Woman speaks out says she was abused by priest in Hawaii
These new claims come after the sex abuse report in Pennsylvania was made public.
A woman is speaking out for the first time claiming she, too, was abused by priest Robert Hannon in Hawaii. The new claims come after a sex abuse report in Pennsylvania was made public.
Hannon is one of the more than 300 priest listed in a Pennsylvania grand jury report as a "predator priest" credibly accused of abusing children. He served as a priest with the Diocese of Erie, before being transferred to Hawaii in 1979.
Many of Hannon's victims were children of parishioners or alter boys, but the report found Hannon also sexually abused a six to seven-year-old girl while visiting Hawaii. Jensen says her younger sister, Lynne wasn't the only female to be abused by Hannon, she was too.
52-year-old Beth Jensen says she regrets not speaking out sooner, but she says she was embarrassed. She says it took her decades before she could even tell her own sister. But she hopes that by sharing her story now, it will encourage other survivors to come forward.
"I had no idea he touched Lynne. If I had, I would've came forward a long time ago," Jensen said. "I buried it so deep that I didn't feel any effect or I didn't think I did.. and then I just balled my eyes out after hearing Lynne and seeing what she went through.. cause we never talked about it."
Jensen tells Island News she was only a child living in Hawaii when Hannon began abusing her. She says Hannon was in the same ordination class as her stepfather, and was brought in as a family friend.
"Hannon said.. 'Let me tuck her in and teach her how to say prayers'.. and I'm thinking, 'Oh no big deal,'" she said, adding that was when he would then abuse her. "I said, 'That's not the way I know how to say prayers'.. and he said, 'Well since dad had left priesthood he wasn't up on all the new ways to say prayers,' and I kinda of believed him you know."
The abuse she says went on for more than two-years.
"I had begged him to say prayers with me.. cause I was trying to protect her," she said.
Jensen says she learned that her mother, years ago, went to the church after finding out about her younger sister being abused.
"My mother called the bishop.. and the bishop said we know he has a problem with children and we've taken him out of the way of children," she said. Jensen says her mother and father stopped all communication with Hannon.
In the grand jury report, it states the Hannon denied ever abusing any girls, only boys. The report concludes that Hannon likely had many other victims both in the Diocese of Erie and the Diocese of Hawaii. He served at St. John the Apostle, St. Elizabeth in Aiea, Holy Trinity Church in Honolulu and at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace until he died in 2006.
Jensen says she believes that if it hadn't had been for the Catholic Church's culture of secrecy, the truth may have came out sooner.
She told Island News she didn't know that her sister Lynne had been abused until decades after, and it wasn't until the grand jury report was released this week, that the two began to openly talk to each other about it. Again she hopes that by breaking her silence, it will encourage other abuse victims to also speak out or talk to someone who can offer their support.
"Talk about it. There's nothing to put on yourself.. it's not your fault.. and the more people that speak out the more pressure is on," Jensen added. "Just talking about it.. which we never did.. that made me realize that staying silent doesn't help anyone."
The Pennsylvania Attorney General's office established a toll-free hotline to report sexual abuse by clergy. That phone number is 888-538-8541.