Victim still is feeling the aftermath of molestation during childhood

06/04/2010 12:57 AM

06/07/2010 12:29 PM

Nancy Sloan was just 11 in 1976 when her parents sent her to Camp Pendola, a Catholic summer camp in the Sacramento Diocese.

Her life has never been the same.

"Oliver O'Grady was an uninvited visitor who showed up at the camp," Sloan, 45, said in a recent phone interview. "He had full access. He was everywhere. We would go on hikes and on trails and stay overnight in the woods. He was always there."

O'Grady, then a priest at Lodi's St. Anne's Parish in the Stockton Diocese, first molested Sloan at the camp. It wasn't the last time. He made several visits to Sloan's home and convinced her mother, a native of Argentina who had great respect and trust of priests, to let Nancy spend a few days with him, sleeping at the rectory and taking her "sightseeing" to the state Capitol and elsewhere.

Unlike many victims, who keep their secret for years, Sloan told her parents about the abuse after O'Grady invited her for a second sleepover. They contacted St. Anne's pastor, the Rev. Cornelius "Case" DeGroot, who confronted O'Grady. The Irish priest said it was the first time he had done such a thing, which later proved to be a lie, and agreed to write a letter of apology to Sloan and her parents, who then took the letter and the accusation to Bishop Merlin Guilfoyle.

O'Grady later testified that Guilfoyle didn't order him to seek counseling after the incident and seemed angry that O'Grady had apologized.

Sloan's mother, Carmen Correia, said Wednesday that Guilfoyle promised to send O'Grady to a monastery to prevent future abuse. Instead, O'Grady was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Turlock -- at the opposite end of the diocese. Over the next 17 years, he was sent to three more parishes before he was arrested on child sexual abuse charges in 1993.

"I don't think there was a parish where he didn't have a victim," said Sloan, who lives in Fairfield. "He was a very aggressive and proactive pedophile. He's evil, as they all are. Whether it was an infant, a boy, a girl, a pre-adolescent, a post-adolescent, an adult -- he abused them all."

Sloan is active in Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. She said she has heard from many of O'Grady's other victims over the years. In a deposition, O'Grady admitted to sexually abusing 20 to 25 children, but the number could be much higher.

"The amount of people who haven't come forward is mind-blowing," Sloan said. "It takes an incredible amount of strength and courage to come forward, even years later."

The abuse often leaves a lifetime of pain and challenges, even with extensive therapy.

"I think it would be easier to say how it hasn't impacted me instead of how it has," she said. "Even though I was lucky enough to come forward to my parents early on, I still have classic signs of abuse. I remember thinking, 'How do people not know? How could my parents not know?'

"Women remember their first kiss -- my memory of my first kiss is of Oliver O'Grady. I have a memory of him making me dance for him at the rectory, and I am still on a regular basis trying to take that back. I have a boyfriend who loves music. I'm regularly in tears because I have to constantly work through that (old memory)."

The impact goes on, she said. "Body image. Being in certain locations. Hearing an Irish accent and not recognizing where I am because I'm suddenly back there. Feeling like I'm never in control."

And, always, thinking about O'Grady's other victims, past and future.

"As proud as I am of being a United States citizen, there's the fact that we let him go after seven years," Sloan said. "I'm so ashamed that we've unleashed him on someone else."

She said that because several of O'Grady's victims who filed lawsuits were given large awards, "most people think it's all about the money. I think all of us would rather have Oliver O'Grady in jail. We want the cycle to stop. We don't want another child hurt."

Despite her painful experience, she said, she still believes in God, although she no longer worships in a Catholic church.

She also understands that O'Grady himself was sexually abused as a child, by priests and by his older brother. O'Grady has testified that he and his brother sexually abused their sister. Statistics show that abuse victims often grow up to become abusers.

"I don't understand why some people who are victimized, like he was, become monsters and others struggle through to not becoming a monster," Sloan said. "I want to say this very carefully: I'm not advocating some crazy person going out there and doing something to him, but it will never, ever, ever be over until Oliver O'Grady stops breathing.

"I don't want another child to be abused again. I'm horrified. Every day that he walks around with his disguises, I fear for every child who crosses the street in front of him. I don't want to wish somebody harm. But I've wished for so long for him to get right in his head, right in his heart. I don't think there's any hope for him."

Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at snowicki@modbee.com or 578-2012.

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