Bennington Man Details Sexual Abuse by Priest

By Nancy Meersman
Union Leader
July 12, 1996

David Grover, 31, of Bennington, described in court yesterday how Gordon MacRae, then a seminarian assigned to a Keene church, showered him and his family with gifts, took him to restaurants, to a zoo and Cape Cod, telling him to call him 'Dad.' MacRae would prime him with alcohol during overnight stays at the rectory and rape him when he passed out. The sexual activities were "a bonding thing," Grover said MacRae told him. It would mean they would spend more time together and "we have a special relationship." He did not know it was wrong.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, defending itself in a lawsuit filed by Grover, his two brothers, Thomas and John, and Lawrence Carnevale, claims that the plaintiffs did not file their suit within the statute of limitations.

But lawyers for MacRae's victims say the clock doesn't start until the victims realize they had been damaged.

Judge Carol Ann Conboy is presiding over what is expected to be a three-day hearing in Hillsborough County Superior Court on the statute-of-limitations question that will determine whether the civil suit will go to trial.

"The issue here is not whether we want to escape anything," said the lawyer for the diocese, James Higgins. "It is, what did the plaintiffs know and when did they know it?"

Cross-examining Grover, he tried to establish when the assaults began, when they ended and tried to show Grover did know the acts were wrong.

MacRae, also a defendant in the suit, is serving up to 67 years in prison for assaults that occurred between 1978 and 1983.

Anna Salter, a Lebanon psychologist and expert on sexual offenders, said molesters typically "groom" the victims and their families first and their techniques virtually never fail if they can get the child to stay overnight.

She said the children under the spell of these seducers have no frame of reference and do not realize they are being abused. They may sense something is wrong, but blame themselves.

As adults, they suffer from depression, anxiety, and are many times more likely to have alcohol and drug problems and other emotional difficulties, but often don't find out until late in life that they had been abused and that was what caused them to be so troubled, Salter said.

"They think, 'I must be gay, I must be attracting this kind of attack."' She said the truth didn't dawn on one of her client's until 40 years after he was abused, when he saw the abuser with a young boy in his car.

Mark Abramson, David Grover's lawyer, attempted to show a video Salter made of a sex offender telling his therapist how easily he could to pick out vulnerable children and seduce them.

The judge would not let the video be shown, but allowed Salter to describe the interview, in which the molester, a children's choir director, said he selected nine who appeared most vulnerable and then researched their families to find out which ones were not close to their fathers, which ones had mothers too busy to spend time with them and which had little self confidence.

David Grover said the stark horror of what happened became suddenly clear in 1988 when his mother asked him about MacRae and he found out two of his brothers had been abused -- that there was no "special" relationship. He had been manipulated.

But he did not become aware until 1993 during therapy that his relationship with MacRae had caused his psychological problems. His brother, John, ran from the courtroom in tears as David described how MacRae brought him to a Hudson rectory, asked him to strip and commanded, "If you don't do what I say, I won't be your friend again."

Then a man Grover believed was a priest sodomized him while he cried. When that man left, another came in and abused him, as well.

"I was told not to report these people and do what they say," Grover said. "I was sniffly, I was confused," but MacRae "reassured me, it's normal."


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