Testimony before the Ohio House of Delegates, Judiciary Committee
December 8, 2005 Re: Senate Bill 17
By Anna Marie Hanes-Martinez, Gemantown, Maryland
Good Morning/Afternoon Honorable Delegates:
Thank you for giving me your time today to tell my story to you and to attempt in some small way to help the children of Ohio, which is why I have come all the way from Maryland. I would ask that my statement today, be incorporated into the permanent record of these proceedings. Thank you.
My name is Anna Marie Hanes-Martinez. I was born in a very devout Catholic family in Washington, D.C. I studied in Catholic schools. I admired and trusted my teachers, the nuns, and the priests in my parish. In 1950, when I was 13 years old, Fr. Henry B. O’Donnell sexually molested me and I have never been the same since.
When I was very little, maybe 5 or 6, I was introduced to Fr. O’Donnell along with many other brothers and priests from the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement Seminary in Washington, D.C. near Catholic University. Before Fr. O’Donnell was ordained in 1949, he carried on a romantic/sexual relationship with my Mother, who had recently been abandoned by my Father.
From what I can remember, I was 6 or 7 at the time, then Brother O’Donnell left the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement Seminary right before being ordained, and wanted to marry my mother. My mother would not abandon her Catholic religion – and also was not divorced from my father.
When I was 11 years old, my mother was sent away by our family. I was told that my “mother was sick and needed rest”. I still do not know where she went, but, I do know when she returned, Hugh O’Donnell was no longer around. And, my mother was never the same.
In late 1949 or early 1950, Fr. O’Donnell was back on the scene with my mother. But, this time on an afternoon after school, I went to his residence which I did often to meet my Mother who was usually there cooking his dinner, and while my mother was in the kitchen cooking, he grabbed me and pulled me on his lap… To be quite honest, this happened very quickly and I was not shocked because he had always been very affectionate with me from the time he first met me when I was 5 or 6.
However, within seconds he began kissing me, shoved his hands under my blouse, my skirt, and into my under panties, causing me great pain.
Suddenly, my mother came in and saw what was happening to me and screamed. She got our coats, my schoolbooks, and we left!!!
In those days, no one spoke of such things. I had nowhere to go and neither did my poor Mother. So, both of us kept this horrible, dirty secret inside of us and, all along, blamed ourselves – and carried this guilt.
My mother suffered horribly – each year her depression became worse… but, she never lost faith. She continued to be a good Catholic until she died in 1999. However, my mother never had a day of peace or joy after that horrible afternoon in 1950. She was tormented. She was a victim of Fr. O’Donnell, as I was, and neither of us knew how to get out of the trap of guilt, shame, embarrassment, and all of the other horrible things that happen to us emotionally and spiritually when someone we trust hurts us this way.
When I was 14, I became an entirely different child. I was disruptive in school. I questioned the Catholic religion. I disrupted my freshman class in arguments over religion. I continued to become very angry and very rebellious. I would do nothing that society or the RCC said was right… I would do just the opposite.
I made horrible decisions and exercised very bad judgment. I picked terrible people to be friends with, and continued with this behavior for years to come. I was never able to enjoy anything good. If I was in a “good environment” or a “good situation” or with a “good person”, I would find a way to sabotage it.
One day, about 2-plus years ago, I was watching C-SPAN and heard a woman by the name of Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea making a presentation to the Bishop’s conference in Dallas, Texas. I sat and watched in complete awe and I listened to what she was saying. I had to stop and ask myself how she knew what was in my head. I had never met her. How did she know that I did all of those things, and how was she able to explain my feelings? All of those feelings of guilt and shame… all of those feelings of no self-worth, no self-respect, no self-esteem. The feeling that I was a complete failure at everything.
Do you think I sound like a victim? Well, I was and always will be. A victim of a certain and horrible kind of murder – yes – Fr. O’Donnell murdered my soul and he damaged my mind and spirit. This man of God did the same thing to my mother! This crime that he committed against the both of us is a crime of spiritual and emotional murder… We were made to feel dead spiritually and emotionally. This, in turn, made a dreadful effect on our health, both mentally and physically.
My poor mother took her secret to the grave with her – Bless her heart.
As she lived most of her life being tortured… she got worse and worse, until she had to suffer ECT (Electro-Convulsive Therapy) in 1996! She suffered so much pain – so much pain all at the hands of the “chosen one”. You may try to tell me that she was an adult and she was weak. Yes, she was weak – she was weak from worrying how to take care of a child whose father was an alcoholic and an abuser (emotional). She was at her lowest when Hugh O’Donnell came into her life. He as so kind and loving to her at the most vulnerable time in her life – and then he abused her.
