1st John - Chapter 1
A Sunday school teacher must escape a vengeful brother years after she molested his sister and caused her death. When Sunday school teacher Margaret is abducted she finds herself a prisoner to Russel, who threatens her with a gruesome death for what she did to his fourteen-year-old sister.
The first thing she saw was the pig. She heard the distant blaring of white noise. It rose and brought her back to a painful consciousness. Deep beneath its surface she made out faint sounds of a disembodied voice, but the static deafened. A faint click shut it off, followed by a ringing in the ears and the rapid ticking of what must be a timer.
Margaret Hollingsworth regained her senses after being abducted from the church parking lot. She was groggy, disoriented. She licked her lips. Something there tasted funny.
Previously in darkness, and for how long she had no idea, it lifted and she tried to focus. She sat at the center of a typical and spacious garage with a high ceiling. Scattered about were various power and hand tools, chains, and a ladder. Nearby was an old metal tub and a few metal folding chairs, all rusted. It was nothing out of the ordinary. Out of the ordinary were the walls, floor, and ceiling. The whole of her environment was covered with black plastic, a few rolls of which were lying unused. The only surface not covered by the plastic was the garage door itself. There were no windows. The only light came from the florescent lights above, flickering.
She shook her head. Where two cars would be parked were instead two wooden horses, some sheets of plywood and 2x4s. Against all four corners there were mounted stadium speakers.
She shook her head again, unable to focus on the pig, suspended over the rusted tub. It was large. The confusion had not cleared.
She leaned forward and was jerked back. She knew then that she was chained to a workbench. Behind her, more tools and various mechanical implements, covered by that same black plastic. Her chains were locked together with small Master Locks, the type you’d use for a bike chain.
Margaret might have screamed then, but the drug, whatever it was, had not yet worn off. She blinked, her vision not yet adjusted. The pig was gutted and drained. It was hanging from a hook and chain attached to a crank that was suspended from the ceiling. Its hind legs were strapped with heavy bench weights, pulling it taught toward the floor. And suspended above the garage door was a large, heavy sledgehammer tethered to a steel cable. She followed the cable to see it was attached to what appeared to be a timer against the wall, the same that generated the ticking.
She struggled against the chains and the foggy haze of her memories. The drug wore off and panic, ever a sobering antidote, set in. She lifted her head to call out, but the timer beat her and SNAP!
The sledgehammer was released. The great force of the impact into the head of the dead pig caused a burst of brains and skull to spatter against Margaret and her surroundings.
The sledgehammer swung back and forth. Gore continued to spatter against the black plastic, thrown from the front of the garage to the back. It teased her with lethargy to come to a creaky end. Blood dripped to the plastic below.
If she had been in the same position as the pig Margaret would now be dead, a thought chiseled deep into her face, adding to her forty-three years. She needed to wipe but couldn’t reach up.
The only door, which must have led into the house, and also covered by black plastic, opened. Margaret’s face softened to read hope. Her eyes followed the figure of her abductor, which stepped out from behind the plastic. The sounds of his light foot-falls against the plastic seemed loud in the enclosed area. Her face turned dread.
The tall young man wore little more than a layer of thin black liquid latex. It covered his entire form. Only the head and face, unshaven with long hair, was uncovered by its dry sheen. In one hand he held a tablet, in the other a washcloth.
His movement was purposeful. He pulled one of the fold-up chairs to him and sat the tablet in a careful position within Margaret’s view. He stared at her with cold, self-righteous contempt.
Margaret watched him and bit down on her lip, unsure of what was to come. She waited for the strange fetishist to tell her all the ways he was going to rape her, but he remained silent and looked over the impacted dead pig. His hand ran along its lines. At the hind legs he jerked the straps, impressed that the bench weights held the pig in place against the force.
The tall young man turned his back to Margaret, then back to her. He stared quietly, his face a frozen glare. The silence broke her. All she could do was stammer, until she blurted the only question relevant. “Are you crazy?”
He looked up at the ceiling and considered the question. When his head came down he said, “I suppose that’s a fair question.” Then he walked over to the sledgehammer and pulled on the cable. He told her, “Crazy people kill people, Sister Margaret.” He let her take in the way he addressed her, then added, “I’ve never killed anyone. How ‘bout you?”
Margaret watched him readjust the sledgehammer into its former position, struggling with its weight before locking it in place. When he turned back to her she asked, “How did I even get here?”
He shrugged and sighed, as if it was an unimportant question but one he needed to tolerate for the moment. He answered, honestly. “You’ve been kidnapped.”
Margaret heard his words, but her mind refused his answer. “What? That’s not right.”
