[Article about the Deary Brothers and Bissonnette]

By Brian Scheid
Norwich (CT) Bulletin
April 7, 2002

Norwich, CT - As the Catholic Church mounts strenuous legal defenses against allegations of child sexual abuse by its clergy throughout the world, the victims of these crimes have continued to struggle with events from which they may never be free.

Although many girls and women have been abused by clergy of all religions, the incidents of pedophilia in the Catholic Church have typically involved pre-pubescent boys.

But many psychologists say the recent rash of sexual abuse allegations in the church only scratches the surface of a crime that rarely is reported by these boys and oftentimes is hidden from close family and friends for decades.

"For many men, even more than women, they feel it's so shameful that they're less likely to ever disclose that they've been sexually abused," said Dr. David Lisak, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and author of "Male Gender Socialization and the Perpetration of Sexual Abuse."

According to the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, one out of every six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time he is 18.

Mental block

Lisak said statistics on the number of boys sexually molested is nearly impossible to determine, though. He said many boys mentally block the abuse, denying even to themselves that the abuse ever happened. But Lisak said that years later anything from the birth of a child to a car accident could trigger the repressed memories.

He said media coverage of the abuse, like the recent Catholic abuse scandal, could trigger memories of the abuse these men have been attempting for years to forget.

"It's very typical and it's a consequence of how much shame and humiliation they feel about this," Lisak said.

Lisak said that shame and humiliation could lead that man to a life of relationship woes, substance abuse, depression or anxiety.

Sexual abuse by a trusted parish priest led Thomas Deary III to commit suicide, according to his brother, Gene Michael Deary, of Brooklyn.

In 1991, after a lifetime bout with mental illness and two failed marriages Thomas Deary killed himself. He was molested by the Rev. Bernard W. Bissonnette repeatedly in the early 1960s while the priest served at St. Mary's Church in Putnam, his brother said.

Dozens of victims

According to court records, Deary was one of the dozens of boys allegedly molested by Bissonnette in the Diocese of Norwich and in New Mexico, where he was transferred to a religious treatment center after a string of abuse allegations that surfaced against him in the Plainfield and Putnam parishes where he served.

After Thomas killed himself, Gene Deary and two of his brothers traveled to New Mexico to confront Bissonnette at his New Mexico home. Deary said the priest admitted he molested Thomas.

After that, he and his brothers were on a mission.

"I was pretty determined that his could not have been an isolated incident," Deary said.

Deary ran a classified ad in several newspapers throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island that simply asked, "Do you remember Father Bissonnette?"

The Dearys soon were flooded with nearly 40 phone calls and many of the alleged victims of Father Bissonnette soon came forward.

Gene Deary met with eight survivors of Bissonnette's alleged abuse and the brothers soon held several meetings with the victims.

"The meetings were really weird, to be perfectly honest," Deary said.

"The first 10 to 15 minutes was this kind of strange reunion," he said. "These are guys that went to school together and never said a word about this stuff."

For many of the men who had been brought together, it was the first time they had talked about the abuse since it happened more than three decades ago.

"A lot of people will talk to me about it in the third person, like it happened to someone else" Deary said.

The stigma attached to men who were sexually abused keeps them from ever telling anyone about it.

Scott Abraham, 49, a Seattle resident, said he was molested by a parish priest in Chicago and by his mother and grandmother in the late 1960s. He never told anyone about it, but after 25 years of alcohol and drug abuse, he finally came to grips with the abuse, he said.

Several years ago, Abraham set up a Web site with articles about the sexual abuse of men and includes several articles he wrote on the abuse he suffered. The Web site lists his e-mail address for anyone who wants to talk about how to deal with sexual abuse.

More letters every day

At first, Abraham said he received about one e-mail a day. Now, he says he receives more than five a day.

"Half the time I get e-mails from women who say they are involved in a relationship with a man who can't deal with the times they were abused as a child," Abraham said. "The other half is from men who are just coming to grips with their abuse."

Abraham said he is now working toward a master's degree in psychology, but said he may never put the abuse behind him.

"In virtually every way imaginable, the abuse has been something I have to deal with on a daily basis," he said. "It's nearly impossible to be completely cured of it."


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