Giving voice to those abused by priests and pastors

Express News

Feb. 16, 2019

By Elaine Ayala

A local survivor of abuse holds support group meetings in San Antonio every second Monday.
Photo: Bob Owen, Staff-photographer / San Antonio Express-News
As difficult as it is, Patti Koo reads every word she can about priests and pastors who sexually abused children and adults in places that should have been safe, in houses of worship where perpetrators found protection and victims weren’t believed.

She’s a survivor of such abuse. Her pastor and Bible study teacher in the Rio Grande Valley groomed and manipulated her when she was at her most vulnerable — when she was in counseling with him, where he sexualized religious notions and ultimately assaulted her.

He was a popular preacher, had a religion column in the local newspaper, the McAllen Monitor, and enjoyed the support of congregants. They didn’t believe Koo and blamed her instead. “We lost a lot of friends,” she said.

It’s why many survivors never report the abuse, says Candace Christensen, who specializes in gender-based violence prevention in the Department of Social Work at the University of Texas in San Antonio. That’s especially true in cases where the stories around the abuse are complicated and not as clear-cut as the rape of a child.

She calls those who come forward “heroic.”

Over the span of 18 months, beginning in 2000, Koo’s Baptist-ordained Presbyterian preacher Kenneth Perry Wood sexually abused and assaulted her. She was 44 then, and a physician’s assistant.

“I should have known better,” she recalls thinking over and over again. Her journey included a suicide attempt. She knew the risks of going public.

It took all she had to tell her husband. It took far more to tell her children. Then she and her husband went to the police.

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