Fundraiser for former Mount St. Mary athletic director under fire from abuse groups
LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - A weekend benefit is set to honor a former Mount St. Mary's Academy employee who was fired last year for failing to report sexual assault. The "going-away" party for Kathy Griffin, the all-girls school former athletic director is now coming under fire by two national sex abuse advocacy groups - one of which is asking the Arkansas Catholic Diocese to step in.
Griffin was convicted in September of failure to report a child sex crime in the case of an inappropriate relationship between a Mount St. Mary student and high school coach. The victim had been in a relationship with Coach Kelly O'Rourke since 2010, according to a Little Rock Police report.
It's Griffin's conviction that has both the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the National Survivors Action Coalition (NSAC) upset that the supposed fundraiser is taking place claiming the event is, "in complete disregard for the feelings of at least one child who was hurt because of Griffin's crimes.
The former athletic director clearly has a great deal of supporters. A group entitled, "Support Coach Kathy Griffin" is a public group on Facebook. The group has been raising money for Griffin via a PayPal account and US Bank account, citing her lack of income from firing and court fees as reason for raising the funds.
"Support Coach Kathy Griffin" is the group organizing this weekend's event, "We Believe in Kathy Griffin," a going away party for Griffin as she "moves on to the next phase of her life in Hope, AR." The event will also, "create a money tree to show [Griffin] what she has meant to all of us."
SNAP believes the event is not the proper way to go about showing support for Griffin.
"If you feel you know that she's been given a raw deal, then support her quietly," said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP. "Send her a letter of support, bake her some cookies.
Dorris believes not only will the affair to be held on Saturday hurt the victim, but believes it will hurt future victims of sexual abuse as well.
"Holding a public display like this, supporting someone who's been convicted, these are allegations, this is a conviction, will make it much harder for any other child to come forward," said Dorris.
But Griffin's attorney says her conviction on failure to report will be overturned. Jeff Rosenzweig, Griffin's defense attorney, said they have appealed and he believes the Arkansas Supreme Court will overturn her conviction because of evidence deemed not permissible at trial.
"She did call it in," said Rosenzweig. "When [Griffin] called it in the [abuse] hotline people told her thank you for calling but because the alleged victim is over the age of 18 we can't formally take this report."
SNAP said they sent a letter to Bishop Taylor of the Arkansas Catholic Diocese asking him to denounce this weekend's event. A representative from the diocese says they haven't received that letter but mention they are fully committed to the protection and safety of children and young people.