Abuse survivor's memories triggered after report on Catholic priest
Warning: This story contains graphic details of sexual abuse.
As Catholic Church officials meet with sex abuse survivors this week, some following the news may not even know they were also victims.
Jeffrey Fischer of London, Ont., was abused as a child going to church in nearby Guelph, but had largely repressed the incidents from his memory and was left with occasional visions.
“One of them was being a little kid and standing with my trousers down and everything above mid-level was foggy,” Fischer told CTV News.
His memories resurfaced back in August, when CTV News profiled a priest from Ireland who abused children before being transferred to Canada.
Father Arthur Carragher was transferred to the Saint Joseph’s Church in Guelph back in 1971, the same year a mother complained that he abused two boys in Ireland. Church documents do not indicate why Carragher moved to Canada. He retired in 1995 and died in 2011.
In the August story, Troy Bridgeman, a former altar boy at the Saint Joseph’s Church, indicates he was not abused as a child, but says Carragher used to tell him stories about a little boy who disobeyed his father and got trapped inside an airtight vault.
Fischer says he’s that little boy.
“I was shaking and our family knows we’re not very demonstrative of a family,” he said. “My brother just held me because I was shaking so much.”
Fischer says Carragher used to lock him in a bathroom while he made sure everyone else in the church had left, then he would return to fondle him while telling him it would help him become a man.
Fischer says once he saw an image of Carragher on the screen, the visions of what had happened to him came back like a “percussion from a bomb.”
“The immediate reaction was a sense of relief,” he said. “It was it. That was it. That’s what happened.”
He hopes opening up about his experience helps others with their repressed memories.
Report triggers repressed memory: 'I was abused'
Daniele Hamamdjian, CTV News in Rome
It's no exaggeration to say that it's a privilege to do any kind of reporting that has the potential to affect people, and occasionally trigger change.
But rarely can it literally change the course of someone's life.
This is what happened after we reported on a pedophile priest from Ireland who was transferred to Canada in 1971 after a complaint was made that he had abused two brothers.
Jeffrey Fischer wasn't golfing like he normally would be on a sunny Saturday afternoon in August. He happened to be home alone while his wife and four daughters were out of town. A CTV report came on, two days after it originally aired, and in Fischer's own words, it reverberated throughout his body.
He saw a photo of Fr. Arthur Carragher, now deceased, and instantly recognized him.
He called his brother, an OPP officer, and for the first time in his life said the words, "I was abused."
How, for all those years, did he not remember that he was assaulted, that he was forced to stay quiet in a tiny bathroom at St. Joseph parish in Guelph while Fr. Carragher pulled down his pants and told him this is how he would become a man? Quite simply, he had blocked it out.
Since the story aired, we were made aware of two other men who say they were abused by Carragher at St. Joseph's. The parish in Guelph, still fiercely Catholic, has raised his name once during Sunday mass and encouraged people to come forward, but no one has.
As one abuse survivor said this week in Rome, every time a victim speaks out, it gives another victim permission to do the same.
Fischer's decision to let us tell his story was incredibly courageous and he did so with only one intention, to help at least one other person do the same.