Woman Returns to Deal with Memories of Priest Abuse

By Denise Nix
Daily Breeze [California]
May 5, 2007

She suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, night terrors and flashbacks as a result, she says, of being sexually abused by Catholic priest George Neville Rucker. Now she's back in El Segundo to face the past and reach "as many victims as possible."

As a child, she was allegedly abused at her El Segundo church by a man who has been dubbed one of the area's most prolific pedophile priests. Her life, as a result, crumbled.

She dropped out of high school, can't hold a job, had two failed marriages, remains in constant transit and lost parental rights for her 9-year-old son. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, night terrors and flashbacks.

But in the past few weeks, the 49-year-old woman who claims former Catholic priest George Neville Rucker sexually abused her when she was in the third grade and earlier returned to El Segundo on a mission.

"My primary concern is making sure that I can reach as many victims as possible and let them know they're not alone," said the woman, who wishes to keep her identity private.

"I can't change what happened to me, but if I can help one person, it would be so worth it so they don't have to go through life like I've gone through life," she said during an interview Friday.

On Sunday, with the support of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), she will stand before the Corpus Christi Church congregation in Pacific Palisades to speak publicly for the first time about the abuse she endued, and encourage other victims to come forward as well.

Mary Grant, SNAP western regional director, said the records released by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as part of the estimated 500 priest-abuse lawsuits show that Rucker retired in 1987. At the time, he was pastor at Corpus Christi, and he then was named pastor emeritus.

The records, Grant notes, are not clear on where he went after that. But she said it's reasonable to believe Rucker, 87, continued to live for some time at the church, where he possibly could have continued abusing children.

The timing is important because Rucker cannot be prosecuted for any abuse he committed before 1987 under a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The high court found unconstitutional a California law that extended the statute of limitations on sex crimes.

Charges pending against Rucker at the time were dropped. He was accused of sexually abusing 12 girls under the age of 14 from 1947 to 1977.

"If they can find the strength to come forward, the district attorney can prosecute and this man can possibly go behind bars where we know he can't hurt anyone," Grant said.

Many of his victims, including the former El Segundo woman, have sued him, the archdiocese and many other priests accused of molesting children. In December, the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese agreed to settle 45 sex abuse lawsuits for $60 million, including some against Rucker.

The woman's attorney could not be reached for comment, but M. Ryan DiMaria, who represents several women in their lawsuits against Rucker, said Rucker is not cooperating.

During two days of depositions, Rucker refused to answer questions and said he was asserting his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

DiMaria said Rucker's attorney feared that, even though Rucker cannot be charged for the sexual abuse, he may one day face conspiracy charges — which is why he does not want to say anything that might be used against him.

A message left Friday for Rucker's attorney was not returned.

"It is not surprising that they're fighting his deposition so much," DiMaria said. "Rucker is the prototypical molesting sociopath. He has abused probably as many or more children than any perpetrator we know of."

Rucker mainly targeted girls ranging in age from 4 to 11, but he abused some boys, too, according to DiMaria.

According to the archdiocese records, Rucker worked at various Los Angeles area churches beginning in 1946, when he was ordained. From 1955 to 1959, he was an associate pastor and on the faculty at Mary Star of the Sea in San Pedro.

From 1962 until 1967, he was at St. Anthony's in El Segundo. Records show there were some allegations of "imprudent relations with school girls" and touching girls while he was there.

He was transferred after a police investigation into allegations that he inappropriately touched children over their clothes, according to the records. No charges came from the investigation.

It was while she was a student at St. Anthony's, the woman said, that Rucker ritualistically abused her. She did not want to discuss the details of the abuse, but said her older sister was a victim as well.

Because of the abuse, she has trust and authority issues that have kept her from succeeding at life. She has had jobs as a waitress, an in-home health-care worker, a car salesperson and an animal trainer.

It's only in animals that she finds companionship, she said tearfully.

She has two older sons, but her younger one became a ward of the state of Florida after she was found unfit to be a parent, she says. She doesn't even know where he is.

She has gone to therapy on and off, but treatment has been difficult because she has little money and constantly moves.

She likens living with her memories and anxiety to "someone squeezing you around the neck and an elephant sitting on your chest."

Returning to El Segundo and facing her past over the last few weeks has been difficult.

She got within blocks of St. Anthony's, she said, and began to vomit.

Fighting the archdiocese and Rucker in civil court is like being abused all over again, she said.

"I'm really tired of the secrets. It really kind of sickens my stomach that there have been so many cases and none of them has gone to trial," she said.

She said she doesn't want to settle her lawsuit.

"I want to go to trial," she said. "I don't care about the money. I care about the truth."



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