Rape Victims, Loved Ones Don't Get Released Early

By Elizabeth Auster
Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio]
May 23, 1996

It has been only three years since Father Marty was finally put away. Only three years, and already the state is conducting hearings to decide whether to grant parole to the former Catholic priest who pleaded guilty in 1993 to raping a little girl in Euclid.

If only that little girl were as lucky as Father Marty. It took her twice as many years as he's been in jail to summon the courage to tell anyone what he did to her. And even now, at the age of 23, more than 13 years after Martin Louis used his collar to maneuver his way first into her devout Catholic family and then into her bedroom, her relatives and friends say her suffering continues.

Apparently, if the state has some procedure for paroling little girls raped by middle-aged priests, if the state has some formula for reducing the nightmares of rape victims, she has yet to be informed.

All the state has told her so far is that thanks to Louis' good behavior in a prison where there are no little girls to molest, he soon could be free to do unto others what he once did unto her.

The parole board, which plans to meet with Louis next week, received a letter last month from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, supporting Louis' parole. In the letter, Bishop Anthony M.

Pilla wrote that he senses Louis is "ready and mature enough at this point in his life to be a principled citizen."

According to a diocese spokesman, Pilla withdrew the letter after learning of the family's opposition to Louis' parole. But the family is still worried that the letter might have some impact.

So is Joe Bensi, the Euclid detective who has been on the case ever since he got a call in 1989 from a teacher at Lake Catholic High School, reporting that a student had just blurted out that she had been raped by a priest. It took Bensi many months to get the girl to to tell him exactly what happened, and years to convince prosecutors that the statute of limitations hadn't expired.

So to Bensi, and to the victim's family, the three years Louis has served seem like a heartbeat. Three years, to them, seems like nothing compared to the 13 years of shame and fear already endured by the victim. Three years seems like nothing to them, compared to the pain that another family might suffer if Louis is released and rapes another little girl.

For the victims of such crimes and their relatives, unfortunately, the parole board has no consolation prize - no reward for good behavior to ease the pain of a lifetime of terrible memories.

If it does, nobody has told the victim's husband, who has yet to figure out how to calm his wife when she wakes up to vivid nightmares of Louis being paroled, finding her, stalking her and stabbing her to death. Because of her fear, the victim and her husband made no announcement of their marriage last December - lest Louis trace her to the state where she now lives.

Nor has anyone told the victim's husband what to do when he finds his young wife in the middle of the night in the bathtub, trying to wash herself clean of memories that won't go away.

If there's a parole for victims, nobody has told the victim's mother - who just this month, on Mother's Day, found herself wondering where she went wrong as a mother. How could she have failed to protect her daughter from one of the worst crimes any kid can suffer? How could she not have noticed there was something funny about Father Marty? How could she have proudly welcomed a priest into her home, and felt so flattered by his attention to her family, when all along his real motive was seducing her daughter? "That's where I failed as a mother," she said yesterday. "I let this man in my home. And I don't know when that is going to go away."

How could she and her husband have gone out to prayer meetings and left their daughter at home with Louis? How could she and her husband have been oblivious when Father Marty would say he was going to their daughter's bedroom to say night prayers with her? Sure, he said prayers, but only after he had sex with her, only after he explained to her that he was God's special friend, and that she would burn in hell if she ever told anyone about what else he was doing besides praying.

If there's some way to parole family members from their guilt sentences, nobody has told the victim's older sister, either. She's a principal at a Catholic grade school, so she knows something about the virtue of forgiveness. But she hasn't figured out yet how to forgive herself.

Why didn't she pay more attention when she noticed that Father Marty was having so much fun horsing around with the kids in the swimming pool? Why didn't she do something when she noticed that he had gone from wearing a regular boxer-type bathing suit to a "slinky form-fitting Speedo bikini."

"I remember the first time I saw it, thinking to myself, he's a priest. That's inappropriate.

This guy is weird," she wrote in a letter to the parole board. "I wish I would have acted on those gut feelings. ... There it was, standing right before my eyes and I missed it."

For the rest of her life, the victim's older sister promised the parole board, she will do her own form of penance. She will monitor the students at her school, watching for any "clue, a dropped hint, something, anything. I wasn't there for [my sister]. I will never let that happen to another child."

For the parole board, making sure Martin Louis doesn't hurt another child can be accomplished more easily. Louis' sentence was five to 25 years. All the board needs to do is make him serve it.


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