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Friday, March 1, 2024 | Back issues
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Victim’s Long Silence Didn’t Help Rapist Priest

(CN) - A Tennessee priest was properly convicted of criminal sexual abuse and aggravated rape related to decades-old attacks, a state appeals court ruled.

An altar boy at St. Dominic's Church in Kingsport testified that his pastor, William Casey, starting abusing him in 1975 when he was 10. The abuse included oral sex and anal penetration, according to the victim's testimony.

The victim said he had been reluctant to speak out because his mother told him that she was in love with Casey, who was supposedly going to leave the priesthood to marry her. He also felt nobody would believe him and that he had been taught that priests were God's representatives on Earth.

Casey meanwhile professed to love the boy, with whom he claimed to have a "special" relationship, the victim later testified. Casey gave him a medallion and 10 shares of Piedmont Airlines stock, he said.

The abuse ended in 1980 when the victim's "uncontrollable" behavior landed him in jail, and his father moved him to Louisville, Ky. He testified that he pushed the memories "down deep," leading to problems with drugs, alcohol, anger, divorce and bankruptcy.

In 1999, when he was 34, the victim opened up for the first time to his third wife. He had just watched an HBO special that claimed that more than 100,000 survivors of clergy abuse were in the United States, along with 4,000 priests who had been credibly accused.

The victim then told his mother two years later. She advised him to consult a priest and not to pursue anything against Casey.

In 2009, he told his father, who told him to "get over it."

He told a representative of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the police that same year, and he told the captain of the Knoxville Diocese in April 2010.

Father David Boettner, vicar general of the Knoxville Diocese, testified that he, a bishop and a deacon then confronted Casey with the accusations. Casey had replied, "unfortunately, I'm guilty."

Sue Frazier-Bear, a therapist with the Children's Advocacy Center, testified that an average male who is the victim of child sexual abuse will not disclose what happened until his 40s.

The victim's testimony detailed three instances of Casey sexually abusing him. Casey did not testify in his defense.

A Sullivan County jury convicted Casey and sentenced him to 35 to 40 years in prison.

He appealed, but the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the victim's testimony contained sufficient evidence to support the conviction.

Casey also failed to show that his due process rights were violated by the decades-long "pre-accusatorial" delay.

"The abuse that occurred in this case was homosexual in nature, a fact which the victim testified weighed heavily on his mind throughout his extended silence," Judge John Everett Williams wrote for a three-member panel. "During the time that the victim was abused, and to a lesser extent even today, the social stigma attached to male rape may reasonably increase the likelihood that there will be a delay in the reporting of any such abuse."

"As this victim became an adult, his own mother's love for his abuser could only serve to reinforce his concerns that anyone whom he told about being raped would find his allegations incredible and refuse to believe him," he added. "Consequently, we agree with the trial court that although the victim's delay in reporting the sexual abuse was considerable, the reasons for the delay were reasonable and understandable."

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