The Dark Road Ahead (Part Three)

Targeting and grooming victims, and the bleak aftermath

Part Three of a Five Part Series

By Beverly Stevens, REGINA Editor

Image by John La Maestra

She’s spent a career getting up close and personal with predators and their victims.

‘Cathy’* was a Special Deputy to an agency investigating narcotic trafficking for ten years. An RN with a master’s in psychology, she now works as a consultant to US law enforcement agencies, interviewing subjects as well as victims. She also coaches law enforcement working on undercover assignments, especially those that involve human trafficking.

For Catholics wondering what is going on behind the scenes with dioceses responding to law enforcement investigating the Catholic Church in 15 US states and at the Federal level, Cathy’s insights are quite timely.

*Not her real name. REGINA’s interviewee asked to remain anonymous in order to protect law enforcement agents working in the field.

In this third in our five -part series, Cathy talks about typical victim profiles, why sex crimes go unreported for decades and what life issues the victims of predator priests are likely to face.

REGINA: Is there a typical victim profile that predator priests go after?

CATHY: We have found that in many cases victims come from situations in which there is little or no involvement of a parent or both parents in a child or young man’s life. (About 80% of these cases involve men.) The young men especially, generally are missing a strong father figure. These are/were the kids that always get dropped off for religious education and Mass, and then picked up afterwards.

They are the kids who might always come with another teammate or friend to the sports games. The parent or other family member never attends.  There are also kids and adults from backgrounds where they have been abused or neglected by family or friends of family.

We, as a society often hear how important it is for children to have both a mother and a father who have an active role in the child’s life; I can’t stress how truly important this is. If a child isn’t getting proper love, support, discipline, etc. within their family they will seek it outside of the family and might pay a horrible price for it.

REGINA: Often these crimes go unreported for decades.  Why is that?

CATHY: There are a few reasons this happens. Generally the biggest reason is the threats that are made by the perpetrator of the crime. In the majority of cases the perpetrator will make threats against the safety of the victim; they will do this in regard to the victim telling anyone and also to get the victim to allow the abuse to continue. Threats might include threats to harm the victim, their friends and/or their families.


CATHY: This ultimately leads the victim in many cases to view the continued abuse as something they have chosen to allow as well as making them believe that by allowing themselves to be the victim they are protecting others.

They have it ingrained to them that if they tell mom, dad, the neighbor. That person will be harmed or killed and their sibling or friend will then face the same horrible thing they are going through.

In the first instance I can’t stress how unlikely that is to happen, mostly because these men generally have high opinions of themselves and feel that their word will always be taken against an accuser.

Unfortunately, the second is generally already happening, as it’s rare for a predator to only have one victim at a time.

REGINA: So they have multiple victims at once?

CATHY: Yes. The third reason these crimes go unreported — and this is especially true with men — is embarrassment. Most everyone is embarrassed to be the victim of a crime. This is true of a young man who is molested as well as the elderly couple next door who just got scammed out of their life savings.

REGINA: Makes sense.

CATHY: The fourth reason — and this addresses those situations in which someone has tried to report the abuse —  generation after generation has been raised to believe that there are certain people who can do no wrong: priests, ministers, doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers, firefighters.


CATHY: So there we are first in a situation where the victim believes they did something, it’s their fault, and then once they have the courage to come forward and say something, they get told that they imagined the abuse. This is ‘gaslighting’.

Plus, if they are older, they ‘wanted it’. Why? Mom and everyone in the parish really liked priest X. It’s been practice and still is in some places that if a diocese provides any kind of care and support to a victim they have them sign a non- disclosure agreement and never admit the fault of the priest or the diocese.

 REGINA: What life issues do victims often face as a result of priestly predation? 

CATHY: Most commonly victims of priestly predation experience difficulty in forming relationships. They are likely to become withdrawn from family and friends. They generally develop psychological problems, such as depression, OCD, or oppositional defiance disorder.

It’s common for them to have drug and or alcohol addictions; these might have begun during the abuse because both are frequently used as both an aid to the abuse and as a reward.

A victim may continue to attend Mass, even when it is their choice, but the abuse often causes at minimum a reduced faith — often they completely lose faith.

They become angry and abusive themselves. This abuse often may not take the form of predation; it’s more common for them to because physically or mentally abusive to those around them. Suicide is fairly common; men commit suicide about 50 times more often than women.

NEXT: How Mc Carrick signaled US law enforcement that the problem is systemic in the Church, how authorities are ‘mapping’ predator priests and the drug trafficking that authorities believe is taking place in America’s Catholic rectories.


Part One here.

Part Two here.

Part Four here.

Part Five here.

Full interview here.

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