I Was One of More Than 1,000 Victims in Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal
By Tamar Lapin
New York Post
August 15, 2018
A man who was one of more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania preyed on by “predator priests” says he is still traumatized 39 years later — as he called the grand jury report chronicling the abuse a “victory” in a “war that’s just beginning.”
Jim VanSickle told the Washington Post he was 16 in 1979 when he met a young priest named David Poulson, his English teacher at Bradford Central Christian High School.
“I was a lost kid,” said VanSickle, who is now 55.
His grandmother had just died and his father was sick and couldn’t work. So he found a mentor in Poulson, who was 26 at the time.
The recently ordained priest made VanSickle captain of the chess team, which traveled from their town in northern Pennsylvania to New York for competitions, and encouraged him to finish high school and go to college.
“He turned my life around,” VanSickle said. “He was my spiritual leader. He was my friend.”
But things turned dark, as Poulson exploited their friendship and “groomed” VanSickle, abusing him emotionally and physically, VanSickle said.
It started with Poulson putting his hand on the teen’s leg in the car or trying to tickle him in the rectory, VanSickle recalled.
Still, “I looked at the guy — he’s a priest. I trusted him,” he said.
Soon tickling turned to wrestling and groping in the rectory or in front of the altar, he said.
“He constantly wanted physical contact,” VanSickle told the outlet.
Just before high school graduation, the pair went on a trip to an Our Lady of Fatima shrine in Ohio. In a rundown hotel, VanSickle said, “he jumps me, and I realize that he was aroused in his clothing.”
When the teen pushed his teacher off, Poulson went into the bathroom and re-emerged “with his erect penis out of his clothing,” VanSickle said.
“He attacked me at that point and for the first time, I felt terror and fear from the fact that it almost seemed like he had eight or nine arms versus the two that I’m using to get him off,” he said.
VanSickle said he was able to fight the priest off — and from that point on, his memory went blank until they were in the car on the way home.
“He never apologized and we never discussed it.”
It took VanSickle a year to tell his father what happened and 10 years to tell his mother — as he watched Poulson move from parish to parish in Pennsylvania.
VanSickle came forward in February, documenting his trauma in a Facebook post after seeing that Poulson had been accused of child sex abuse — and then testifying before the grand jury.
Now a tutor and life coach in Pittsburgh, VanSickle said it has taken years for him to deal with the abuse. He’s been in therapy for the last four years with his wife of 33 years.
“The only two real feelings I had were anger or fear, and both of those caused me to be violent,” he said.
Poulson — one of 301 priests named in the report released Tuesday — was charged earlier this year with abusing two boys between 2002 and 2010. He has yet to enter a plea.