“I imagine you had a long day,” he said. “First one in, last one out. That sort of thing.” He strode purposefully along the black plastic, enjoying the feel of it against his feet, and making sure Margaret was aware of his movements. “Administration for a small community church like The Wellsprings Christian Center is a thankless and exhausting job, but working for the Lord is its own reward. Right?”
He was talking about the evangelical church in J-Town on Taylorsville Rd., where she worked. Most days there were filled with odds and ends of cleaning duties and answering the phone. On Mondays she helped Pastor Rick with the food closet. They went to Kentucky Harvest, picked up that week’s contributions, and distributed baskets of food to wherever hungry people needed them around the city of Louisville; mostly meeting the needs of those in Jeffersontown. The busiest time of year for Margaret was summer, when, for two weeks out of the season, she was the primary caregiver and teacher during Vacation Bible School. Seemed like every parent in J-Town got religion for those two weeks and threw their kids at her like she was an unpaid babysitter. VBS was starting next week. It was really hot this summer. The kids needed cool drinks on hot days, and so much PB&J still to get. She had to get home and get ready; had to get back to Wellsprings and get the church ready for all those kids.
He examined her as he would a wounded animal, using the wash cloth to wipe the blood and gore from her face. He said, “Ya’ know, it’s reckless to leave your car unlocked, Sister Margaret.”
The way he called her by a name she was not known by today was a taunt. He must be confusing her with someone else. She breathed in and tried to ask, “Why are you calling me—”
His movements cut her off. He imitated a moment in the recent past in which he abducted her. “All I had to do was wait. A little chloroform and here we are. You over there, abductee. Me over here, abductor.”
“Please,” she said. “I don’t know why I’m here. I just want to go home. I have to get the church ready.”
Ignoring the plea he discarded the wash cloth. He withdrew and grabbed the old metal tub, which he pulled into position under the dead pig. It threatened to tear the black plastic but the material was thick. It stretched, but held.
“I haven’t done anything to be here,” she said. “I don’t even know you.”
“On the contrary, Sister Margaret.”
She thought any question asked would be countered by elusive language. If he had no answers for her the least he could do was stop calling her sister.
“Why are you calling me that?” she asked. “Do you know me?”
“Of course I know you,” he said, contradicting what she thought. “And you know me.”
His gaze waited on her. They say most victims are abused by people they know. His eyes were familiar. He mocked a gesture of curtsey to introduce himself. “Hard to recognize me in my current glory, I admit. And it’s been a long time since you’ve seen me, so I understand.” He stopped short, as if wanting to delay the moment, and went back to work. He examined the weight of the dead pig on the hook and chain. “But we’re going to be spending a lot of time together this week. I’m sure it’ll all come back to you… And, yes. You did.”
A response to a question she had forgotten.
“What? I did? I did what? What are you talking about?”
He lifted hard to see if he could manage to pull the dead animal up and off the hook. He grunted, “You said before you didn’t do anything to be here. Of all the assurances I can give you, that is the most sacred.”
She said, “You’re telling me I did something to you?”
“I’m telling you you’re here for one reason only.” He was unable to pull the dead pig up and off and stopped trying so hard. He took a deep breath, then he smiled blankly at Margaret. “You’re going to die, Sister Margaret.”
Margaret’s face turned white and her eyes welled up. She sobbed, shaking her head no, no, no. Her sobbing turned into weeping. Through those water-filled eyes she watched him go to the lever that operated the crank, and her weeping became cries for help.
“There it is,” he said, remarking on the expected.
Margaret fought against her bondage, crying, screaming.
The crank was released and the dead pig dropped into the old metal tub with a dull thud.
“No,” she said. “Please. Please don’t kill me.”
“And here’s the rest of it,” he said. “The begging. I guess later we’ll have to get to the bargaining.”
She needed to understand how a stranger could make the choice of murder for sport. “You can’t just kill me for no reason.”
He sat down next to Margaret and put his arm around her. “But there is a reason. There is absolutely one hundred percent a very good reason for all this terrible unpleasantness, Sister Margaret.”
“Why do you keep calling me that?” she said. “I’m just Margaret.”
He got back up to stand before her again. “But that wasn’t always true. Was it? Not at St. James Trinitarian.”
She fell quiet. He did know her.
“They may know you as just Margaret at Wellsprings,” he said. “But back at St. James they called you ‘Sister’. Didn’t they? Sister Margaret.”
He leaned down, his face level with hers. She did not respond. He knew the answer and again went back to the old metal tub with the dead pig in it. While he worked to move it out of the way Margaret seemingly calmed down and asked her own question. “Can you just tell me why I’m here?”
