Guwahati: The #MeToo campaign has caught up with the Catholic church of Meghalaya, after a 40-year-old woman posted on social media accusing two priests of sexual abuse.
The woman took to Facebook and narrated her ordeal, naming two priests, Br Francis Gale of the Christian Brothers and Br Muscat of Don Bosco, for having sexually abused her when she was just five years old.
The woman reportedly had tried to commit suicide thrice in the past. It was through rigorous counselling that she was able to overcome her suicidal tendencies just three years ago, said reports. The victim said that her poor family background often made the ideal profile of a victim to the sexual predators in the church. She alleged that Br Francis Gale started sexually abusing her when she was just five years old and her most trusted family member had slapped and rebuked her on hearing her story.
In a heart-wrenching narrative, the victim said that the abuse continued till she turned 12 years, when she started menstruating. It was only then that she was able to muster the courage to refuse the abuser as she was afraid of getting pregnant.
The accused is now reportedly based in West Bengal. Br Muscat, the second priest named by the woman, is a priest of the Don Bosco group and is posted in Shillong. She alleged that he would abuse his victims by luring them with sweets and toffees.
“He would call victims to his side of the table (while the accompanying adults were on the other side). While we did (choose toffees from the drawers), he would slide his hands up our thighs,” she said.
She said she did not speak to anyone about the abuse by Br Muscat because of the larger abuse she faced from Br Francis Gale.
“The #MeToo has triggered a lot of distress but it also brings me hope and belief that justice will come,” the victim said in her post. She said, “I do hope that in some small way my story will make perpetrators feel less empowered to abuse with impunity.”
The woman said the reason for her to come and speak up now was to also try and support victims of similar crimes or connect them to counsellors and growing list of supporters.
The woman was quoted by media reports as saying that she has spoken to her lawyers. “But at the moment coming out and going public has come at a huge cost. All I want is to support and listen to people of their stories.”
The accusation has come at a time when a latest scandal has hit the Catholic church’s continuing child abuse crisis. The Pennsylvania Supreme in the US in August had released a 1,300-page report, which found that 300 predator priests in the state had abused more than 1,000 children since 1947.
The two-year investigation, conducted by Pennsylvania’s attorney general and a dozen grand jurors, involved hundreds of interviews, and examined half a million pages of church records. The inquiry is the biggest US government investigation into child abuse inside the Catholic Church.