Victim of sexual abuse discusses why he didn't report abuse sooner

Posted at 6:49 PM, May 02, 2019

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A victim, who is a member of the organization Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is speaking out to provide more information on why victims stay silent for so long.

The non-profit organization demanded the vigil for Monsignor Craig on Wednesday night be canceled because of fear that it may push more victims to stay silent the way he did when he was abused.

"The very last incident I had with him we went upstairs, he dragged me into this room, he started ripping off my clothes and he raped me," Joey Piscitelli said.

In 2006, court documents show Piscitelli was award $600,000 for the sexual abuse he suffered when he was a 14-year-old freshman at Salesian High School in Richmond California. He said the abuse happened from 1969 through 1971 at the hands of Father Joseph Whelan.

"Groping, fondling, he would stick his hands down my pants," Piscitelli said.

32 years later in 2002, Piscitelli said he reported the abuse to the Richland Police Department. After that, he reported the abuse to the Diocese of San Francisco and then he filed the lawsuit against Whelan during that same year.

"What made me decide to come forward was a window opened, a window to go after him because I couldn't go after him criminally because he had beaten the statute of limitations, but I could go after him civilly and I had that opportunity and I took it," Piscitelli said.

The Diocese of Oakland confirmed with 23ABC News on Thursday, May 2 that Father Whelan is on their list of credibly accused priests and can no longer function as a priest in the Diocese of Oakland.

At the age of 14, Piscitelli said another main reason he didn't report the abuse at the time it was happening is because of what Father Whelan told him who was also in a position of power.

"He kept telling me no one is going to believe your word against a priest. Pretty soon the principal found out and he told me the same thing. So I had the vice principal and the principal both tell me that I am going to get kicked out of school, [and that] nobodies going to believe my word against a priest," Piscitelli said.

After he came forward, Piscitelli said his church also held a vigil for Father Whelan.

"What was challenging about coming forward is the on-slot of his fan club. The people who stuck up for him and said it never happened. People who weren't there, like they're doing in Father Harrison's case, people who weren't there at all who have no knowledge of what happened are saying he's innocent, he's being wrongfully accused that was really hard to take," Piscitelli said.

Piscitelli who is also the California leader for SNAP said victim's like him often feel vigil's on behalf of the person accused is what keeps victims silent.

"It's a tactic to dissuade and discourage victims from coming forward," Piscitelli said.

Piscitelli said the abuse he endured led to depression, PTSD, and insomnia and he said he still relives the abuse every day.

He also hopes that other victims will come forward and that people on social media would try to put themselves in someone else's shoes first.

"To consider if their kids or grandkids came to them and said I was molested by the priest... would you call them liars.. and I hope you wouldn't do that," Piscitelli said.

According to Piscitelli, he never returned back to the Catholic church after being abused. If you are a victim of sexual abuse please contact your local police department as well as the diocese within your jurisdiction.
If you don't feel comfortable discussing the matter with authorities you can also head click here for the SNAP organization hotline.