Teen Rape Victim, Counseled by Pedophile, Says Church Betrayed Her

By Ruben Rosario
Pioneer Press
June 12, 2015

Linette Gavin, 57, of Maplewood, pictured with husband Richard, was abducted and raped in 1972. Her parents, devout Catholics, contacted police and turned to their Catholic parish in South Minneapolis for spiritual guidance. Brother Edmund Frost was assigned to counsel Gavin. "I remember he asked me to pray a lot," Gavin said. In 2006, she learned that Frost had abused children at the same time he was helping her. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

Linette Gavin was not surprised when she heard the news that criminal charges were filed this month against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for failing to protect children from pedophiles in their midst.

The charges were "long overdue and probably the only way to bring a catalyst for change," said Gavin, 57, a married mother of two who was raised Catholic. "Their lack of transparency over the past decades put a lot of children in harm's way, including myself."

Gavin is not a victim of clergy sexual abuse. But she has a related story to tell, one that involves surviving a brutal abduction and rape, an attempted suicide and a scary bout with breast cancer. Yet, one lingering emotional scar is what she strongly feels, in hindsight, was neglect and betrayal by church officials in her parish during the most traumatic year of her life more than four decades ago.

Gavin was 15 years old when a stranger lured her into his car while she was walking home from school in South Minneapolis one September afternoon in 1972. Her eyes were duct-taped shut and she was driven at gunpoint to a motel in St. Paul and sexually assaulted. She was let go on the Minneapolis side and walked home in a state of shock. The case was never solved.

When informed, her parents, devout Catholics, contacted police and turned to their parish at St. Albert the Great, staffed by the Dominican order, for spiritual guidance and help for their daughter.

Brother Edmund Frost, then the school's religion and sex education teacher, was assigned to counsel her.

"We met just a few times, and I remember at the time that he seemed supportive," she recalled recently. "I remember he asked me to pray a lot."

Linette Gavin shows a photo of Edmund Frost in her 1974 Regina High School yearbook, which he signed, Best wishes and prayers for much happiness. More than 30 years later, church officials acknowledged that abuse claims against Frost from the 1970s were credible. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

The man was represented by St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson.

She learned that at least two brothers and another boy made similar accusations stretching from 1969 to 1974, the year before Frost, who is deceased, was shipped to a parish in Louisiana. The three cases were dismissed in the 1990s because the statute of limitations to file a claim had expired.

The brothers said Frost and the late Ronan Charles Liles, a Dominican priest at the church, groomed them with movies and outings, plied them with alcohol and took turns sexually assaulting them at cabin outings, the rectory and elsewhere in "tag-team" fashion. The order later acknowledged that the accusations were credible.

Gavin was stunned. She had no idea. The news bubbled up anxiety, distress, anger and other feelings she had stifled and controlled in recent years.

"This was the person that my church had assigned to provide support, consolation, guidance and care to a young person in the aftermath of a horrific sexual crime," she wrote in a letter sent to the archdiocese as well as the head of the Dominican religious order.

"More shocking, more irresponsible and more unprincipled, it could well be that a vulnerable, traumatized and victimized 15-year-old girl was placed in the care of a predator whose behaviors were known or suspected, even if they were hidden from view," she wrote.


Richard Gavin, her husband of 28 years, was even more irate.

"Bottom line is, they assigned a child molester to counsel a minor who was coping with PTSD," Richard Gavin said. "Brother Edmund was another threat to Linette's life that could have been avoided if the truth was in play. No parent would have authorized this situation."

Linette Gavin attended Regina, an all-girl Catholic high school, at the time of the abduction and rape. As traumatic as they were, "I was relieved at the time that he let me go because he had a gun and I wasn't sure (but) that I was going to be killed," she told me recently.

She first told friends, then her parents. Cops in Minneapolis and St. Paul showed her mugshots but she did not recognize her assailant.

Like most kids in the South Minneapolis parish, Linette Gavin knew Frost.

Linette Gavin shows a school picture of herself at age 14, last week at her Maplewood home. Gavin was kidnapped and raped in 1972, when she was 15. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

He ran Thee Corner, the church youth center.

