|Witness: Ex-Altar Boy Shows Signs of Abuse
By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press
August 22, 2008
A Burlington altar boy allegedly molested between 20 and 50 times by the Rev. Edward Paquette in the 1970s continues to suffer low-grade depression and post-traumatic stress 30 years later, a psychologist testified in court Thursday.
"His claim of experiencing anxiety and depression is borne out not only in his verbal report but in his test results," Dr. Joseph Hasazi of Burlington told the jury during the sixth day of a clergy sex abuse trial at Chittenden Superior Court.
The alleged victim was a 9-year-old fourth-grader when he says the incidents occurred at Christ the King Church.
The man, now 40 and a resident of Waitsfield, has sued the diocese, claiming it knew Paquette had a history of molesting boys in the years leading up to his abuse. The Burlington Free Press does not identify the alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent.
The diocese does not dispute the abuse claims. It contends the man's lawsuit should have been filed years ago and the diocese should not be liable for damages because the man avoided obtaining treatment for any harm caused by the molestation.
Hasazi, hired by the man's lawyers to perform a forensic evaluation of him in preparation for his trial, said the man's admitted resistance to being touched in his genital area during sexual activity is typical of victims of child sexual abuse.
"It is the single most common symptom of child sexual abuse," Hasazi said. "About 69 percent of that population report exactly the same symptom, which is extremely rare in the general population."
Hasazi said the man's past reluctance to confront the alleged abuse is itself evidence that the molestation claims are real and are continuing to affect his life.
"He avoids the Catholic Church," Hasazi said. "He even avoids driving past Christ the King Church."
Tom McCormick, a lawyer for the state's Roman Catholic diocese, persuaded Hasazi to concede that some of the man's problems preceded the time in 1977 and 1978 when Paquette allegedly abused him.
McCormick made the assertion after showing the jury a copy of an educational assessment of the man conducted a year prior to the alleged abuse that showed that the man, as a third-grader, had a learning disability.
"You don't know if his memory that his problems in school was concurrent with the abuse is accurate or not, is that right?" McCormick asked.
"That's correct," Hasazi said.
McCormick also challenged Hasazi's conclusion that the man had symptoms of post-traumatic stress, reminding him that the man had testified Wednesday that the abuse was not physically painful.
According to the man, the abuse involved being grabbed by Paquette and swung in the air, with one hand on his genitals and the other covering his mouth. The man said the incidents took place as he was getting ready for church services and that he was clothed at the time.
"There was no pain involved," McCormick said. "He said it was 'not a big deal' and 'seemed weird' and that at the time he just wanted to 'get on with his life.' That's a far cry from a Vietnam veteran reliving a war experience isn't it?" Hasazi agreed it was.
Later Thursday, four former altar boys who also claimed Paquette had molested them, testified and told stories about Paquette's fondling them that were similar to the stories of the man whose case is on trial.
The group included Michael Gay of South Burlington, a former Christ the King altar boy who settled his case with the diocese in 2006 for $965,000.
"He would grab and touch me in spots, you know, where it wasn't right to be touched," Gay said, dabbing his eyes as he spoke. "It's still hard dealing with this thing."
Of the other three men who testified, two were former altar boys at Christ the King Church, including another South Burlington man who was the best friend of the Waitsfield man when the two were fourth-graders.
"He'd grab my testicles and rub them and act as though he was adjusting something," the South Burlington man said. "I can't recall how many times it was, but it was every time I saw him."
Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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