He said, “I’m going to answer all your questions, Sister. But I already answered that one.”
“Whoever you are, you can’t just kill me.”
He said, “You’ve already observed that I’m crazy. You have to assume that it’s true. In which case, you can’t talk your way out of this.”
She knew she had to lie. She said, “I have to live. For my family. I’m all they’ve got.”
He had been watching her for awhile. “We all have family, Sister Margaret. But not you. Unless you’re counting all those good people at Wellsprings you’ve conned for the past eight years.”
As he pulled the old metal tub with the dead pig in it along the floor the plastic tore. He took notice and decided to drop it where it was.
“That’s really all the family you’ve got,” he said. “All day long you toil away in that tiny little office, in that tiny little church. Then at the end of the day, usually around ten or eleven at night, you close up and drive about twenty minutes back to Crescent Hill, where you live in a lonely little apartment.”
“You don’t know me. God has—”
The mention of God poked a nerve. With a red face he said, “Let’s not talk about God just yet. But I tell you what we can talk about...” He pulled up another fold-up chair in front of Margaret, spun it around and sat in it backwards, facing her. He folded his arms across the ridge of the arch and laid his chin there. “If you can tell me why you’re here… ya know? Confess to everything you know is true… there’ll be no reason to draw this out, and the whole thing can be over.”
She drew in a breath as hope. “I can go home?"
He shook his head. “No, Sister Margaret. There is no going home. There’s just you and me, and this garage.”
“But, you said—"
He stood up from the chair, flipped it shut and let it fall. “I said it would all be over. Meaning, there’d be no reason we’d have to prolong your suffering.”
Margaret sobbed again.
He let her go on and occupied himself by peeling some of the latex off his arm, observing the effect on his skin. But it was too much. “Sister Margaret. Sister, honey, listen. Listen.”
She refused him.
“Look at me, Sister. Look at me.” He raised her head. “We’re going to get through this together, Sister Margaret. I promise we are.”
She stared at him over his phrasing.
“I’ve got a lot to explain,” he said. “I had all this worked out, ya know? For one, just looking at me you probably thought I was into some pretty weird stuff. I mean, come on. Look at me here.” He twirled around in a rather proud display of his work. “Liquid latex. Fun stuff. Geeks use this all the time for cosplay. Me? I’m using it to protect my skin from blood spatter.”
He demonstrated how easily the latex peeled off. “Then when I’m done it peels right off the skin. Easy to dispose of. See?” He let the peelings fall to the floor onto the black plastic. “The instructions said to be sure to shave hair from all areas that would be affected, so when I’m ready for the finale I’ll have to shave my entire head. That’s gonna be a new look for me.”
Her voice was small. “You’re really going to kill me?”
“Stay with me, Sister. We already moved past that.”
He made to reply but she was frantic.
“Why are you going to kill me? I never did anything to you! You can’t kill me! You can’t kill me! Please don’t kill me. Please, you can’t kill me. Please.”
He turned away while she went on, her voice falling from shouts to whispers, and walked toward the garage door.
“Sister Margaret,” he said, “that was just moving. Endearing even. If you and I weren’t here I’d think you were the victim.” He knocked against the surface of the garage door. It rattled. “But we are here. And like I said before, you are going to die.”
“Allow me to summarize what’s going to happen, Sister. I don’t want to repeat myself, but I don’t mind.”
“One: no matter what you think, no matter what you say, no matter what you do, before the end of this week you are going to die.”
Margaret continued crying.
“Two: no matter how hard you try, because I know you will, believe it or not, there is no escape. Providence is not going to intervene. Your righteousness will not save you.” He walked back and forth to each corner of the garage to point out the stadium speakers. “Each time I leave this room these speakers will activate a loud white noise. You remember that noise as you were waking up? Loud, huh? Yeah. So, no matter how loud you scream, that white noise will suppress it. Sometimes it might be music. Depends on my mood. You can scream and scream. No one’s coming to help you.” He walked to stand beside the dead pig in the old metal tub. “This pig? The very first thing you saw? Yeah, this pig is you. This is your end, Sister Margaret.”
Margaret only cried and shook her head no.
“And finally?” He squat down in front of Margaret’s face to press his own close to her’s. “Finally, Sister Margaret, you are going to confess exactly why you are here, and exactly why you are going to die.”
Margaret wept, her face red. When she could speak again, she said, “You haven’t even told me who you are.”
Anger took him again. He grabbed her by the back of the hair, and said, “This isn’t penitence, Sister.” He dropped her head. He stood upright, and said, “This is mercy.”
Margaret lost her breath from the desperation. She tried to control her sobbing.
