Some people go to church to connect to God. Some people go to church to find God. Some people go to church to build a relationship with and do God’s work. And others go to church to lie and manipulate. A person’s true intentions can never be known. But she never suspected a church leader, studying to become a priest, would commit a sin like this one.
He became very involved in her church, trying to get more youth participation. One day, he called her into his office. He told her a terribly heartbreaking story. He used to not believe in God. He used to be a terrible person. His fiance and baby were killed in car accident. He found God somewhere along the way and ended up here. Of course, she felt bad for him. And unknowingly, as just a young freshman, she fell victim to his manipulation.
“He asked me if I wanted to go to the park with him, and I said sure, thinking he didn’t want to go by himself. He drove me there. I have no idea how long we were there for, but we went to Three Lakes Park, so not a lot of people were there. We were walking around and he was asking me all these questions. I think that’s when he got into truth or dare. Me being me, I always said truth.”
Things escalated as he insisted on teaching her to dance. After making her pick a song, he grabbed hold of her and slow danced with her in the middle of the park. And in this moment, she felt extremely uncomfortable; wanting nothing else but to leave and get out of this strange and confusing situation she somehow found herself in.
“Then he kept asking me these really weird questions… I didn’t really think about it at the time… They progressively got worse… He kept insisting that I see his boxers. I said no, and we were still walking around trying to get back to where his car was… but he would not let us leave until he showed me his boxers. In the middle of the park he pulled his pants down. That’s when I demanded he take me home.”
No one, not even her parents, know what happened that day. But that feeling of being vulnerable, helpless, and scared would stick with her forever. It was about a year later when the priest at her church emailed the members about his arrest for molesting children. She could’ve easily fallen as one of many of his victims.
“It’s definitely made me realize how the world is and put a lot of things into perspective about people. It’s traveled with me a lot and I feel like I see a lot of what happened that day in my relationships. It’s held me back a lot from a lot of people because I don’t want to run into something like that again. I didn’t really think about it because he was studying to be a priest and was in the church, so why wouldn’t you automatically trust him? It really terrified me, especially with [my past relationship], because towards the end of our relationship it got worse and more abusive. It just brought me back there. It happens sometimes where I can’t sleep. It’s totally irrational but I just see his eyes and I get terrified that he’s going to find me and he’s not in jail anymore or something like that. You think “Oh, that could never happen to us,” but it happens all the time and nobody knows about it.
“Being a girl, people look at you and they automatically assume that you wouldn’t be able to defend yourself and you’d be the stereotypical girl. When they look at you they see you with the disability of being a female, which is kind of terrifying, because you can’t control that.”