"Invisible" Victims: Survivors of Abuse by Nuns Demand to Be Counted
By Laura Benshoff
April 10, 2019
When Trish Cahill was 15, a nun who taught at a nearby Catholic high school invited her to perform at a hootenanny mass.
"This was the 60s, you know, Peter Paul and Mary and all that," said Cahill, now 67. "I didn't really play guitar, but a nun -- a nun! -- asked me to come to mass and play guitar."
Cahill, who lives in Lancaster, Pa., grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Ridgewood, New Jersey that revered clergy.
One invitation from Sister Eileen Shaw led to another. Cahill, who felt alienated from her family, came to see the nun as her mentor. The two became close.
Then, one day at the convent, Cahill says the nun slipped something in her tea.
"She took me into the bedroom and I passed out," said Cahill. "I was not conscious. I was not able to make a decision." She said this was the first of many sexual assaults.
Cahill says Shaw, who was more than 20 years older, was a part of her life for the next decade, a tumultuous time that fueled bouts of drug and alcohol addiction.
Today, she's sober and living in a friend's guest room in a quiet Lancaster subdivision. Nestled in the cushions of the living room couch, she went through bags of photos and slides that she's kept, reminders of a toxic adolescence she still can't shake.
"See how long my hair is?" Cahill said, picking up a photo. "[It's] because she wanted me to wear my hair long. 'Cut your hair this way, don't hang around with this person'...She controlled my life."