Man Tells of Years of Abuse

By Chris Bergeron
West Roxbury Transcript
September 1, 1993

[This web version was scanned from a copy of the original newspaper in the Robert Costello archive.]

West Roxbury - When Robert Costello finally revealed the painful secret that gnawed at his heart and mind for twenty-five years, he discovered he was not alone.

In the month since the former alter boy filed a lawsuit alleging that a priest at St. Theresa's Church and his Boy Scout leader sexually abused him over a seven year period, six other victims have come forward with similar claims, his lawyer said.

The civil suit, filed July 30 at Suffolk Superior Court, states that the late Rev. John Cotter and former Boy Scout leader William Reynolds of West Roxbury, "repeatedly sexually abused" Costello between 1968 and 1976 resulting in continuing emotional problems.

Attorney Laurence E. Hardoon confirmed that "at least five additional victims," including a woman, told him Cotter molested them at St. Theresa's or in Beverly where he was later assigned.

One other man claimed to have been abused by Reynolds, who lives at 10 Potomac Avenue.

For the 31-year-old Costello, the suit represents a painful but therapeutic step to expunge tormenting memories and protect others from the abuse that scarred his life.

"I felt this (suit) was also for people out there who couldn't come forward," he said Friday in his attorney's Boston office. "I wanted others to know they aren't alone."

Costello spoke quietly and paused frequently, as if struggling to contain his feelings.

"Hopefully, this could stop the same kind of abuse from happening again," he said.

Costello said Cotter first raped him around 1968 when he was seven years old. He says he didn't tell his parents or friends because he had been conditioned to regard the popular, athletic priest who directed the church's youth programs as "a God on earth."

He estimated that Cotter and Reynolds separately molested him "more than 100 times" and at certain times "on a weekly basis" when they took him on Boy Scout trips, and in some cases, in the rectory and at local swimming pools.

Cotter died Feb. 23, 1989 while serving as pastor of St. Theresa's Church in Revere and is not a defendant.

Reynolds reportedly lives with his mother in her Potomac Avenue home but has not returned repeated phone calls or responded to a written request from the Transcript for an interview.

Throughout his adolescence, Costello, who eventually became president of the Catholic Youth Organization, said he suppressed feelings of shame and confusion that caused him to lead a "double life" that distanced him from his parents and prevented him from making friends.

"These memories have been very painful. There have been tremendous feelings of anger," he said, slowly, as if grasping for words. "I had trouble with authority, holding jobs, establishing relationships, being intimate, sleeping."

In a later conversation, Costello's voice broke and he stuttered as he recalled Cotter ordering to keep his abusive acts secret.

"I can't keep this pain inside me any longer," he said, choking back tears. "It'll kill me if I can't find a way to shift the pain and guilt."

Costello graduated from Boston College High School in 1980 and later dropped out of Suffolk University. He left Boston in 1988 and moved to Virginia and later Washington, D.C.

After joining a 12-step recovery program for problems he declined to specify, he began to make the connection between the years of sexual abuse and his later problems.

"While attending a retreat for sexually-abused adults, I met others who'd been similarly victimized and things came together," he said. "It was like opening a giant Pandora's box."

Hardoon, who served as an assistant district attorney for 14 years, said the suit is being brought under the "delayed discovery rule," which permits people to make legal claims after the statue of limitations has expired if they belatedly realize that prior acts resulted in ongoing injuries.

"In sexual abuse cases involving children, the victim often doesn't realize the cause of adult difficulties that originated in childhood," he explained.

While declining to discuss specifics of the case, Hardoon said in addition to Reynolds, the suit names the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston and the Boy Scouts of America as.defendants in their capacity as Cotter and Reynold's employers. The suit can be amended if investigation determines that the the church and BSA were negligent

Asked whether the lawsuit and therapy would permit him to finally put his adolescent trauma behind him, Costello paused before answering.

"Peace? I'll have peace when I die," he said.


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