“You’re a Christian,” he said. “Shouldn’t you be praying?”
Next to the chair with the tablet sitting on it, he leaned over and touched the screen to start a slideshow. “You and I are going to be catching up, Sister. Lots of catching up. I’ll be going for now. In the meantime, here’s a little something to help pass the time.”
She watched his black figure pull back the black plastic, open the door leading into the house, and walk out of the garage. The door closed behind him. She heard it lock. The lights above shut off, casting her into blackness, and white noise filled the garage. Margaret screamed as loud as she could manage, barely audible beneath the static. The only light came from the tablet in front of her. Through terrified tears she struggled; weeping, moaning, ranting.
The slideshow showed her various images of a brother and a sister: two-year-old brother held baby sister in his arms with a big smile; baby sister in her confirmation gown; brother and sister playing in the backyard; Halloween, in their costumes, followed by various still frames of the holidays and birthdays. It ended on the image of Russell’s first car. Sixteen-year-old Russell sat in the front seat with his arm around fourteen-year-old Jenny.
Margaret’s face turned to the ice of shock. The pain of recognition drove a dagger into her heart. She hung her head, then pulled up again, more grievous.
“Jenny… Jenny… Jenny…”
FROM THE AUTHOR
This article by Mark Vincent Healy was part of my research when I started writing the manuscript for 1st John. It took me to the darkest places imaginable. To even think about child sexual abuse at the hands of trusted clergy (or anyone) is gut-wrenching. This is a horrifying topic in the truest sense. It is something we hide in the dark and refuse to look at. Those who shed light on it are targeted and ignored. I will be posting each chapter from this story once a week in its entirety. Read it. Share it. It is a heartbreaking reality we must all be free to acknowledge and have open dialogue about. It is an evil which must no longer be tolerated.
PERHAPS THERE CAN be no darker subjects than suicide and clerical child sexual abuse. When they are combined, where there is strong evidence in countless surveys and reports to suggest there is a direct link between them, one is perhaps doubly horrified by such issues. It’s a topic which can refer all too often to a horrific beginning to one’s life as it does a most tragic end.
I felt moved to do something about the combined suffering of suicide and clerical child sexual abuse and attended the launch of the World Suicide Prevention Week on Thursday 5 September 2013 at the Department of Health, Hawkins House.
As a campaign survivor of child sexual abuse by members of the Spiritans or Holy Ghost Fathers, I am mindful of the failures of this congregation to address my needs and those of others survivors and their distraught families with whom I am in contact. I have been told by the Acting CEO, Ms Teresa Devlin of the National Board for Safeguarding Children that she has received update reports from second tranche participants which once processed will be published later this month.
There is a connection between these events and their subjects and it’s a very tragic and important one.
Helping survivors of child sexual abuse
At the launch I asked both Minister Kathleen Lynch TD, Minister for Disability, Equality, Mental Health & Older People who launched the event and Professor Ella Arensman of the National Registry of Deliberate Self-Harm Ireland who gave an excellent presentation on the NSRF Annual Report 2012, “Would they support a call for research into ‘completed suicide’ amongst survivors of clerical child sexual abuse considering no research has been done on the noted link between the two?”
Both Minister Lynch and Professor Arensman agreed and stated that indeed there needs to be research in the area of suicide and clerical child sexual abuse in order to provide better services to the identified more vulnerable survivors of such abuse.
Indeed the Minster’s presentation emphasised the connection between an evidence-based approach and adopting creative and appropriate solutions to suicide prevention. The fact there has been no such research highlighted the need which the Minister replied was therefore ‘very important’. Professor Arensman also was aware of this need and gave her full support for such a research programme.
A new conversation with hope for recidivists of attempted suicide, consolation to grieving families and communities, and ‘risk assessment’ of any current practices and procedures which contribute to suicide needs to begin in this area. No survey into the rate of suicide amongst this group exists.
My main concern is with and for that most vulnerable group, survivors of clerical child sexual abuse. They are at risk if they remain silent and they are at risk if they break silence and enter redress processes seeking justice. The risk is life threatening as evidenced by my research.
The SAVI Report, March 2002, page 202 stated: “Recent work shows that child sexual abuse is among a set of adverse experiences linked in a strong graded manner to adult psychopathology and suicide (Dube et al., 2001).” Dube et. al. 2001, indicated that there is anything from a 2- to 5-fold increase in the risk of attempted suicide from such abuse which is accepted by the Irish psychiatric fraternity from that American survey.
Despite this, there is not one survey into the rate of suicide amongst this identified vulnerable group of survivors of clerical child sexual abuse or child sexual abuse in general. Who is afraid of the consequences of such research?
