'He's an Evil Deviant'

By Jane Sims
London Free Press [Canada]
August 5, 2006

For 50 years, she's coped with "a profound sense of loss and sadness."

At age 10, she was abused by Charles Sylvestre.

He fondled her breasts, exposed his penis and talked to her about her vagina.

He solicited her in confession.

She tried to suppress the memory of what she describes as "a degrading, vile sexual act on my body, too repulsive to mention, as I sat on his bed.

"Part of me died," she said.

Now, at 60, she's trying to come to terms with what the priest's selfishness did to her. She has asked a publication ban on her name remain in effect.

"This is like an open wound that's been exposed," she said. "I don't care what happens to him. I don't care what happens to him in jail. I don't care if he lives or dies."

"My focus is on the church and that they allowed him to do this to so many children, over and over again."

During a year-long, painful journey since disclosing to the police what happened to her, she has begun her own mission, looking for answers from the London diocese.

She has a long list of questions for the bishop, including:

— Why was Sylvestre allowed to be a parish priest for more than 40 years?

— Why was he protected and moved from place to place, violating and terrorizing children?

— Is the bishop still allowing accused or convicted pedophiles to remain active in the church?

— Are priests allowed to be alone with children?

— Why isn't the church working with police, courts and mental health officials to come up with a plan to expose offenders and deal with them and their victims?

— Why does the church continue to forgive these men?

She'd grown up in a family devoted to the church.

She was about 10 when Sylvestre came into her life.

"We thought he was really good looking, really handsome. He used to laugh and smile a lot." she said.

But then the abuse started and she changed.

When she began to act erratically, she told her parents, "He tickled me and talked to me dirty."

Her father, her hero, went to talk to the church. Sylvestre was gone the next day.

But her life was ruined.

In her teen years she was "self-destructive, rebellious, fatalistic, irresponsible."

"I just thought I was born depressed and I was a rebel," she said.

In Grade 9, she told a priest what happened to her. "He went berserk on me," she said. "He told me I was evil and had a great imagination."

She never told anyone else.

She had a baby at 24 -- her son, she said, "saved her life" -- and married at 26.

After her divorce, she tried to establish other relationships, but was so mistrusting, she couldn't sustain them.

And every time she started to succeed in a career, she sabotaged her opportunities.

She never spoke of Sylvestre until the second year of her five years in therapy.

"To survive, we forget," she said. "We have to."

She said she's only one person hurt by the priest who never reached her potential.

As the mountain of charges against Sylvestre piled up, "It was shocking," she said.

"I had no idea . . . I couldn't have predicted what it would do to me. I thought I could handle anything in my life."

She said she believes there are more victims.

"He's just an evil deviant," she said.

"He knew what he was doing and he enjoyed it and that smile is still on his face."

When she picks up her grandson at school, she often arrives early to see the faces of the 10- and 11-year-old girls heading for home.

"I look to see what I was like and how happy these kids are," she said.

"I think, 'Was that how young I was?' "


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