Did I ever confront my abuser, you may wonder. At the age of 18, I continued to question why? I would ask myself, “Why am I so different?” – “Why do I feel the way I do?” – I had no answers.
One day, I asked if someone in the family that I was visiting would be willing to take me to visit him. I just explained that he was a long-time family friend, and we had not seen him in a long time, because he had moved to Ohio. So, I contacted Hugh in the Chancery’s Office and asked him if he would meet with me and visit. I was driven to Steubenville, went to the Bishop’s residence… and if memory serves me, Hugh had separate living quarters there.
When I arrived (I had someone with me), he greeted us at the door. I introduced him to my friend, and he invited us into the living room.
After a few minutes, he asked me to come into the kitchen and help him fix some iced tea… and I did. I was going to ask him “Why?” – when he pulled me to him and began to kiss me very hard on my lips. I pulled away and told him to stop and if he didn’t I would tell my friend. He did stop… we fixed the tea and went back into the living room – and acted as if nothing had happened. We made conversation… he asked about my Mother, etc. …. this visit was maybe 45 minutes to an hour… We left. And I still had no answers.
In 1964, I called him again. I again wanted answers to why I felt the way I did. And, although I was not aware of exactly what it was that was causing this turmoil in my life, I believed he had the answer… When I got him on the phone, we talked for a few minutes, and he asked how I was and how my mother was. I told him that my father had passed away in 1961. I also told him about my career and answered his questions about other members of the family.
Then, I told him about my torment, my feelings and asked him if he could help me sort everything out… I told him I felt as if what he did to me and my Mom had something to do with it, at which time he called me a “slut” and told me I deserved everything bad that came my way.
I have been suicidal at least 4 times. The last one being just a few years ago. I am and have been on medication for depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Needless to say, I have had trust issues since this happened to me. My mother trusted NO ONE after this happened to me and told me that I should not trust anyone, especially men.
Well, I am now 68 years old. I do not want to carry this to my grave, as my mother did. The RCC has a lot of dirty secrets but they are all beginning to come out… slowly.
I pray that each of you cannot imagine what if feels like to be sexually molested by a priest. For it is a horrible feeling. Someone you trust, someone you love – someone who is like a member of the family.
I thank God every day that my Mother had the courage and strong will to say NO to him when he asked her to marry him. For our lives would have been far worse than they have been and we both have lived hell on earth.
I am still in therapy. And, I have to see not only a therapist but a psychiatrist regularly. I am married now. I have a very thoughtful and compassionate husband who is a therapist and understands the horrors of sex crimes. But, until I get this story out in the open and let people of Ohio know that one of their most well-thought-of priests, Vicar General Monsignor Henry B. O’Donnell, was a sex offender… I will not find peace.
I requested Bishop Conlon to post my letter to him about this abuse on the Steubenville diocese web site so this information can get out and reach out to other possible victims of this priest. He was located in the Steubenville, Ohio diocese for so many years and he was in charge of so many things, even St. John Villa’s Children’s Home in Carrollton, Ohio. I worry that there are more victims of Fr. O’Donnell who are still suffering in silence.
I will be doing everything that I can, now that I have found my self-esteem, to get the word out in Ohio that this priest sexually abused me when I was a child.
I carry my mother’s pain with mine. She was never able to forget this crime. I am here today for all of the children in Ohio. I am doing this for myself and my poor Mother but, most of all, for the children of Ohio.
My poor Mother, God rest her soul, was a victim, as I am, but I am a SURVIVOR! And, if by telling my story helps only one child, in Ohio or any other state, from having to go through this at the hands of a friendly parish priest or anyone else who is held in high esteem and revered… then my actions are good and what my God would want me to do.
I am asking each and every one of you to please put the children of Ohio first in your deliberations on this bill. This is why I have come so far. All of us are concerned for our children. They are our future, your future: we must protect then in every way we can. This bill (reform of the Statute of Limitations on child sex crimes) will help them so much.
Thank you for your time today. Thank you for listening to me. This has not been an easy task for me, but I remember how I felt as a child being hurt by this priest, and the memories are still so very, very vivid. I do not want another child to be so badly hurt and tormented as I was. I am trusting that all of you will bring this bill out of Committee, with a vote of 11 YEAs, for the children of Ohio.
(Attribution for *photo, **photo, and testimony transcript to bishopaccountability.org)
Also see: Local bishop named chairman of American Catholic church committee (November 17, 2010) and Anna Marie’s comment on the article.