My name is Megan Peterson and I am 22 years old now and I am a student and I live in Winona. I’m here to speak the truth about what happened to me in 2004, and what has happened since then.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not “all in the past.” Sexual abuse by priests is not a symptom of the ‘60s. It is still going on today.
After I was raped and violated by Fr. Jeyapaul, who I had approached about someday becoming a nun, nothing happened to him. He was allowed to return to India, and while he was home he was gently told not to return to Minnesota. That’s it.
I was 14. I needed help and protection from the church that I had looked up to and wanted to dedicate my life too. Instead, I got nothing but shame, and a drawn out legal battle in which they finally, and begrudgingly, admitted they were in the wrong. This is wrong, and this needs to stop.
Jeyapaul likely spent at least some time outside of Crookston. Maybe he went to an ordination in Minneapolis. Maybe he attended a funeral in Winona. I know he attended at least one retreat in St. Paul.
And it's very possible that others who saw, suspected or suffered his crimes have moved elsewhere in MN.
That's why we’re here in St. Paul, outside the headquarters of MN's top Catholic official. We want every MN bishop to reach out to others with knowledge or suspicion of Jeyapaul's crimes. When a dangerous child predator faces criminal charges, it should be "all hands on deck." Since he's a priest, every MN bishop should actively help police and prosecutors build a solid criminal case against him and find and help others he's wounded. They should all be doing outreach.
We know he was never on this Archdiocese’s payroll or assigned to a parish in New Ulm or St Paul. But this is no time to split hairs and make excuses. It's time to get this child molesting cleric off the streets and out of churches and behind bars. That'll take a concerted effort. There's no group more able - and more obligated - to lead that effort than MN's bishops.
Today I’m here to tell you that bishops across the country need to do more than the bare minimum when it comes to child abuse. An independent investigation, run without involving the police helps no one. Quietly suspending and moving a predator helps no one. They need to step up, tell the world about these predators, get the police involved, and do everything in their power to find and help other victims or witnesses. This isn’t happening today, but it needs too.
Also today, I was told that there was a petition signed by over 400 Catholics in India that says Father Jeyapaul is innocent and needs to be freed. These people do not know what happened to me here in Minnesota 8 years ago. But I do, and I know Jeyapaul needs to be behind bars, and I know that children will be safer because of it.
I want to urge anyone who may be suffering in silence and shame to know it is safe to speak up and come forward. I urge anyone who suspects or who may have seen something and is not sure what to do, that they should go tell police, and get help now. It will be the best thing you can do, not only for yourself but for other kids too. It’s not easy. But it is what is right.
Even though I will never know what it is like to grow up without being sexually violated as teen I want to do all I can to ensure that no other child has to go through what I have. I am willing to speak to anyone who has concerns or questions.