"We all liked him," she said. "He was very nice and he seemed supportive."

But whatever counseling he gave her did not stick. She became increasingly depressed during that school year. Her father, she said, chafed at professional counseling.

"He did not want me to go see a psychiatrist," she said. "He felt like we could just put it behind us and keep going on."

She swallowed a bottle of Percocet, a pain medication prescribed for her after she was injured in a car accident, during the summer of 1973.

She was hospitalized and spent six weeks in a therapy program. It helped her at the time. But she continued to struggle for the next 10 years as she took classes following high school graduation and pursed a career in the health industry field.


Then a friend recommended Carolyn McGinnis, a psychiatrist. That turned out to be a turning point in her life. The $100-an-hour sessions for the next two years were more than worth it. She got on with her life, got married, gave birth to two kids and worked 16 years as a health care coordinator at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. She now works at an Allina clinic in Woodbury.

Then came the 2006 article about Frost. Richard Gavin, concerned about his wife's state of mind, complained to archdiocesan and Dominican order officials and sought out a lawyer to at least help mediate some help for her.

That effort was put on hold after Linette was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy and, although cancer-free now, she must daily ingest a drug for at least three more years.

In 2009, the Gavins once again contacted church officials.

The archdiocese agreed to pay to have Linette visit with Sister Mary White, who also is a psychologist. They also agreed to foot the bill to have Linette revisit McGinnis, who had by this time relocated to Grand Rapids, Minn.

Linette said she went to Sister White for about a year and mostly got good and kind spiritual counseling but never an answer to what she really wanted to know all these years: Did church officials know of Frost's child molestations at the time they assigned him to counsel her?

She remembers White telling her: "They will never tell you that." Reached last week, White denied making such a statement.

"That is exactly what I remember her saying and then giving me the book 'The Courage for Truth' by Thomas Merton, which I still have," Linette said.

She suspects officials at St. Albert knew something was amiss with Frost "because he had been teaching the boys and then suddenly got reassigned to Regina the year it happened to me," she recalled.

Anderson, who labored to get the personnel file on Frost during the 2006 settlement negotiations, said the documents he obtained do not clarify whether they knew at the time of Linette's rape. But the file notes that Frost was kicked out of the seminary in 1955 for "immaturity."

"The Church has used a lot of coded words over the years in written documents to disguise sexual abuse among its priests, but this could mean anything," Anderson said.


Linette also asked Father Kevin McDonough, then the archdiocese's vicar general, if she could see Frost's personnel file. McDonough told her the archdiocese had little to do with the Dominican order and that she would have to deal with them on the request.

"He told me that it might be difficult to get Brother Frost's dental records," she said. "He also told me that the Church had cleaned things up, and that Frost and others were old cases."

The recent criminal charges stem from the conviction of Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest who pleaded guilty in 2012 to abusing two brothers in his parish and is serving a five-year prison sentence. The fact that McDonough and others knew of Wehmeyer's penchant for cruising for sex in parks and other behaviors for years before the conviction makes Gavin even more certain that the Dominican order, if not the Archdiocese, knew about Frost.

She stopped seeing Sister White, whom she still admires and likes, after she was told that she could no longer see her, but to meet with Greta Sawyer, a victim advocate employed by the archdiocese.

"That's when I dropped it," she said of her quest.

She decided shortly thereafter to tell her grown son and daughter about what had happened to her in 1972. Then, a few weeks ago, she decided to take McGinnis' advice, which was: They will not help you, so tell your story and try to help someone else.

If she wants anything from the church, the one that she knows has many good people in it that do good things, it's an apology and an admission that they screwed up when they assigned Frost to help her.

She is resigned that she will never get that. Jane Straub, a victim assistance specialist with the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, lauds Gavin for sharing her story.

"She wants, needs and deserves some acknowledgement that the church did not take care of her," Straub said. "Even if she was not abused by Brother Edmund, he was a sexual offender of children put in charge of another child who had experienced sexual trauma. Is there a person from the church who can at least say, 'That was not right?' "









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