Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivor David O’Regan Shares Story of Courage


By Priscilla Liguori 3/7/2016

Survivor David O’Regan said he vowed to bring his secret of clergy sexual abuse to the grave. That was until the Boston Globe’s investigative team called Spotlight revealed the widespread sexual abuse cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church in 2002.

“They knowingly sacrificed children’s lives to protect the holy name of the Church,” said O’Regan. “That was a betrayal that just caused so much inner pain. The pain of keeping it in was now greater than letting it out.”

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

O’Regan said the Globe’s reports began his healing journey which he is still on. Until then, O’Regan thought his abuser was just one bad priest; he didn’t realize the Church was ignoring the epidemic.

He said the movie Spotlight is helping a whole new wave of survivors begin their healing journeys as well.

“I’m so thankful for Spotlight, for new survivors coming forward…now they’re going to have that opportunity also to heal. The good news is that you can heal,” said O’Regan.

O’Regan had a successful career working for the government for over thirty years. All that time, he kept his sexual abuse a secret. When the Globe’s articles were released, he finally told his wife.

“I fell into very deep depression. I was overwhelmed with post-traumatic stress. I was having flashbacks all the time of my abuser raping me,” said O’Regan.

Calling a therapist wasn’t an option for O’Regan because it was too painful to say the words “I was sexually abused” out loud. He said he was lucky that his wife was able to make his first therapy appointment and to support him as he healed.

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

O’Regan said that he went back to the Church over and over again, and longs to return again, but realizes that it will never be the same for him.

“I live my faith each and every day,” said O’Regan. “The essence of Catholicism is forgiveness, and I have been able to forgive my abuser because I’ve realized he was a sick person.”

O’Regan has talked to his pastor about his childhood abuse and the Church’s cover-up.

“I asked him how this could happen and he told me the hierarchy has really made a serious mistake. He said the way that he deals with it is he stays as far away from them as he possibly can,” said O’Regan.

O’Regan is now the Boston and Worcester leader of SNAP: the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

He said the first SNAP meeting he attended with other survivors was unlike anything he’d ever experienced.

“Their pain was my pain. Their hurt was my hurt. Their words were different, but their stories were the same,” said O’Regan.

O’Regan insists that survivors who are starting to have memories of their abuse need therapy.

“Please get the help you need. Please call and get a therapist. You need to work through what happened to you. The most important thing you need to understand is it’s not your fault,” said O’Regan.

O’Regan’s email is worcestersnap@gmail.com. He encourages survivors to reach out to him so he and the SNAP community can assist them in their healing process.

More Spotlight Coverage:

“Spotlight” Won, But the Debate About the Catholic Church Continues

Editor Walter Robinson Reflects on Impact of “Spotlight”

Michael Rezendes Discusses Spotlight Portrayal, Changes in the Church

Mitchell Garabedian Says Clergy Sexual Abuse Remains a Rampant Issue