Woman names two Shillong priests who sexually abused her as a child; church states commitment to fair hearing

Shillong's Congregation of Christian Brothers on Wednesday released a statement about the allegations of sexual abuse made against one of their priests by a Khasi woman in a Facebook post on 19 October, the latest in the Me Too wave in India.

One of the priests named by the woman reportedly belongs to the Salesians of Don Bosco order, while the other is a member of St. Edmunds church in Shillong.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

According to reports, in a statement by the 'Professional Ethics Commission' of Christian Brothers community, the Society Protection officer Brother J Johnson said, "We are committed to a just and fair hearing to both the complainant and the alleged abuser, through a formal process as laid out in our protection policy – Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults. This policy looks into all cases of abuse, past and present, so as to ascertain with compassion the truth and support the survivor towards achieving a peaceful closure while taking appropriate action against the alleged abuser if found guilty."

The statement also said, "The Christian Brothers stand in solidarity with and in support of any survivor of sexual abuse. We are committed to a just and fair hearing to both the complainant and the alleged abuser, through a formal process as laid out in our Protection Policy — ‘Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults’"

In her Facebook post published on 19 October, the woman said that she had been subjected to sexual abuse by a priest, who was also a family friend since the age of 5. She said that the abuse continued for years after. "It’s a long journey and an ongoing one to stay whole, balanced, sane as someone who was sexually abused through my childhood, age 5 till age 12."

In the post, she speaks about how she reached out to a "trusted adult" who "slapped" her and told her to "never tell such stories again".

Narrating another incident from her childhood, the woman accused another priest from Don Bosco in Shillong . She writes: "This man would sit behind his huge desk in his office, where he had drawers of sweets and toffees — as a child, in the presence of adults on the other side of the table — he would call children to his side of the table and ask us (children)to choose toffees from his drawers and while we did, he would slide his hands up our thighs and feel us up. These incidents with this man was not something I spoke about to anyone in my childhood, because of the larger abuse I faced with the abuser above, this for me then, felt like nothing very serious. He continues in the religious order in Shillong."

She said that the abuse she had faced from the priests weighed heavily on her mental health as a child.

About coping with the trauma, the women said, "I have attempted suicide 3 times as a teenager and a young adult, twice I landed in the hospital in a serious condition. Through the years I have struggled to find comfort and sanity in spirituality, immersing myself in work, and later, in a close circle of friends I trust, these have helped me pull through. There will always be a part of me that is a big gaping hole of sorrow and darkness — of a childhood I did not know, of an innocence I never knew, of the fear and deep shame I have lived with for so long, and for not being believed, not being protected, and for the deep injustice I felt."

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Updated Date: Oct 24, 2018 09:21 AM

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