Shattered Faith, Part Iii: Getting Help
By Chris Ramirez
November 22, 2017
Editor's Note: This story is the second in a series called "Shattered Faith," in which KOB 4 Investigates examines the cases of three former Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe whose alleged widespread abuse of children decades ago not only went undealt with, but has contributed to what many mental health professionals call a mental health crisis for New Mexico.
The first story in this series, "A dangerous shuffle game," can be found here. The second part of this series, "The wide circle of silence," can be found here. Read on for the final part of "Shattered Faith."
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- It’s painful to talk about childhood sexual abuse, especially when the person who inflicted the pain is a member of the clergy. But talking about it, unpacking those emotions and memories, is important for the healing process. Many believe the hundreds, possibly thousands of acts of sexual acts perpetrated on children years ago have created a mental health crisis in New Mexico today.
Servants of the Paraclete
When reports were made to Catholic Parishes across the country of priests molesting children, police were almost never notified. Instead, many of the abusers were sent to the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs. It’s where priests were supposed to pray and reflect on their sins before rejoining society.
But many priests, like Jason Sigler, enjoyed the freedom New Mexico offered. Sigler and many others transferred out of their old parishes and stayed in New Mexico.
“What happened tragically to New Mexico is that tons of priests who specifically had that problem and that history were turned loose across all of New Mexico with no monitoring and not even the command they not be around children,” said Georgena Felicia, a psychotherapist who specializes in childhood sexual trauma. “They are back in the churches. Tthey are back in Sunday school.”
Sigler alone is accused of sexually abusing 57 children, the vast majority after his stay at the Paraclete and after he chose New Mexico as his permanent home.
Combine Sigler's victims with the victims of all the other abusive priests who stayed here, and there are hundreds of children who suffered for decades.
In 1983, Sigler was convicted in Bernalillo County of criminal sexual contact of a minor, but his three-year prison sentence was reduced to probation and counseling. In 2003, Sigler was convicted of criminal sexual contact with a minor in Michigan that occurred in the 1960s and served one year in prison. In a separate incident, Sigler pleaded guilty to another criminal sexual contact of a minor charge and was sentenced to seven to 15 years in a Michigan prison. Once his prison sentence ended, he moved back to Albuquerque and is registered with the Sex Offender Registry.
Today’s mental health crisis
The children Sigler and others molested are now adults. The deep scars of their childhood remain, many times masked until the shockwave can no longer be suppressed. Felicia said during adulthood, random things can trigger the flood of memories and emotions of the abuse.
“It can be a nightmare. It can be seeing an article in the newspaper. It can be seeing a movie. It can be seeing something on TV. It can be the way sunlight comes through a windshield during a certain time of year," she said. "Some people will bury information with a determination that it will never, ever surface. Others may bury information to deal with it later.”
The trigger can create intense pain; those scars are essentially reopened. Some turn to drugs or alcohol, fall into deep depressions, lose sleep, jobs and spouses, or have panic attacks.
“They have been betrayed by someone who is dressing up as a man of the church and they are scared. They haven't let themselves cry, they haven't let themselves feel,” Felicia said.
Some of that pain is poured in letters attorneys wrote on behalf of their clients. One attorney stated about his client who was abused at the age of 10, “Sigler was one of the worst pedophiles ever to stalk the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and his sexual appetite for young boys was insatiable. Following and during the molestation of (my client) by Sigler, (my client) began to drink alcohol and is struggling with alcohol and depression to this day.”
Referring to a different victim, the same attorney wrote about his client who was raped at age 8, “(My client) has had suicidal ideations. (My client) is completely shut down emotionally and cannot express his feelings to others.”
“When you have somebody in uniform of the highest order break your trust, not only do you not trust any of those people, but you don't trust your own assessment of who is worthy of trust. So the whole world is dangerous,” Felicia said.
And lashing out, sometimes violently, is somehow normalized for many victims. A survivor of former priest Sabine Griego told us the abuse he endured for years almost led to a murder.
“When I was 19, me and a friend of mine who had been victimized as well, went to Albuquerque with the intent of killing Sabine,” the survivor who wished to remain anonymous told us. “The rectory is by a sports store and we broke into the sports store to steal ski masks and gloves for that purpose. But we were arrested for shoplifting. Thank God. I'm glad that happened.”
A final thought
It is extremely difficult for a child to talk about sexual abuse. If a child you know ever reports abuse to you, you have a moral and legal duty to report it to law enforcement. We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of New Mexico's past.
These mental health professionals have been recommended as trustworthy and experienced in the area of helping to cope with childhood sexual trauma.
Kevin E. Rexroad, M.D.
Psychiatrist in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Address: 4810 Hardware Dr NE #8, Albuquerque, NM 87109
Phone: (505) 255-4701
Roll Samuel Ph.D.
Psychologist in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Address: 201 Tulane Drive SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106
Phone: (505) 255-9494\
Georgena Felicia, LMFT, LPCC
Counselor in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Phone: (505) 856-9661