowanda Nursing Home and she has also served as president of Franciscan Ministries of Buffalo as well as president of the board of directors for Sisters Hospital Foundation. Brunsing is a graduate of SUNY Brockport.

Christensen is a sexologist with an extensive background and training in the field of human sexuality, including training under Dr. Mark Swartz, a leading expert in the area of sexual abuse. She is currently in private practice specializing in sex therapy, marital and relationship counseling, rape and sexual assault, sexual identity and gender issues, self-esteem, drug and alcohol issues, anxiety and depressions. She is a former adjunct faculty member at Canisius College, Graduate Counselor Education Program and was a bi-weekly guest therapist on WIVB-TV in the mid-'90s. Christensen is a graduate of Rosary Hill College and attended the doctoral program in educational psychology at SUNY Buffalo.

Pratt is the mother of six and the grandmother of 19. She is co-chair of the Respect Life Committee and Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel at Christ the King Church, Snyder, and parish council member/Christ the King church volunteer in the office at the Carmelite Monastery. Pratt was the recipient of the Pro-Vita Award, past co-chair of the Gambit-Canisius High School Making a Difference Catholic Education Dinner, and past co-chair of the Catholic Charities Appeal of Western New York. She was a eucharistic minister and co-chair of the Spiritual Committee at Christ the King Church, and a certified New York Bible Study Leader.

Schmit recently retired as Special Counsel from Bond, Schoenek and King LLP, specializing in labor and employment law, including gender discrimination and sexual harassment. He served as chair, among other positions, at Damon Morey LLP, where he practiced for over 40 years. Schmit completed his undergraduate degree at Canisius College and received his law degree from Boston College Law School.

Following graduation, he served on active duty with the U.S. Army, including 18 months in Vietnam, primarily with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Schmit has been active in a number of community organizations including: the Canisius College Alumni Association, as board member and president; the Labor and Employment Relations Association as past chair; the United Way as a division chair; the D'Youville College Board of Trustees and the Visiting Nursing Association Board of Trustees.

Wittman, now retired, has an extensive background in restorative justice with over 36 years in the justice system, being a probation officer and then director of Genesee Justice Programs, a part of the Genesee County Sheriff's Department. One of the restorative practices he helped develop was victim/offender reconciliation and victim-offender/community conciliation meetings. He worked with victims of serious crimes and intensely on both serious and violent cases. Wittman holds a bachelor's degree from SUNY Buffalo and a master's from the University of Rochester in Community Services/Social Work.   

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