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Austin man stands by Catholic faith after surviving priest's alleged abuse

Austin resident Allen Hebert says he's a survivor of a priest's abuse and he's glad the Catholic church is making an effort to be transparent. (CBS Austin)

Thursday, Catholic leaders across Texas will release the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexually assaulting children. The list could have names dating back to the 1950's, according to the Austin Diocese.

Austin resident Allen Hebert says he's a survivor of a priest's abuse and he's glad the Catholic church is making an effort to be transparent.

"The list will help some people realize 'wow the guy was caught,'" says Hebert.

Hebert says Father Andrew Willemsen, a former priest in the Diocese of Austin, befriended his family and sexually abused him from age 12 to 14. "He just gradually convinced me that doing these things was normal, 'don't tell your parents because they don't understand in fact the church doesn't understand, but I do,'" says Hebert.

Years later, Hebert reported Father Willemsen to a bishop who knew him. The bishop said Father Willemsen was sent out of the country years earlier after other victims came forward. Willemsen has since passed away.

"It's been 21 years of healing," says Hebert.

Hebert tells CBS Austin part of his healing will come from seeing Father Willemsen's name on the Austin Diocese list.

However, according to Shelly Calandra, a counselor with SAFE Alliance Austin, not every victim will have the same response. "You might see some people feel really vindicated. You might see people who are feeling really triggered and activated by seeing that name on the list," says Calandra.

For Hebert, the list is a step in the right direction. "It's a good thing for the church and it's a good thing for survivors to have these lists out there because they know that at least some justice has been done," says Hebert.

Hebert says despite what happened to him, he has remained strong in his Catholic faith.

According to the Austin Diocese, this list will also provide information for victims on how they can report abuse. If you need to access counseling, shelter, legal services, or peer support, you can reach out to SAFE Alliance's confidential, 24-hour safeline: Call – 512-267-safe (7233) or text 737-888-7233.

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