46-year-old man describes how a Catholic priest in Joburg groomed, then molested and raped him when he was a teen

2018-10-10 08:42
The inside of a South African Catholic Church is photographed. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

The inside of a South African Catholic Church is photographed. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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"I want answers and I want transparency from the church…"

These were the words of 46-year-old Limpopo-born William Segodisho who said that he suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a priest from a Johannesburg church when he was in his teens.

Segodisho was speaking at a media briefing, held by non-profit organisations Women and Men against Child Abuse and South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

"I'm not getting any younger. As I get older, life is unpredictable. I would hate to take this with me to the grave so hence I've made a conscious decision to come out and break the silence; and tell a very solid story of what happened to me some 27 years ago…," he said.

Segodisho told his testimony of how father Adam O'Connor*, sexually groomed him from 1986 to 1990.

Homeless

He said it all started when he moved from Polokwane to Johannesburg for political reasons in 1986.

When he got to Johannesburg, he became homeless because he knew no one and started to sleep on the streets, doing odd jobs so he could survive. This was until he met a woman who referred him to a children's shelter in Hillbrow.

"She invited me to come to that shelter and a few days later I decided to go give it a try… They interviewed me and welcomed me. They gave me a bed. They gave me clothes…," Segodisho said.

It was there that he met O'Connor, who was in charge of the shelter and was raising funds for it.

"He took a very keen interest in me and was also impressed by my work… And so after a while, he told me about this plan he had for me…," he said.

Segodisho said O'Connor promised to take him to prestigious boarding schools, bought him clothes, promised him better education and also took him out to restaurants.

He said he was intrigued by all the promises and the good things O'Connor did for him.

"He started by buying me clothes and he would take me to Edgars and I enjoyed the experience of going to Edgars…," he said.

Segodisho said it was all fun and exciting until the priest began to molest him on several occasions after he had taken him to a boarding school in Roodepoort.

Glass of whiskey

"[He] invited me to the church...Indeed I went and we had a very good supper, but he also told me that I was to sleep over…," he said.

Segodisho said later, when he was in a room with O'Connor, the priest offered him a glass of whiskey.

"He said it won't harm… and so one glass led to another and eventually I got drunk," he added.

"But it seemed there was a condition. All I had to do was just give him a bit of pleasure nothing serious... I just had to masturbate him... The masturbation took place and went on to the kissing, which I didn't like at all…," an emotional Segodisho said.

He said the priest told him not to tell anybody, threatening that he would remove all the privileges he had given him.

Because he knew the dire consequences of reporting the matter, he agreed to keep the secret to himself.

Segodisho also told of how the molestation continued again another time, while the two were at Zoo Lake, northern Johannesburg, after the priest had taken him out for supper.

However, Segodisho said on another occasion, the abuse went beyond him masturbating the priest to him being raped while he was asleep.

"We went on a holiday to this place called the Big Fisherman in Amanzimtoti in KZN… But that night [he] did more than just molest me… That night [he] went a step further after plying me with alcohol. Whilst I was drunk he took the opportunity to penetrate me and he raped me…," he said.

Anger

Segodisho said the next morning, it was not easy walking and he spent an hour in the shower cleaning himself up.

He said that incident angered him so much that he confronted him.

"I hated him that day, but for a while, I kept my cool… When we were playing table tennis… I began to attack him and hit him with a table tennis bat…," he said.  

Segodisho said when he told O'Connor that he knew what he did to him, O'Connor started shaking and apologised to him.

"He was telling me how he was so sorry and that he didn't know what had gotten over him… At that time we were both crying and I said: 'I forgive you,'" he said.

Segodisho said the abuse continued, leading to another priest, whom he did not name, also molesting him at some point.

He said he was neglected after he reported the incident to the church and he lost all the privileges he had.

O'Connor moved to the UK shortly after Segodisho reported the abuse.

"My life was reverting back to square one but I didn't stop going to the church and I went whenever I could between 1990 and 2001," he said.

Criminal case

Segodisho said the church was aware of the case. He said he had opened a criminal case in February 2018 but he was unaware of where the case was as his attorneys were dealing with it.

Segodisho added that the church said it had investigated his claims. He was keen to find out what the investigations found because he was never informed of the outcome.

In a letter sent to Women and Men against Child Abuse, dated October 8, 2018, the church's UK headquarters said it was aware of the case involving O'Connor and the allegations levelled against him.

The letter stated that O'Connor was informed of the allegations and was withdrawn from all active ministry.

"He has never ministered again. We have taken steps to ensure that there is no safeguarding risk to children," the letter read.

Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini has confirmed that Segodisho opened a case of sexual assault.

"The case is still under investigation," he said. Dlamini would not give any further details.

Earlier, Hillbrow Police Station spokesperson Sergeant Mduduzi Zondo also confirmed to News24 that a case had been opened at the station in February this year.

* Not his real name

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