Becky Ianni - The Survivor
By Jay Korff
July 15, 2019
Becky Ianni, a spokesperson for SNAP in the D.C. region and a child sex abuse survivor, gave ABC7 News access to the recording she made of her Diocese of Arlington Review Board Hearing in 2007. This recording is equal parts revelatory and heartbreaking. The Diocese of Arlington eventually ruled that Ianni’s abuse allegations against Monsignor William Reinecke were credible.
Ianni is permitting us to air parts of her testimony to help survivors find the strength to come forward and for institutions, like the Catholic Church, to understand more completely the horrors unleashed by abusive members of the clergy on generations of children.
Becky Ianni is a spokesperson for SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, in the Washington, D.C. region.
Ianni attended St. Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia as a child.
She says Father William Reinecke, new to the parish in the mid-1960s, sexually abused her for years.
In 2007, Ianni appeared before the Diocese of Arlington Review Board to testify about her torment so Father Reinecke’s abuse would be deemed credible by church leaders.
She recorded her testimony.
“Well, I just wanted to start off by saying that it is really, really hard for me to be here," Ianni says in the recording.
“He was our friend," she says. "He was just always there and we always thought so much of him.”
Ianni continues: “I was maybe 9 years old. I didn’t know what he was doing. I didn’t know what sex was. I just know that it was wrong and he changed my life at that point. I wasn’t innocent anymore. And I had to grow up thinking that I was dirty, that I was a dirty little girl.”
The attacks took place at the church and her home.
“My house wasn’t safe anymore," Ianni says. "The house where I grew up. The house that I loved. I couldn’t feel safe in it anymore. And I can’t get that innocence back. I can’t go back and be pure. I can’t go back and feel safe again because it’s gone.”
“My mom, at first I didn’t tell her when I remembered 18 months ago because I was afraid to tell her," Ianni says. "I didn’t want her to be hurt. So, I didn’t tell her. But I asked her, because I took out some of my old pictures, how come my pictures went from looking happy to looking so sad? And she said I lost all my self-confidence and that I became very quiet. And I said why? She said she didn’t know but she thought maybe the kids in the neighborhood were teasing me or something. But she didn’t know. And I started realizing that I wasn’t like everybody else. I wasn’t normal. Something was wrong with me. I wanted people to think I was normal but I wasn’t. I never dated in high school. I was too afraid. I wasn’t afraid of what would happen. I was afraid I couldn’t say no. Because I couldn’t say no to him so I was afraid. I didn’t get to have a normal high school. I didn’t get to go out and be nervous about my first kiss or hold anybody’s hand but I really wanted to. But I couldn’t because I was too scared. I was so scared.”
Ianni didn’t tell her parents about the abuse while it was happening, which is not unusual for survivors of child sex abuse.
“It was indicated to me that, if I told, that I would be bad. And I thought that I would go to hell, and God would know, and I would go to hell. So I didn’t tell anybody. I buried it. I buried it in my head."
When Ianni was 48, she began remembering the abuse after delving into her childhood.
“I went home and I pulled out my photo album and I came across that picture," Ianni says. "It made me really uncomfortable and it made me shudder but I didn’t know why. And then, I don’t know how long, a couple weeks later I started having flashbacks to the abuse where I kept seeing it happen over and over and it was almost like it was a film strip that it wasn’t happen to me. It’s almost like I was looking down from above. It just went over and over and over 24/7.”
Ianni says, “I want to be told that I’m believed, that the church believes that he was a pedophile and that he did this. And I want to outreach to other victims because I know he hurt others. I feel so bad because that was his first parish and I didn’t tell on him. I feel so much guilt for those that came after me. And I know that others came after me because I’ve spoken to them.”
Ianni says Reinecke abused several other children while at St. Mary and at least two more children at his next parish, St. Charles in Arlington.
“So, I’m here today hoping that my case can move forward. And more than that, I’m here because I’m hoping that if I come here maybe you can see how bad victims hurt and how long they hurt and maybe you’ll understand better,” says Ianni.
The Diocese of Arlington ruled Becky Ianni’s abuse allegations against Father Reinecke were credible.
“I wish he had left a note that said he was sorry," Ianni says. "I wish I knew if he was sorry. I wish I knew if he really liked us or was he only nice to us so he could hurt us. But I’ll never know because he’s not here. He can’t say sorry. He can’t tell me why.”
In 1992, a man claiming Monsignor Reinecke molested him as a child confronted Reinecke outside St. James Catholic Church in Falls Church, Virginia. According to published reports, this sex abuse survivor demanded Reinecke’s resignation.
Two days later, Reinecke killed himself near Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia.
Church officials insist no one accused Reinecke of abuse until after his death and there’s no indication he was moved from one parish to another due to complaints.
“The abuse committed by Fr. Reinecke is a grave sin and horrendous crime. No person should ever be victimized, and the Church should be a place of peace and joy for all people, especially children.” - Diocese of Arlington