Church Abuse Victim Seeks Redemption

By Jonathan Van Fleet
Downloaded March 14, 2003

The gold cross in Kevin Dandley's left ear is not a sign of his faith.

The 43-year-old truck driver swears he doesn't believe in God. Not anymore.

Whatever belief he had was taken away piece by piece by Brother Guy Beaulieu, a former teacher at Bishop Guertin High School, Dandley said.

In a lawsuit Dandley has filed against Beaulieu, the school and the religious order that owns and operates it, the Hudson man accuses his former teacher of molesting him more than 100 times while he was a camper at a Catholic summer camp and then a student at BG.

"It's tough going around without faith," Dandley said recently from his lawyer's Manchester office. "That all went out the window with Beaulieu."

If anything, the cross in Dandley's ear stands for his hope that one day he may regain his faith. It would be nice to be able to set foot in a church again without getting all sweaty, he said.

"I haven't had faith in a long time," Dandley said. "I still hate God, but someday, maybe, I won't. I would just like to have something to believe in."

During a sworn deposition late last year, Beaulieu admitted to molesting boys while he was at the school and summer camp, according to transcripts of the testimony. Beaulieu also apologized to Dandley. Perhaps that will help him to restore all that he feels he has lost, Dandley said.

Dandley has been a blue-collar worker his entire life. His age is evident around his eyes, where creases have formed over the years. He keeps his dirty blond hair short above his ears and a little longer in the back, and wears a full blond beard.

Dandley has burned through relationships. He has been married three times.

He's a recovering alcoholic. He has twice been convicted of driving while intoxicated. He said he will have been sober 14 years in July, when he turns 44.

He says he has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. The smallest things can set him off into a rage.

During one of his rages more than a year ago, his girlfriend Carol, a practicing Catholic, asked why he hated so much. He blurted out the answer without really thinking about what he was saying.

"You don't know what it's like to be molested by someone," he shouted.

Speaking those words had an effect on Dandley. He finally told someone who wasn't his counselor about the abuse. It forced him to deal with his feelings and his life.

That's when Dandley called a lawyer.

Last week, the state attorney general's office released 9,000 pages of documents detailing a criminal investigation of the Diocese of Manchester. The documents included files about Beaulieu and other members of the Rhode Island-based religious order, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

In all of the files, the name of every alleged victim was deleted.

Dandley says he doesn't need anonymity. If anything, he wants people to know how this kind of abuse can affect someone's life. Whether people believe him or not is up to them. He knows the truth, he says, and he's out to prove it.

Since coming forward with his suit, Dandley said some of his old friends haven't talked to him. He suspects they think he's suing for the money, or they simply can't deal with issues of sexual abuse.

Other friends remain close. He gets the feeling many think he's being courageous.

"It's not a monetary thing," Dandley said about the suit. "They (the school and the order) need to acknowledge there was a problem so the next time one of these guys comes in, they can catch him before he goes screwing up the lives of other kids."

A lawyer for the school and the order, David Pinsonneault, declined to comment for this story. Those answering the phone at the order's Rhode Island residence refused to give a message to Beaulieu, who is representing himself in court proceedings.

Friendlier and friendlier

It was more than 30 years ago when Dandley first met Beaulieu, but Dandley remembers it like it was yesterday.

Dandley was a 12-year-old boy at Camp Fatima in Gilmanton, a summer camp run by the Diocese of Manchester. Beaulieu was an employee there.

At first, it was comforting to meet someone else from Nashua, Dandley said.

Beaulieu kept getting friendlier and friendlier, until one day his friendship allegedly turned into sexual contact.

"One minute he's talking to you, the next he's kissing you and then he's got a hand in your shorts," Dandley said. "I can't explain why I let it happen, I just did."

One word Dandley uses to describe Beaulieu is smooth.

"He was good at what he did," Dandley said. "He'd talk to you and make you feel at ease. He'd have you sit on his lap. He knew what he was doing."

When Dandley enrolled at Bishop Guertin, the abuse continued, he said.

Beaulieu seemed to have keys to every part of the building. He would take Dandley into various rooms, including Beaulieu's private residence, Dandley said.

In his room, Beaulieu would close the drapes and have Dandley sit on the bed. Then he would pull down the boy's pants and pull down his own pants, Dandley said.

The repeated abuse included kissing, fondling and mutual masturbation, Dandley charges in his suit.

