Alleged Rape by Priest Recounted
Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn's Second Trial for Rape Opens with Tearful Testimony from His Accuser
By Elliot Krieger
June 24, 1997
A 36-year-old Burrillville woman testified yesterday in Superior Court that Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn seduced her and raped her and insisted that she visit a doctor to obtain birth-control pills.
The alleged rape occurred 15 years ago, in the bedroom of the woman's Providence apartment, she said. At the time, she was 21 years old and Father Dunn, now a 76-year-old retired Roman Catholic priest, was 61.
Yesterday marked the beginning of Father Dunn's second rape trial in as many weeks. Last week, Superior Court Judge Stephen J. Fortunato Jr. dismissed the first case against Father Dunn, finding that there was no evidence that he used force to have sexual intercourse.
The alleged victim in the trial that began yesterday, however, testified that she repeatedly told Father Dunn that she was afraid to have sexual intercourse, and she testified that she pushed him away as he forced her to do so.
"I was afraid of him, and I was afraid he would hurt me," she said tearfully.
Under questioning from Father Dunn's lawyer, Bruce E. Vealey, she said that the alleged incident occurred after she had let Father Dunn into her apartment. She sat with him on a love seat kissing and petting while they each had a drink, then he led her by the hand into the bedroom. She said he never threatened her.
The woman testified that she met Father Dunn when she was a teenager attending St. Thomas Church, in Providence, where Father Dunn was the pastor. She said she worked in the rectory and developed a close relationship with Father Dunn. He counseled her regularly, she said, particularly regarding years of sexual abuse that she said she suffered from her own father.
She testified that one afternoon or evening she was napping in Father Dunn's bedroom in the rectory and she woke up to find that he was fondling her. She said she started crying and screaming.
"He pulled out his Bible and starting reading Song of Songs," she testified. "He told me that God sent me to him as a gift. . . . God wanted me to teach him that he could be loved by a woman."
From that point, she began a four-year relationship with Father Dunn, in which they frequently engaged in sexual acts although not in sexual intercourse. The woman said Father Dunn told her that the sexual acts "were acts of God."
She said that after four years of their relationship, Father Dunn began to pressure her to engage in sexual intercourse. She said that over several months he called her repeatedly throughout the day, at home and at work.
"I couldn't get away," the woman testified, breaking into tears on the witness stand.
"I was afraid. He asked me to make an appointment with a gynecologist so I could get birth-control pills," she said. "I complied."
The alleged rape occurred the night before her appointment with the gynecologist.
After the incident, she had no further sexual relations with Father Dunn, she said. But she testified that Father Dunn arranged for her marriage two years later, and he walked her down the aisle because, in his view, "I was his possession and I belonged to him."
She first reported the alleged rape in 1993.
Under questioning from Vealey, the woman conceded that she did not mention the rape in two written statements that she prepared regarding her years of sexual relations with Father Dunn.
In addition to the rape charge, Father Dunn faces three civil suits for damages suffered by alleged victims of sexual abuse. One of the suits was filed by the alleged victim in the current rape trial, which is scheduled to continue today.
Because Father Dunn waived his right to a jury trial, the case is being tried without a jury, and Fortunato will determine the verdict himself.
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