Who Is Teresa Lancaster On 'The Keepers'? She's A Survivor Telling Her Story
By Megan Walsh
May 19, 2017
Netflix's upcoming true crime documentary series The Keepers revisits the 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, who was brutally killed decades ago. Cesnik taught at the Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore alongside the school chaplain Father Joseph Maskell and Director of Religious Services Father Neil Magnus, both of whom were allegedly abusing some of the girls (neither Maskell or Magnus was convicted of sexual assault, denying any part in accusations). Years later in the '90s, two women came forward to share what happened to them during their time at Keough. One of those women was named Teresa Lancaster. But who is Teresa Lancaster on The Keepers?
Currently, Lancaster is an attorney living in Baltimore and a child sexual abuse activist who works with victims through the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests. But she was also one of the women who brought Father Maskell's abuse to light. In 1994, she and another former Keough student named Jean Wehner filed a suit against Maskell, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the School Sisters of Notre Dame (who ran the school), and a gynecologist named Dr. Christian Richter. Neither Lancaster nor Wehner truly saw justice served for what happened to them, but they did make public the abuse that had formerly been a closely-kept secret. (Like Maskell, Richter maintained his innocence and said he had not been part of any abuse.)
According to Lancaster, the alleged abuse began when she was a junior at Keough. She went to Maskell seeking advice and help, but instead he assaulted her, according to her. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Lancaster recounted what Maskell told her: "'I'm not supposed to do this, but I find that I can really help people when I have physical contact.'" At first, Lancaster didn't realized what was happening to her; for a time, she perceived what was happening as a romantic relationship, perhaps as a way to cope. "There was about a month or so when I actually thought he loved me," she said. "If there's some kind of love there, then there's sense to all this. When I found out other people were going in there, I wondered if he loved all of them, too."
Later, Maskell supposedly threatened Lancaster with expulsion to prevent her from telling anyone about the abuse. She alleged that he would also hit her or threaten her with the gun he kept in his desk. He reportedly arranged for her to be abused by other men, including the gynecologist he took her to for exams and unnamed Baltimore police officers. Lancaster kept the abuse a secret for years (partially out of fear of upsetting her deeply Catholic mother), until Wehner's attorneys were searching for other Keough students to corroborate her claims. According to The Huffington Post, Lancaster's account was so credible that she was asked to become a co-plaintiff on the case.
In making Maskell's alleged abuse public, Lancaster and Wehner made it possible for other survivors of his abuse to come forward; in total, 30 people testified. The women also inspired other ex-Keough students to investigate both the abuse and Cesnik's murder all on their own. That's part of the story The Keepers tells: women coming forward to support each other in the face of unimaginably painful situations.