Dr David Lisak author of a 1994 study “The Psychological Impact of Sexual Abuse: Content Analysis of Interviews with Male Survivors” wrote to me recently saying, “From an epidemiological perspective, when you have demonstrated significantly higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation in a subsample of the population, you can logically infer that actual suicide rates will follow.”
What surprises me is that the question of an identified subsample of the population noted in numerous studies and surveys as having higher risk of suicide such as noted in the SAVI Report from 2002 that there has not been a study to confirm this anywhere, yet everyone believes it to be true. Might it be because if such a study were to prove it were linked then there would be enormous social, judicial and medical implications and consequences? It might not be in the interests of the political and religious establishments to consider such a liability perhaps.
The figures on suicide rates for survivors of child sexual abuse are hard to find, and those that are make for lamentable reading.
In September 2010 it was reported in Belgium that 13 victims died by suicide attributable to clerical child sexual abuse.
In September 2012 it was reported in Victoria, Australia that 40 survivors of clerical child sexual abuse allegedly died by suicide triggering a Parliamentary inquiry which found 620 more cases of child sexual abuse committed by the Catholic clergy. The final parliamentary report will be issued on 30 September 2013.
In Ireland cases of suicide directly related to clerical child sexual abuse are more difficult to find because of the lack of research and study to date.
In 2004 Paul Dwyer died by suicide when the DPP decided there was insufficient evidence to convict his alleged abused Fr Bill Carney who was extradited by a London court back to Ireland in May 2013 to face 34 charges of child sexual abuse.
In April 2005, Anthony Delaney died by suicide. “Mr Delaney was among the former inmates of residential institutions whose case have been dealt with by the Government-appointed Residential Institutions Redress Board” according to Ben Quinn of the Irish Independent.
In October 2010, in a report conducted by Mary Higgins for the St Stephen’s Green Trust, entitled, “Developing a profile of survivors of abuse in Irish religious institutions”, it was cited that “One person reported that of 39 co-residents in his class, 17 had committed suicide since discharge.” I have heard anecdotal stories from other survivors and former inmates of from Irish residential institutions who claim they know of reports of 33 survivors of residential abuse who committed suicide.
In December 2011, the Cloyne Report was published in full. Earlier in July 2011, Paul Cullen of the Irish Times reported “two people attempted suicide.” At the same time, Michael Brennan of the Irish Independent reported details of the 18 priests against whom allegations were made but none were convicted. A priest by the name Fr Moray is mentioned as having sexually abused a brother and sister. The brother is recorded as having died by suicide.
In June 2012, Paul Daly (whose case was conjoined with mine in a successful prosecution of Fr Henry Moloney by the DPP in March 2009) was believed to have died prematurely as a result of his child sexual abuse.
In September 2012, it was cited in the second tranche reports by the National Board for Safeguarding Children prepared by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC), that “The suffering of victims has on occasions caused them to engage in self-harming. There is a record of one young man who died by suicide where it is noted in the files that the abuse that he suffered was seen as a contributing factor if not the main cause of his death.”
Society must not shirk its responsibility
This information in Ireland indicates more than just the statistical data of 55 confirmed or alleged suicides in Ireland as a result of clerical child sexual abuse, but it also tells the extent of the tragic stories and ruptured lives caused by the aberrant members of the Catholic clergy who perpetrated and facilitated such abuse. Indeed in seeking redress there is no ‘risk assessment’ conducted regarding any litigation procedures outlining the dangers posed to survivors in seeking justice and redress.
Society, however, must not shirk its responsibility to such a vulnerable group especially where it is clear to what danger they are actually being subjected having been so intimately violated from such an early age. Are we not judged by how we treat the most vulnerable amongst us?
There is reason to believe you know someone who was sexually abused as a child, only you may not know it. Opening up such debate depends on ‘safe space’ and ‘trust’.
I have written to the Minister for Children, Ms Frances Fitzgerald in the hope that she would consider the need for the services to survivors of clerical child sexual abuse which I am calling for.
I am only looking for two services, ‘Rescue Services’ and ‘Safe Space Provisioning’ to counter the suicide ideation identified in a group of Irish people wholly undeserving of any further neglect from childhood by our State.
Mark Vincent Healy is a survivor campaigner seeking ‘Rescue Services’ and ‘Safe Space Provisioning’ for survivors of clerical child sexual abuse.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact the following organisations:
⦁ Samaritans 1850 60 90 900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
⦁ Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634
⦁ Console 1800 201 890
⦁ Aware 1890 303 302
⦁ Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email email@example.com