‘Enough of this silence’ — woman goes public about clergy sexual abuse

San Antonio Express-News [San Antonio TX]

December 30, 2022

By Marina Riker and Josie Norris

[Via MSN]

Gianna Recio “came into this world fighting,” as her mother says in recounting the first moments in the life of her oldest child — born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

Growing up on San Antonio’s South Side, Gianna wore boy’s clothes. But she always insisted she was a girl, decades before she heard the word “transgender.”

At St. Leo the Great Catholic School, she was teased for her femininity. When a priest told her she was special and loved by God, the words stuck with her. He said he wanted to counsel her to bolster her self-esteem. Their private sessions turned into sexual abuse. It lasted two years.

The priest made Gianna believe that she and her family would burn in hell if she told anyone what was happening, she said. She would hide beneath the church pews, praying that he wouldn’t find her.

For years, Gianna guarded her painful secret. She went on to become a nurse. But on her nights off, would drink and use drugs to dull the guilt and shame she felt.

At 45, she felt ready to come forward. She owned a home, had a fulfilling job and an adoring partner, and had been sober for four years after receiving a kidney transplant.

It was August 2018. A Pennsylvania grand jury had just identified 300 priests alleged to have abused more than 1,000 children in that state over 75 years. The memories from St. Leo’s came flooding back.

Gianna began typing a public post on her Facebook page:

“I’ve had enough of this silence.”

Two weeks later, she met with officials of the San Antonio Archdiocese to make a formal report of the abuse. And she named her abuser: the Rev. Edward Pavlicek.

The church notified the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and removed Pavlicek from ministry while the Archdiocesan Review Board conducted an investigation.

After the investigation found Gianna’s accusation to be “credible,” the archdiocese pulled him from a church in Canyon Lake and announced that he had been “prohibited … from exercising any priestly ministry.” The archdiocese took the additional step of referring his case to the Vatican for possible laicization, or removal from the priesthood.

Since then, Gianna said she has tried to thrive — not just survive. She and her family went to therapy. She began attending meetings with other survivors of clergy abuse. Last year, she published a memoir titled “Charlie Tree.” The title refers to an Italian cypress outside the church where she was abused.

“Anything that pains me is just going to add to my power,” Gianna says. “It’s going to be up to me to be able to say, ‘This can either empower me, or it’s going to break me.’

“I was denied justice. And now I’m creating justice.”