I grew up in a small town and was a raised a devout Catholic. I attended every Sunday mass and all of the extra masses that I could. I was an alter server and when I wasn’t serving mass I sang up front. I attended Sunday and Wednesday school. I participated in a variety of youth retreats, which included going to Mexico to help build a church, helping fix up a home for discarded pregnant teens etc. I wanted to become a nun. For about five years I went to a convent for a couple of days every summer to see if I was called to be in the sisterhood.
I was so excited when I started high school because there was a church only about a block away. I went to school about an hour early every day so I could go to the church and pray before my day started and if I had to stay late after school for play practice or sports I would go to the church if I had time. My freshman year in High School our long time parish priest got assigned to another parish and we got a new priest in our parishes. His name was Father Joseph Jeyapaul and he was a native of India. I had met him before at a youth retreat in our diocese and was re-introduced to him when he came to the church one day after school. I would see him every morning before school at the church. One day, after school, I was walking near the church when I heard Father Jeyapaul call out my name.
I stopped and he started jogging across the street to catch up with me. He asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was going to the school for play practice. He then saw the book that I was holding in my hands and asked what I was reading. I told him I was reading the book "Positively Dangerous", and handed it to him. He asked if he could borrow it. I told him that this wasn’t my copy and I wasn’t finished reading it yet but if he asked the person I borrowed it from that I was sure they would lend it to him. He then handed me the book back and grabbed one of my hands and started caressing it with his thumb. He then told me that he had a book that he thought I would like in his office and asked if I would like to borrow it. I told him that I could get it another day from him because I was already running late for practice. He told me that it would only take a few minutes and I should get it from him now. His office was close by, and he was extremely persistent, so I agreed.
He asked me to take a seat on the couch and turned to fetch the book. It was at that point that I heard the sound of a pants zipper. I figured it had been left down by accident so I turned away. It was then that I heard him breathing heavily and coming towards me. When I looked back, he had his penis exposed and was touching himself. He asked me to touch him and I refused. Father Jeyapaul then told me that it was a sin if I didn't cooperate. He raped me, both orally and vaginally.
After he was finished with me, he told me that I had to confess. I had always been taught how wrong it was to have pre-marital sex. I felt as if I didn't have a choice. So I did as he asked. Most mornings before school or in the afternoons following class, he would continue to rape me while I was in the confessional. Then he would give me penance.
While all of this was happening to me, I finally got the courage to reach out to somebody for help. I called the Victims Advocate from my diocese. She didn’t seem to have the time for me or believe me and hung up the phone on me. The abused continued a couple of times after I reached out to the Advocate and then a couple of weeks later Father Jeyapaul was gone and had left for his native India. Eventually, I broke the silence again and told my school counselor what had happened. She then contacted the correct people and I met with the police that week and made a statement. It was personally a very scary time in my life for me and I did not feel supported at all which seemed to make it even more difficult.
The county filed charges against Jeyapaul and the case was sealed until 2009. It was the summer of 2009 when I was first introduced to SNAP. I contacted David Clohessy who helped and encouraged me in innumerable ways. That same summer I attended my first SNAP conference in Washington DC. For me, it was a life altering and unforgettable experience. When something like this happens to you, it is so easy to doubt yourself, to feel guilty, isolated and alone. At the SNAP conference I was surrounded by so many people, many of whom were survivors themselves, who told me, in a unanimous voice, that I was not alone, that they not only understood but whole heartedly supported and were behind me. That was the first time that I felt so truly supported and not alone. I created a bond with many of them that continues to this day.
When the abused happened I was robbed of so many things, things that I may never be able to get back. One of those things that was stolen from me was my voice. It was stolen by Father Jeyapaul and all of the other individuals in my life that did not support or believe me. But I can now say that I have found my voice again. Without the constant support and validation from the wonderful people that make up SNAP I don’t know if I would have ever got it back. I am ever so grateful to everyone in SNAP. In reaching out to others, in protecting children, in holding the wrong doers accountable, in sharing my experiences; I have turned into and continue to develop into a stronger and healthier individual. This, in the end, is what SNAP is all about.
If you want to go to the conference and experience some of the things Megan experienced, please click here!