Joe Crowley didn’t know how he’d feel when everybody started talking about anniversaries and commemorations and retrospectives.
It’s been 10 years since the story of the international cover-up of sexual abuse by priests exploded here in Boston. For most people, it’s just that: a story.
But for Joe Crowley, a survivor, it’s his story, the only one he can tell. He was a 15-year-old student at Boston College High School, on a college path, when a predator wearing a Roman collar named Paul Shanley changed all that. Shanley abused Crowley, then sent him to other men.
Crowley’s life changed. College was pushed aside. Ambition was pushed aside. But he couldn’t push aside his shame, a gnawing sense that he, a 15-year-old boy, had somehow been responsible for a 40-year-old man’s depravity. “I was angry,’’ he said.
“At my perpetrator. At the church, which I knew was aware of Shanley’s crimes and protected him. At myself, for allowing myself to be vulnerable.’’
He was already in the process of gradually reclaiming his life when the scandal went viral. Seeing so many others come forward lessened his feelings of isolation. It forced him to confront more directly something that still made him cry at odd times, like when he was just walking down the sidewalk, and that robbed him of sleep, of ordinary contentment.
He got help and got better. He credits therapy. He credits his friends. He credits his lawyer, Carmen Durso. And he should credit himself.
“The more I talked about the abuse, the less power it had to own me,’’ he said.
–“Survivor faces abuse to reclaim his life,” Kevin Cullen in Today’s Boston Globe
My relationship with Joseph has always been a private one in which he was an enormous help to me 15 years ago when I needed someone to talk to pretty much every night when I paced my bachelor pad unable to sleep.
When the Globe broke the story about priest abuse I knew Joseph had a role but it took time for him to share just how big a role. He was the first one to come forward and talk to the spotlight investigative reporting team (See “First to Come Forward“).
From Joseph’s revelations to the Globe the story spread throughout Boston, across the country and then across the world. One could argue that no one person has done more to stop the sexual abuse of children than my friend Joseph.
But he doesn’t look at it that way. To him it was always about doing the right thing. And about facing his own personal demons.
And today we met for coffee for probably the hundredth time to talk about going public with his full identity for the first time in Kevin Cullen’s column. Cullen was one of the original spotlight team members.
As always we joked about the Golden Globes and talked more about me than him, just like it was at the beginning when he was my lifeline, helping me climb out of my own personal hell while he did the same for himself. And in the process changed the way sexual abuse is viewed by the world.