Women call for investigation into Barto’s employers, changes to statute of limitations

March 19, 2019

About 20 survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Johnnie Barto have called for an independent investigation of Conemaugh Health System and Laurel Pediatric Associates.

Several of the women spoke at a press conference Monday afternoon outside the Cambria County Courthouse in Ebensburg.

They spoke after the disgraced former Johnstown pediatrician was sentenced to a minimum of 79 years in prison for sexually assaulting 31 children.

Three of the woman are associated with criminal charges filed against Barto, according to the law firms representing them, but for several, the criminal statute of limitations has prevented further action.

Barto worked at both medical facilities, and most of the assaults were committed by Barto in the examination room at Laurel Pediatric Associates of Cambria County and local hospitals, according to court documents.

Erika Brosig, a sexual assault survivor, trauma therapist and victim advocate, spoke before the judge at Barto’s sentencing and later at the press conference.

“At age 13 I was sexually abused by Dr. Barto,” she said, noting that she was there for a wellness check. “At age 16 I saw the entire community surround him with support and rallied around him . . . sending a strong message to the rest of us to stay silent.”

In 2003, Brosig decided to dedicate her life to working in the anti-sexual violence movement.

“But the story doesn’t end there,” she said. “Two decades ago, the adults in the position of power and the institutions that they represented failed to protect us. and over the past 20 years they have continuously failed to protect every single child who has been placed in his abusive hands.”

In 2000, Barto was allowed to return to practice after a state medical licensing board for physicians cleared him of any wrongdoing. Barto had been accused of inappropriately touching a 4-year-old girl in 1994 as he carried her in an office hallway and of touching a partially undressed 3-year-old girl in 1998 while the child was sitting in his lap.

“A preponderance of evidence does not support a finding,” the board said in a 17-page opinion dismissing the allegations.

The board also determined that the 1998 allegations were “incongruous to (Barto’s) reputation,” although it did suggest that Barto should have exercised more discretion while working with patients.

Barto continued to practice medicine until he was charged in January 2018 with molesting a 12-year-old girl. Barto was eventually accused of abusing 31 children, including two family members who were minors at the time.

Brooke Rush, the CEO of an ambulatory surgical center, said Barto deserves none of the accolades he received over his decades of medical practice. She said she was abused as a 12-year-old but didn’t come forward before the statute of limitations expired.

“I have carried the weight and the guilt of my inactions for many years,” she said. “Today I’m relinquishing that burden and turning it over to the entities whose mission statements included a promise to protect us. . . . I’m handing that baton over to the decision-makers who were not just presented red flags over the years, but beaten in the face with them, yet again provided a means for this predator to have unending access to his unsuspecting prey.”

The women appeared at a press conference arranged by Manly, Stewart & Finaldi Lawyers, of Irvine, California, and Dalton & Associates, of Wilmington, Delaware. To see a video of the conference, visit https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100016347854823 online.