Graphic and painful testimony on sex abuse

Providence Journal

February 27, 2019

By Katherine Gregg

Grown-ups sexually molested when they were children — by their local parish priests, by sports coaches, family members, even by the notorious Larry Nassar — came to the Rhode Island State House on Tuesday night to tell their horrific stories, some for the second or third time.

And some were more graphic than others, including Ann Hagan Webb, the 66-year-old psychologist and sister of the Rhode Island lawmaker who introduced the legislation that was the focus of Tuesday night’s House Judiciary Committee hearing. Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee’s legislation would extend from 7 years to 35 the statute of limitations on the pursuit of legal claims against child molesters and any institution employing them that looked the other way.

“Usually we save ourselves, and you, the pain by using generalities like ‘child abuse’ or ‘molestation’ and leave it at that. It’s time to rip the scab off,” Webb told the lawmakers.

Identifying the late Monsignor Anthony DeAngelis as her molester over a seven-year period that began when she was in kindergarten at the Sacred Heart elementary school in West Warwick, Webb recounted a series of disjointed images:

“He’s in a priest’s robe, raping me with crucifix…. I remember the gross look of his genitals close to my face…. I remember choking and gagging … I remember my arm hurting from the repetitive movement of manually bringing him to climax … I remember the sound of the rosary beads as one of the sisters brought me over to the church to meet him.”

Herbert “Hub” Brennan, a well-known physician from East Greenwich, recounted being molested, repeatedly, when he was a child, by the Rev. Brendan Smyth, a visiting priest, counselor and teacher at Our Lady of Mercy School and Church in East Greenwich, between 1965 and 1968. Smyth later returned to Ireland and pleaded guilty there to 141 counts of sexual abuse. He died in prison.

“Smyth would call from his rectory across the street from the school and have the nuns pull me out of my second or third grade classroom … [where] I would wait until he entered and took me across the hall to the nurse’s office where he would abuse me,″ though sometimes, “as an altar boy, he would molest me in the dressing room next to the altar.”

Not all of the people who testified blamed clergy.

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