Former student recounts abuse at Catholic school

ABUSE: St. Anthony Catholic School is located on Chalan San Antonio in Tamuning, next to St. Anthony Catholic Church. Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

An alumnus of St. Anthony Catholic School told The Guam Daily Post that he was sexually abused by one of his teachers when he was a student at the institution in the 1990s.

Troy Torres, senior policy adviser to Gov. Eddie Calvo, spoke to the Post about the incident that occurred more than 23 years ago and the series of events that followed in which he was able to prevent his abuser from obtaining later teaching posts after a complaint filed with the Guam Police Department failed to result in an arrest.

Torres told the Post that he was around 13 years old and in eighth grade when he was abused by a music teacher employed at St. Anthony. He said the teacher was well-liked, trusted and even seen as something as a big deal around the campus as a talented music instructor.

This is not the first time Torres has spoken about the abuse. In his conversation with the Post, he said he first came out about the abuse a few months after the incident when another teacher who had noticed a change in Torres' behavior got him to break his silence.

"For the rest of my life I will be grateful to him ... for caring enough to get me to break my silence," Torres wrote in a social media post late last year.

Torres explained that the worst part of the abuse was the weeks and months that followed, where he dealt with the experience on his own, saying he thought it was his fault, that he was a bad person, that he would be in trouble and that nobody would look at him in a good way ever again. Torres said his abuser told him no one would believe Torres if he told anyone, and that the authorities would do nothing because his friends were going to get elected.

 Preventing future abuse

All of those worries were dispelled, he said, when he confessed to his teacher and then his father.

Together with his father, Torres said he filed a complaint with the Guam Police Department in 1994, but the government's transition under the administration of the newly-elected governor, Carl Gutierrez, and the appointment of a new attorney general resulted in the apparent disappearance of the investigation.

Two or three years after the incident, when Torres was a junior or senior at Notre Dame High School in 1997, he said he witnessed one of the school's staff giving a tour to a new faculty member. To his shock, he realized the new teacher was his abuser, who he previously heard had fled to someplace in the Philippines.

After school that day, Torres said he spoke with the nun who he had seen giving his abuser a tour and told her about the abuse. He said the nun seemed upset at first because the school had already hired him as a new music instructor and that he was worried she would not believe him. He advised her to check with the Chancery if she needed confirmation.

The following day, Torres said the nun confirmed the Archdiocese of Agana corroborated his statement and his abuser did not get the job.

Torres expressed exasperation about the church. The fact that they corroborated his statement meant they were aware of that teacher's history. While Torres said he was glad church officials were truthful, he had to wonder how that teacher made it through the initial screening process.

Torres was not aware of what became of his former music teacher until almost four years later when, in 2002, his employment with the government allowed him to become aware of his abuser's mother while delivering a letter for then-governor elect Felix Camacho, asking him to write a letter of recommendation for her son so that he could get a job at Maria Ulloa Elementary School. Torres said he told Camacho about his experience with his former teacher and advised him not to write the letter, thus preventing his abuser from gaining yet another job where he would be responsible for children.

Later, when a number of years had passed, Torres said he was wondering about what became of his former music teacher and a friend of his did a search only to discover that he was employed as the band director at St. John's School. Torres said he decided that he needed to do something, and so he contacted the principal and the president of the St. John's parent-teacher association to inform them about that teacher's history. According to Torres, school authorities took quick action and had the teacher removed from his post.

Torres, who said he has long since achieved closure concerning the abuse, explained that he did not go after his abuser in order to get him fired.

"I know he needs to eat – he needs to be able to support himself – but he shouldn't be around kids," Torres said.

Torres: Altar boys are not the only victims

In each of the instances, Torres said he just so happened to be at the right place at the right time in order to prevent someone with a history of child sex abuse from getting a job where he would be placed in a position of power over minors.

"This isn't a guy who looks like a monster," he explained. "This is a well put-together individual and talented music teacher who does well with principals, parents and students."

With 22 lawsuits alleging child sex abuse at the hands of former Guam clergy, Torres said he wanted to show that altar boys are not the only victims of unreported child sex abuse and that priests and bishops are not the only people abusing their power to molest children under their care.

Torres told the Post that he would not be pursuing civil litigation in order to receive monetary damages, because he was not interested in profiting from his abuse.

"The time for criminal charges is past," he said. "He can't go to jail anymore. The most important thing is that he not be allowed to work with children."

While he is not aware of any first-hand accounts from others who were abused by his former teacher, he said he had heard rumors and that he knew his abuser had done it more than once because it was in his nature.

"It's a sickness," he said. "It's not something they can control."

Torres explained that the most important thing a parent can do for a child who makes a claim of abuse is to never start off by not believing them. He added that parents should always be vigilant and aware of the signs of a potential abuser.

Does a teacher insist on holding after-school activities with a student? Does a teacher insist on driving the student or on having time alone with them? These are some of the questions Torres said parents should be aware of in the pursuit of vigilance.

"Don't judge a book by its cover," he said in a social media post. "They absolutely can be the most well put-together, pious, nicest men and women. They can go to all the charity balls and talk your ear off about how much they care about family and goodness. They are masters of manipulation ... It should make all the sense in the world that people who abuse children will be the most popular among them in professions where they are closest to them. This isn't a coincidence."

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