Dandley's behavior deteriorated. He was combative, he was angry. He went from being a well-adjusted kid to being nearly out of control, he said.

The abuse didn't end until one day at the Catholic high school when Beaulieu tried to force 16-year-old Dandley to perform oral sex, according to the suit. Dandley, who was a junior, quit school that afternoon and never returned for another day of classes.

Beaulieu was Dandley's math teacher at the time.

Dandley never told his parents about the abuse, or his reasons for quitting BG. Last year, the day before lawyer Peter Hutchins filed suit on his behalf, Dandley finally told his 77-year-old father what had happened to him.

His mother died thinking he was a quitter and a loser, he said. That's something he'll never be able to change.

'Power over me'

Coming to terms with his life and what happened to him as a teenager has been a constant, evolving struggle for Dandley. There's shame, grief, denial, anger and depression. Sometimes the emotions hit him like flashcards. Sometimes they seem to come at once.

"You start thinking about things and it just snowballs," he said.

By the age of 18, Dandley married for the first time. It lasted less than a year. He married a second time when he was 20 and that lasted about two years. His third marriage began in 1991. He was divorced last year, but they had stopped being husband and wife years before, he said.

Throughout the years, Dandley moved around the country: to Massachusetts, Colorado, California and back again. None of those places offered a cure to what was destroying Dandley on the inside. He returned to Nashua in 1988, and across the river to Hudson in 1997.

When Dandley took an inventory of his life, he didn't like what he saw. He decided to straighten out and take some responsibility for who he was and the things he had done.

"I don't blame him for everything, but I did things in my life that were influenced by him," Dandley said of Beaulieu. "I'm still trying to figure everything out."

In November, when Dandley saw Beaulieu again during a deposition in the civil lawsuit, he panicked. He bolted from the room as soon as he saw the man.

Dandley said he felt like he was 15 again. Hutchins, his lawyer, coaxed him back.

"I was amazed that he still had that much power over me," Dandley said. "It was like I was back at school."

Dandley composed himself as Beaulieu began a two-day journey into his past, with the first day of sworn testimony in November and a second day in December. On the second day, Beaulieu, who worked at Bishop Guertin from 1971 to 1991, admitted to molesting 17 or 18 Bishop Guertin students, according to a transcript of the deposition.

Dandley sat and listened as Beaulieu described under oath how he would approach boys and initiate physical contact, each time going further and further. Beaulieu also revealed he had attempted to seduce another 50 to 75 students, but felt they rejected his advances, according to court records.

That Beaulieu didn't molest some boys angered Dandley. Why had he been too scared and intimidated to tell Beaulieu to stop, he wondered.

"It just bothers me that I couldn't do that," Dandley said.

An apology

Only once during the testimony did Beaulieu make eye contact with Dandley. That's when Beaulieu apologized.

"Kevin, if I've done any harm to you, I apologize from the bottom of my heart," Beaulieu said during the deposition. "Every time I read in the paper now that somebody has been hurt in any way, it hurts. It hurts me greatly.

"There's no way that I could ask for forgiveness for what I might have done because I don't deserve it and I know that I made a promise to myself that I would rather commit suicide rather than hurt anyone else for the rest of my life and that's how strongly I feel about it," Beaulieu said. "I don't know how else I can put it other than I'm sorry. I'm very sorry."

Dandley tried to accept Beaulieu's apology, but he doesn't forgive the man.

"I'm sure I'll make peace with him somewhere along the way, but not now," Dandley said. "I'd like to, but I can't. It's been a killer to think about what you could have become and know that one person is pretty much responsible."

Dandley said his emotions about Beaulieu range from wanting to beat him up to wanting to simply yell at him for what he did.

"I'm glad I saw him," he said. "I know that's going to be helpful in the long run. You have to face your fears eventually."

Right now, Dandley is just trying to keep a steady job, keep his girlfriend happy and live a normal life. None of those things has come easily.

"It's something I have to do so I can move on," he said. "It's an unfinished chapter in my life that's (more than) 20 years old."

He would like to get his GED and even go to college. He thinks he might make a good substance-abuse counselor.

Dandley said his resolve grows stronger every time BG and its lawyers file motions that he sees as an affront to his sincerity. If anything, Dandley said he feels the school is blaming him for what happened three decades ago.

"They haven't done or said anything that even implies they are interested in finding out what happened," Dandley said. "The truth is going to come out no matter what they do or say."

Jonathan Van Fleet can be reached at 594-6465.

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